How to Write Spellbinding Introductions by Shamelessly Copying the Pros

How to Write Spellbinding Introductions by Shamelessly Copying the Pros

You’ve heard the advice a million times, right?

“To write better, study the writing of other great writers.”

And on the surface that makes sense.

Until you actually try to do it.

Seriously, how exactly do you study great writing?

Should you just read other writers and hope their brilliance rubs off through some form of literary osmosis? Should you write out in long hand what others have typed, in hopes of similar spontaneous hand-to-brain absorption? Or should you rely on something more concrete?

Writing well is hard enough, and the last thing you need is ambiguous advice to further complicate the successful-writer puzzle.

What you really need is a cheat sheet. You need a map to help you navigate the successful writing tactics used by the masters.

Fortunately, you can learn many lessons about great writing technique from just one place – the blog post introduction.

Let’s take a look at a specific example.

How to Deconstruct Great Writing to Uncover the Secrets of Your Heroes

Since this is Smart Blogger, let’s deconstruct one of Jon Morrow’s intros and reveal three specific writing tactics that he uses to hook readers so thoroughly. It’s time to finally get specific about studying successful writers and discover how to use these techniques in your own writing.

The following is the introduction from Jon’s post An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage:

Do you feel that?

That little tugging sensation on your heart?

You’re not sure what, but something is pulling you to change. Not in a confess-your-sins-oh-ye-sinners way, but to shift directions, to embrace your calling, to finally do what you were put here to do:

You feel the ideas inside you. You sense them straining to escape. You know your job is to set them free, firing them like a cannon into a world in desperate need of them.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid of quitting your job and living without a safety net. You’re afraid of the concerned, disapproving looks your friends will give you when you tell them you’re giving it all up to write for a living. You’re afraid of not having enough money for food, of the power being cut off, of watching your family shivering and hungry, all because of your “selfishness”.

And most of all?

You’re afraid you’re wrong about yourself.

Maybe that tugging sensation you feel is just an illusion. Maybe your ideas are crap. Maybe you’re just a fool with delusions of grandeur, and this whole fantasy of becoming a writer is just that: a fantasy.

So, you do nothing.

You cower in your safe little job. You tinker with a blog or a novel or a screenplay. You drown your dreams with junk food or booze or shopping sprees, all the while telling yourself you’re doing the right thing.

But are you?

“No,” a little voice whispers inside of you. “No, this is all very, very wrong.”

Oh God…

Quite effective, huh?

It grabs your attention, draws you in, and keeps you reading.

But what’s going on beneath the surface? If you knew, you could recreate some of that magic in your own writing, right?

So let’s lay bare the first of our three techniques.

1) The Opening Question

Did you know that Jon starts 72% of his posts the same way – by asking a tantalizing opening question?

Let’s look at some examples:

Did you notice some of the ways Jon used questions to capture your attention? I spotted the following:

  • He used deliberate vagueness to create curiosity.
  • He mentioned specific threats that instilled fear.
  • He promised personal information (and audiences love to know more about their heroes)

Questions like these create open emotional loops that must be closed. And to find closure, you need to read the sentence that follows. Which pulls you further into the post. Sneaky huh?

In Jon’s introduction above, he opens with the question: “Do you feel that?” When you read it, you can’t help wondering: “Feel what?” and suddenly you’re unable to resist the next sentence.

You have lots of ways to open an emotional loop. Just make sure your opening question instills an overpowering desire to discover more. Engineer your questions so that the reader can’t possibly stop reading.

And if you doubt this technique, just try turning off your television in the middle of your favorite reality television show’s final episode. πŸ™‚

2) Delayed Transitions

Transitions are words and phrases that smoothly join two ideas, sentences, or sentence fragments.

For instance, the following sentence uses “but” as a transition:

“You want to become a better writer, but you don’t know how.”

Transitions include conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, yet, for, if, nor, and so), exclamations (e.g., sure, well, yes, no, and oh), and colloquial phrases (e.g., in fact, of course, and granted).

Many transitions are so commonplace that we’d struggle to write without them, but where transitioning is elevated to an art form is through the use of delayed transitions.

A delayed transition puts the transitional word or phrase at the start of the next sentence, or even the next paragraph.

So, we think a sentence is complete.

But in fact there’s more information to come.

And we can’t help ourselves but to keep reading.

