What is a good opening sentence?

Use an interesting fact or statistic

One effective way to start an article is with an interesting fact or statistic that grabs the reader’s attention. For example, “It’s estimated that 7,000 handwritten letters arrive at the North Pole every day addressed to Santa Claus.” This opens with a compelling statistic that engages readers and makes them want to find out more.

Ask a thought-provoking question

Asking a question that provokes curiosity or reflection is a classic way to begin an article. For instance, “Have you ever wondered how butterflies seem to fly effortlessly for miles? Or how they migrate across thousands of miles each year?” Posing one or more questions draws readers in by getting them thinking about the topic at hand.

Start with a vivid anecdote

Sometimes a brief story or anecdote can serve as a powerful hook for an article. For example, “The day Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in his garage back in 1994, few could have predicted that the company would grow into one of the largest, most influential corporations in the world.” Vividly painting a scene helps create interest and emotional investment in the topic.

Quote someone famous or influential

Starting with a compelling quote from a famous person often provides a strong opening. For instance, “As the great inventor Thomas Edison said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.'” The credibility and name recognition of the quoted figure grabs attention.

Set up a scenario or situation

Presenting a hypothetical scenario or situation that illustrates your concept is an effective opening gambit. For example, “Imagine driving down a winding country road on a dark, rainy night when your car suddenly breaks down miles from the nearest town.” This technique places readers in an immersive situation relevant to your topic.

Startle with something unexpected

Sometimes the element of surprise can be used to hook readers from the very first line. “Let’s be clear – Sasquatch is real.” This type of opening immediately shakes up expectations and makes readers wonder where the writer could possibly be going with this.

Ask a rhetorical question

A rhetorical question asked at the very start of an article prompts the reader to think more deeply about the topic while pulling them along into the piece. For instance, “What is the secret to life-long learning?” This type of question doesn’t require an answer, but it does spark curiosity.

Share an inspirational story

Recounting a brief but inspirational anecdote in your opening can uplift readers while introducing your topic. For example, “Michelle didn’t talk until she was 6 years old. Today, she is a renowned public speaker and motivational coach.” Human interest stories make great hooks.

Describe a common frustration

Expressing a common irritation, annoyance or frustration that your readers likely share grabs their attention by sympathetically reflecting their own experience. For instance, “Why is it so hard to get motivated to exercise consistently?” This type of opening meets your audience at their point of need.

Use a powerful adjective

A strong adjective can instantly communicate the significance, gravity or emotional power of your subject matter. “Devastating. That’s the only word that comes close to describing the scope of the crisis.” Adjectives like captivating, provocative and revelatory can all make for potent opening words.

Provide an intriguing contrast

Presenting a surprising or intriguing contrast grabs interest by setting up an apparent paradox or contradiction that pulls the reader in. For example, “She was nervous about skydiving, but jumped out of the plane with no hesitation.” The clashing ideas make readers eager to learn more.

Pose an unanswered question

Another compelling way to open an article can be posing a mystery or unanswered question in your opening line. For instance, “How did a band of 297 men defeat an army of over 10,000?” This type of opening establishes an information gap that sets up the rest of the piece nicely.

Foreshadow something ominous

You can also foreshadow looming danger or crisis in your opening as a way to create drama and anticipation. For example, “Little did they know, their world was about to be turned upside down.” Hints of coming calamity keep readers on edge.

Describe an intriguing character

Introducing an interesting character in your opening often provides a compelling starting point. For instance, “John was 107 years old, but could still run a 6-minute mile.” Fleshing out an intriguing persona gives a human element to anchor the piece.

Start modestly to undermine expectations

You can also hook interest by starting modestly in a way that contrasts with the larger significance of your topic. For instance, “The unassuming man quietly entered the packed auditorium, stepping up to the podium while the crowd roared.” This displays humility before expanding scope.

