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How to write a smokin’ intro.

Eleven out of ten people we talk to about writing say the hardest part is the beginning. And yet you need a good intro to hook your reader. So the pressure's on. Which makes it difficult to write well. And you're back to staring at the blank page.

How can you break this vicious circle? Wouldn’t it be a relief to have a technique that helps you write great intros without having to reinvent the wheel every time?

Our tip is to build a toolkit of intro structures that have a track record of proven success. We’ve got a bunch of ready made starts we know work - which cuts the stress. Like to know what one looks like? Well you’ve just read one. It goes by the acronym CIGAR.

C is for Context.

A successful opening line is one that your reader will agree with. A short point that had them nodding their head. In this case, the fact that every writer under the sun finds the first line or paragraph a challenge. Not only does it set the scene, it buys their engagement.

Behavioural psychologists call this effect ‘commitment’. The idea that once we agree to one thing, we’re more likely to agree to the next.

Now you've got your reader nodding, it's time to follow up with something a bit more provocative.

I is for Issue.

Identify the problem. The issue here is that writer's find intros so difficult is because they're so important. By introducing a problem, you can be the hero who offers a solution. It’s very persuasive to dig someone out of a hole, even if you dug the hole in the first place.

G is for Goal

Giving the reader a vision of what might be achieved is an effective technique to keep them hooked. Defining your end goal also makes the rest of your piece easier to follow as the reader knows where it’s headed. In this case to avoid a stressful experience each time they sit down to write.

A is for Answer

Having identified a problem, you need to give your readers a solution. What I like about the whole problem/solution routine is that defining the problem often leads to writing a more compelling solution. At A Thousand Monkeys, we’re very keen on our black book of persuasive structures, and this is an opportunity to persuade you to use one of our current favourites: CIGAR. The structure works well for the start of web pages, case studies, report writing or direct mail.

R is for Resolution

If good beginnings are important, so are good endings. The only problem is that readers don’t always get to the end. So, by including a snippet of the conclusion at the beginning, you create a more engaging read. What do you want your reader to do as a result of reading your piece? Give them an expected course of action. Our course of action for you? Try this structure next time you sit down to write!


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