The benefits of using delayed transitions are as follows:

  1. They allow us to write shorter sentences, which are easier to read.
  2. They pull the reader further along in your posts, especially when starting a new sentence on a separate line (even delayed transitions written on the same line are one character further along in the document compared to a transition with a comma).
  3. They give the reader the illusion of reading faster than they actually are (remember those awesome books you read in one sitting and you couldn’t believe you read that many pages? That’s what I mean here).
  4. They are a bit unexpected, thus provide a mild stimulus to your reader to keep them actively reading (try giving your significant other an unexpected gift at an unexpected time πŸ™‚ ).

Let’s see how Jon used delayed transitions with his example:

You feel the ideas inside you. You sense them straining to escape. You know your job is to set them free, firing them like a cannon into a world in desperate need of them.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid of quitting your job and living without a safety net. You’re afraid of the concerned, disapproving looks your friends will give you when you tell them you’re giving it all up to write for a living. You’re afraid of not having enough money for food, of the power being cut off, of watching your family shivering and hungry, all because of your “selfishness”.

And most of all?

You’re afraid you’re wrong about yourself.

Maybe that tugging sensation you feel is just an illusion. Maybe your ideas are crap. Maybe you’re just a fool with delusions of grandeur, and this whole fantasy of becoming a writer is just that: a fantasy.

So, you do nothing.

You cower in your safe little job. You tinker with a blog or a novel or a screenplay. You drown your dreams with junk food or booze or shopping sprees, all the while telling yourself you’re doing the right thing.

But are you?

Transitions aren’t rocket science, but you must practice to get a feel for what combinations of transition words flow well together and what combinations don’t.

3) Poetic Iteration and The Rule of Three

Poetic iteration is the deliberate repetition of certain words or constructions to enhance the impact of your writing on the reader.

It creates an enticing rhythm that captivates readers and creates a magical bond between related segments of text.

Here’s an example from Jon’s introduction:

You’re not sure what, but something is pulling you to change. Not in a confess-your-sins-oh-ye-sinners way, but to shift directions, to embrace your calling, to finally do what you were put here to do:

The trio of phrases to shift, to embrace, and to finally do makes this sentence more pleasing to read and cements the feeling that this is a writer in full command of his craft.

The Rule of Three is a specific form of iteration that states any idea presented in threes is more memorable, enjoyable, and interesting. (See how that last phrase is so much more satisfying to read than simply “memorable and enjoyable” or “memorable and interesting?”)

So, what’s so special about the number three?

Three is the smallest number necessary to create a pattern, and we humans can’t get enough of patterns to help us make sense of our world.

You’ll find The Rule of Three everywhere.

In well-known quotes:

  • “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
  • “Stop, Drop, and roll.”
  • “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!”

In famous stories:

  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Goldilocks and The Three Bears (“This is too hot. This is too cold. This is just right,” as opposed to, “This is too hot. This is just right.”)
  • The Three Little Pigs (“I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down,” as opposed to, “I’ll huff, and I’ll blow your house down.”)

Even in the basic building blocks of storytelling itself:

  • The Beginning
  • The Middle
  • The End

Neat huh?

Let’s see some more examples from Jon’s opening:

You’re afraid of quitting your job and living without a safety net. You’re afraid of the concerned, disapproving looks your friends will give you when you tell them you’re giving it all up to write for a living. You’re afraid of not having enough money for food, of the power being cut off, of watching your family shivering and hungry, all because of your “selfishness”.

Maybe that tugging sensation you feel is just an illusion. Maybe your ideas are crap. Maybe you’re just a fool with delusions of grandeur, and this whole fantasy of becoming a writer is just that: a fantasy.

You cower in your safe little job. You tinker with a blog or a novel or a screenplay. You drown your dreams with junk food or booze or shopping sprees, all the while telling yourself you’re doing the right thing.

To compare a segment of text with and without iteration, let’s use an example from another popular post by Jon:

To most of the world, blogging is a joke.

It isn’t a career. It isn’t a way to make money. It isn’t a tool for changing the world.

Notice how this reads much better than:

To most of the world, blogging is a joke because it isn’t a career, a way to make a living, or a tool for changing the world.

We don’t call Jon “His Royal Awesomeness” for nothing!

“They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play!”