Set an urgent tone

Starting with a sentence that conveys urgency or a pressing tone can capture a reader’s attention by immediately establishing high stakes. For example, “We only have seven days left to save the endangered condors from extinction.” Urgency is a call to action.

Ask the reader to visualize a scene

Inviting readers to picture a specific scene in their minds in your opening line sparks imaginative engagement with your subject. For instance, “Picture a moonlit shore, waves crashing under a dark sky, the mountain ridge silhouette in the distance.” Visualization is powerful.

Introduce critical background information first

Placing a key piece of background information upfront can provide useful context while also giving a substantive starting point. For instance, “The year was 1930, and the Great Depression had devastated America.” Factual scene-setting grounds the piece in a concrete starting point.

Begin with a striking description

Vivid, sensory details in your opening lines can instantly establish a mood while drawing in the reader. For example, “The market buzzed like a giant hive, filled to the brim with shouts and rich aromas.” Strong imagery makes for captivating reading.

Start with a concise one-sentence summary

Rather than starting broadly, you can begin an article with a tight one-line summary of your central idea or focus. For instance, “The impact of climate change across the Arctic is already proving profound.” A concise but substantive opening can cut to the chase quickly.

Pose a common question

Asking a simple but familiar question that readers have likely pondered themselves can make for an inviting opening line. For example, “Why do cats purr?” This type of opening taps into common curiosities we all share.

Introduce an emotional dilemma

Describing a heart-wrenching decision or situation can provide an emotionally hard-hitting starting point for an article. For instance, “As a single mother struggling to make ends meet, how far would you go to feed your children?” Emotional pull takes the reader in quickly.

Describe a provocative scene

Depicting a suggestive, provocative or controversial scene at the outset can be an effective way to grab interest while also establishing an edgy or subversive tone. For example, “As the couple kissed passionately in public, the nearby policeman cleared his throat loudly.” Provocation gets attention.

Begin with a warning

You can also raise the alarm with an opening line that cautions readers about a looming danger or threat. For instance, “If we don’t reduce carbon emissions within 12 years, the consequences will be irreversible.” Warnings carry an implicit call to action.

Pose a thought experiment

Proposing a thought experiment allows readers to use imagination in considering an idea, theory or scenario. It invites intellectual engagement right off the bat. For example, “Suppose the whole world suddenly lost electricity permanently. How would society adapt?”

Explain why your topic matters

Don’t be afraid to be a bit direct in your opening sentence about why the topic is important or worth paying attention to. For instance, “Understanding how to foster inclusivity is crucial for addressing discrimination in our society today.” Explain the stakes involved.

Tell a funny anecdote

Sharing a brief humorous story or anecdote in your opening line can surprise readers while also warming them up with laughter. For example, “The mysterious client arrived in disguise – sunglasses, trenchcoat, and a hat with an enormous brim pulled down over his face.” Humor goes a long way.

Reference a recent event

Mentioning a current event in your opening grounds your article in timely relevance. For instance, “In the wake of the volatile 2022 U.S. midterm elections, the nation seems more divided than ever.” Tying into current happenings hooks readers.

Start with a powerful assertion

Don’t be afraid to state a bold assertion that captures the essence of your message right at the outset. For example, “Corruption has absolutely no place in a democratic system of government.” A strong stand grabs interest.

Ask readers to recall an experience

Inviting readers to reflect on a familiar experience – like childhood or parenthood – taps into shared associations that forge an instant bond. For instance, “Remember when you first learned to ride a bike?” Shared memories captivate.

Describe a compelling journey

Detailing an exciting voyage, quest or transformation provides built-in forward movement as well as interest. For example, “Magellan’s daring round-the-world voyage from Spain sunk all but one of his ships, claiming his life, but completed the first circumnavigation of the globe.” Journeys engage.

Provide a warning example others can learn from

Recounting a cautionary tale about someone else’s mistakes can provide a valuable takeaway right upfront. For instance, “Steve lost his life savings by falling for a fraudulent investment scheme, but his misfortune can help us identify warning signs of scams.” Lessons hook.