Now to drive home this point, I’d like to share my favorite example of poetic iteration and The Rule of Three. It’s part of an introduction to a famous ad by legendary copywriter John Caples:

I played on and as I played I forgot the people around me. I forgot the hour, the place, the breathless listeners. The little world I lived in seemed to fade – seemed to grow dim – unreal. Only the music was real. Only the music and visions it brought me. Visions as beautiful and as changing as the wind blown clouds and drifting moonlight that long ago inspired the master composer. It seemed as if the master musician was speaking to me – speaking through the medium of music – not in words but chords. Not in sentences but in exquisite melodies!

Notice how well that paragraph flowed and how hypnotized you were? Did you spot the uses of poetic iteration (such as the repetition of “I played”) and The Rule of Three (“the hour, the place, the breathless listeners”)? I bet you found some examples but not all of them.

Let’s deconstruct the text using color-coding to reveal the magic:

I played on and as I played I forgot the people around me. I forgot the hour, the place, the breathless listeners. The little world I lived in seemed to fade – seemed to grow dim – unreal. Only the music was real. Only the music and visions it brought me. Visions as beautiful and as changing as the wind blown clouds and drifting moonlight that long ago inspired the master composer. It seemed as if the master musician was speaking to me – speaking through the medium of music –  not in words but chords. Not in sentences but in exquisite melodies!

No wonder this is considered one of the greatest pieces of copywriting of all time!

Now Get Out There and Open Like a Pro!

As a blogger and writer, you spend a good bit of time improving your writing.

And until recently you’ve had a good excuse to ignore advice to study the greats.

But now that you’ve seen three of the most powerful techniques the pros use to sprinkle magic into their posts, you have no excuse not to start using them yourself.

So why not see if you can use any of these techniques to strengthen your past efforts?

Open one of your old posts and read the introduction again. Opportunities to add an introductory question, delayed transition, or poetic iteration should reveal themselves.

Be sure to use them on your next post too. Remember to practice, practice, practice.

And keep studying those pros. They have more magic up their sleeves.

But that will have to wait for another post. πŸ˜‰

Write on!

About the Author: Shane Arthur is a former copyeditor for Jon Morrow’s kick-butt Guest Blogging Certification Program (affiliate link) which teaches writers just like you how to get their work featured on the world’s biggest blogs and online magazines.

105 Comments

  1. Mark Brinker
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:38:47

    Shane, you’re the best. I always get a new insight or fresh perspective when I read your work. Great post. Thank you!

    • Noufal Binu
      May 22, 2014 @ 20:56:38

      Shane, Thanks for sharing a Superb Article About writing introduction. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

      • Shane Arthur
        May 22, 2014 @ 21:01:18

        @Noufal Binu: My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Shane Arthur
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:42:28

    @Mark: You’re quite welcome. I’d love to see a follow-up comment from you as to whether you were able to use any of this in your existing posts and future posts.

  3. Peggy Nolan
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:13:26

    As a writer, some of this I do instinctively – poetic iteration especially. And I often use transitions the same way. Now to implement the rest – starting with a question (why don’t I do this!?) Awesome pointers! Thank you!!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 11:24:01

      @Peggy: You’re welcome. Write on!

  4. Ash
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:26:44

    Confession: I shamelessly stole this on one of my blog posts on my blog :

    “Do you feel that?”

    What a ripper of an opening line!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 11:29:53

      @Ash: That is quite an opening … isn’t it? πŸ™‚

  5. Alex Moscow
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:26:51

    Brilliant thank you Shane.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. So many blog posts promise the earth but deliver nothing but superficial and in many cases ambiguous advice.

    It is posts like yours that offer real value through the clarity of your ideas and the reinforcement of excellent examples that provide the standard for us to work towards.

    I’m a massive fan of poetic iteration, I just never knew that’s what it was. Thanks for the detailed and insightful post.

  6. Shane Arthur
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:32:11

    @Alex: Amazing how such techniques are hiding right under our noses, huh? I’d offer one piece of advice – if you find a piece of writing that moves you, copy it into word and deconstruct it until you’ve unlocked the magic (and also save it into a swipe file of all the great writing you’ve discovered).

  7. Robert van Tongeren
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:39:32

    Awesome post!

    I’m happy to say I recognize all your three (heh) points from my own writing, especially the last two. I probably picked those habits up from your edits.

    I use that Rule of Three to the point that I worry sometimes that I’m overusing it :p

    But I always felt that it helped the article flow. Now I know why. So thanks for that.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 11:43:06

      @Robert: Like a stylish suit, you can’t wear it all week without someone noticing. Even if it’s a stylish suit, going overboard turns it into a sweaty t-shirt. πŸ™‚

  8. Peter Kanayo
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:49:14

    Shane, am going to mention something I noticed about this post- something you cleverly did.

    Believe me it isn’t the clarity of your writing or breath taking way you weave the story.

    It isn’t even the error free copy or the simplicity which you shared your thought.

    It just this one thing- it is the way you cleverly introduced quite a number of jon’s post.

    It was the dexterity with you accomplish this feat without leaving a sour not on my tongue perhaps others and it because of such cleverness I crown you Arthur reincarnate in Merlin. Thanks so much for this splendid article

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 11:52:48

      @Peter: Your comment is worthy of study. And it make me laugh. Thank you kindly.

      P.S. Linking all the posts in one place is also much easier on the reader than finding them manually. πŸ™‚

      P.P.S. And you did notice how I began this post, right?

  9. Jevon
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:54:00

    That rule of three really opened my eyes. No wonder I always found sentences like that so interesting. Brilliant.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 11:55:44

      @Jevon: Designers also use the rule of three to design business cards and such. It’s all around us.

  10. Sumitha
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:55:32

    Shane, Thank you!!! I’ve been studying the “Morrow style” of opening blog posts for a while now… but coming from a non-literary background, I don’t always remember everything or implement it. Thank you so much for putting it together in this wonderful hot-to guide style. I *know* I’ll be returning to this again and again. And again. πŸ™‚

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 11:56:54

      @Sumitha: I see what you did there. πŸ˜‰ And you’re welcome.

  11. Mi Muba
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:07:24

    Hey Shane
    Your opening of this post itself is the proof you know how to make people dive into your post without a second thought. πŸ™‚
    Copying writing style of others just make you learn how to write great and it does not make you be like that writer. You just get inspiration from him and then develop your own voice.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 12:18:47

      @Mi Muba: Exactly! Study the greats that add your own flavors.

  12. Todd Tresidder
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:17:01

    Thanks Shane!

    I always knew you were the master of brevity.

    But deconstructing openings from his Royal Awesomeness opened new vistas.

    I thought I got it before, but I didn’t.

    Thanks for laying it bare for all to see… including me.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 12:23:48

      @Todd: My pleasure. I think the color-coded deconstructions are what truly do the best job of describing techniques. You can also use this technique with fiction books. I’m a big fan of Larry Brooks and I did a color-coded deconstruction of his story engineering principles. Look at the photo on this guest post I wrote for him: http://storyfix.com/the-help-seeing-the-structure-in-living-color-literally

      Color coding for the win.

  13. Joseph Adediji
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:33:30

    You rock Shane!
    I am a great fan of Jon since the days of his reign at Copyblogger and he is indeed a great writer and you are also a genius to be able to deconstruct Jon’s writing this easily.
    I learnt a bunch of new techniques that I will surely be implementing in my future articles.
    Thanks for this awesome piece Shane!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 13:31:55

      @Joseph: My pleasure. I call Jon “Jon Tzu.”

      • Joseph Adediji
        May 22, 2014 @ 18:20:47

        “Tzu” Sounds cool! Is that Chinese or Japanese?

  14. Peter Kanayo
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:47:19

    Shane, trying to deconstruct your post, I discovered you used question just as Jon.

    You also used delayed transition which are: To, And and Until.

    Not only that, you also used poetic iteration of threes i.e. The word should.

    Those were the few I caught in your opening. You are really something.

    • Joseph Adediji
      May 23, 2014 @ 07:27:20

      Hi Peter,
      Shane is really copying Jon and he is doing perfectly!

  15. Leanne Regalla
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:47:27

    Great stuff, Shane!
    I always instinctively felt the power of the delayed transitions, but some editors really don’t like it when writers – even occasionally – start a sentence with “and”. I know it’s not something we want to do all the time, but thanks for giving me permission to keep that particular tool in my writing toolbox! πŸ˜‰

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 13:33:43

      @Leanne: Glad you liked it. Yeah, don’t want to use too many delayed transitions, but Jon’s used them to great success. Write on!

  16. Dave Nordella
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:49:18

    Did you really steal these techniques?

    Or did you master them and make them your own?

    I will remember this post as I struggle to craft spellbinding openings, to create content that draws the reader through my writing and to emulate great writers like you.