Explain an unexpected outcome

Detailing a twist or confounding result gives readers a mini-mystery to unravel, setting up your piece nicely. For example, “She completed her dissertation on the same day she gave birth to twins, passed her defense just 2 hours later, and graduated top of her class.” Unexpected outcomes intrigue.

Define a significant term

Leading with a definition of an important word central to your piece provides an insightful starting point. For instance, “Corruption: Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power.” Definitions establish a clear focus.

Make a contradictory statement

Challenging or questioning a commonly-accepted truism sparks interest by creating space for new perspective. For instance, “Conventional wisdom says that to lead, one must be demanding. But the best leaders succeed through inspiration, not intimidation.” Contradictions surprise.

Frame as a mystery to be solved

Framing your opening as a puzzle or mystery draws readers in by presenting information gaps only your article can fill. For example, “The day the prince disappeared remains shrouded in secrecy. Where did he go on the foggy night of August 17, and why?” Mysteries captivate.

Discuss a famous unsolved case

Similar to posing a mystery, opening with details on an unsolved criminal case or historical event generates interest by allowing you to speculate. For instance, “In 1937 aviator Amelia Earhart vanished while circumnavigating the globe. But what really happened to her plane?” Unsolved cases intrigue.

Define your objective

An opening sentence that clearly defines the purpose or objective of your article provides helpful direction for readers on what’s ahead. For example, “This piece aims to outline five strategies for effective allyship with the Muslim community.” Well-defined goals clarify.

Provide a timeline of key events

Establishing a timeline upfront gives readers important context about pivotal occasions that have led up to the present. For instance, “After Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, over the next 16 years researchers isolated the antibiotic needed to produce the miracle drug that would revolutionize medicine.” Timelines ground the topic.

Describe a seminal moment

Recounting a single important moment in time that marked a turning point or crystallized an issue can provide a vivid opening. For example, “When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955, she catalyzed the Civil Rights movement.” Seminal moments hook.

Give historical context

Providing brief historical context situates your discussion in a broader narrative that gives helpful background. For instance, “For hundreds of years preceding the American Revolution, tensions had been escalating between Colonists and the British government.” History offers context.

Share a personal revelation

Opening up with a personal epiphany or insight you experienced invites readers to relate to you as an individual. For example, “When I first became a parent, I realized my own childhood had shaped my parental instincts in ways I’d never realized.” Vulnerability connects.

State a central theme

Cutting to the core of your narrative with a thematic statement gives focus while priming readers for the concepts ahead. For instance, “Human beings all share a deep need for connection.” Theme provides direction.

Make a philosophical statement

Presenting a philosophical observation or reflection on life can make for an inspiring, contemplative opening. For example, “It is human nature to search endlessly for meaning, and also to fear finding it.” Philosophy captivates.

Share an aphorism

Starting with a short, sage saying encapsulating a universal truth hints at the deeper wisdom within your work. For instance, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Aphorisms intrigue.

Provide a definition

Ground your piece in clarity by opening with a definition of a key term. For example, “Courage: the ability to act in spite of fear.” Definitions establish parameters.

Describe a vivid image

Opening with a vivid image immerses readers right in your scene. For instance, “The scarlet leaves drifted gently down, blanketing the forest floor.” Images make writing visual.

Close with a call to action

End your opening with a request for readers to do or consider something that drives your piece home. For instance, “Next time you see someone struggling, consider being the one who steps up to help.” Calls to action compel.

Closing Thoughts

Crafting a compelling opening sentence is an art form. The key is to grab the reader’s interest right away while also establishing the tone and focus for your piece. A great opening pulls the audience in, sets the stage, and telegraphs what makes your work worth reading. With so many options – from asking a question to sharing an anecdote – the possibilities are endless. Just be sure your opening sentence leaves readers eager to find out what comes next. A powerful beginning makes all the difference.

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