    Thank you, Shane, for teaching such a powerful lesson.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 13:35:50

      You’re welcome.
      I don’t consider myself a great writer. Skilled perhaps. I do better with editing. With this post, I had the talented Glen Long polishing this post for me, so I’m lucky.

    • Tope Fabusola
      May 22, 2014 @ 14:22:33

      What are you doing there, Dave?

      Yes, I saw!

      Excellent application of the Opening Question, the Transition, and the Three Rule. I must say I find it Fabulous.

      Looks like you have read it well, understood it, and are now applying it Beautifully. Nice one there.

      Guess what?

      I am now heading straight to your blog!

  17. John
    May 22, 2014 @ 13:02:19

    Great pointers Shane! The Rule of Three is something I’ve been exploring within my business relationships as well. As humans, we seem to form memories very easily when it comes to being exposed to an idea or person three times. When I meet someone in my networking group, I always try to make sure in the next couple weeks I see them in person or make contact with them at least three times. It is indeed a charm! It makes sense because we live in an extremely distracting society.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 13:40:58

      @John. Good point about using the rule with people. It’s everywhere indeed.

  18. Lee J Tyler
    May 22, 2014 @ 13:59:00

    Shane, this is brilliant. I need to remind myself, as you have done here, to twist and turn the tricks of writing into the art of copywriting. Desconstructing the masters (Mr. Morrow and Mr. Caples) and applying them to the screen. Teasers need to be used in Social Media, titles, subtitles, and every sentence until the end. The story, per Aristotle on up, is encapsulated into each post.
    Thank you!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 14:02:00

      @Lee: So glad you enjoyed it. The twist and turn of art indeed!

  19. Tope Fabusola
    May 22, 2014 @ 14:16:28

    You Know What?

    You just changed my life! My Writing Life, My Blogging Life, My Conversational Life – All done neatly in this one post!

    I would not have guessed, No way would I have expected what immense message awaits me, how that message would enlighten me, inspire me and literally liberate me.

    Is this not wonderful?

    No, that question is rhetorical.

    Because I, You, They know this is the kind of post we all should have read.

    Back then in College.

    Farther Back in High School.

    Nay, Right from Elementary.

    God Bless You Plenty.

    I am enjoying this already!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 14:25:32

      @Tope: Man, that was a wonderful and memorable comment. So glad you truly appreciate it.

  20. Kush Sharma
    May 22, 2014 @ 14:24:47

    Thanks for this. The rule of three was amazing.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 14:28:02

      @Kush: The rule is fantastic. The rule is magical. And, yes, the rule is amazing. πŸ™‚

  21. Jose
    May 22, 2014 @ 15:44:36

    WOW! These are some great ideas to use! I’m going to have to use them!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 15:51:59

      @Jose: Excellent. Then one day people will be referencing one of your posts instead of Caples.

  22. austin
    May 22, 2014 @ 17:20:54

    Shane,

    Thank you for this blog post. I have been having a ton of trouble with my introductions. This is perfectly timed, thank you. I have really benefited from your knowledge and Jon’s. What I have learned studying your resources has landed me some decent success with one of my blog posts on linkedin publishing http://linkd.in/1mYkVNS.

    Thank you again,

    Austin Iuliano

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 17:26:41

      @Austin: Excellent! Makes me feel good knowing I helped you like that.

      Write on good sir!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 17:30:07

      P.S. Wait until my next guest post comes out. Approximately 337 flabby words and phrases that weaken your writing. Took me a few years to compile and complete β€” one letter at a time it seems.

      • austin
        May 22, 2014 @ 18:03:08

        I look forward to it!

      • Robert van Tongeren
        May 22, 2014 @ 18:17:13

        What a tease!

        That actually made me gasp in excitement. And then I had to chuckle at myself for getting so excited about a promised list of flabby words. Sometimes I feel like I’m becoming more and more of an oddball.

        Seriously though, I’m around a “next-episode-of-Game-of-Thrones” level of looking forward to it. Cannot wait!

  23. Stephen
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:34:56

    Shane,

    Do you feel that? It’s the sonic boom from the riotous applause that this post deserves. These techniques will be seen in my very next article. Well, at least one of them will be!

    Thanks very much.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 22, 2014 @ 20:26:37

      @Stephen: I love the sonic boom from riotous applause. Thank you.

  24. Shane Arthur
    May 22, 2014 @ 20:58:36

    @Robert: Those 41 and counting color-coded edits I did for student guest posts inside the Guest Blogging program show some of the flabby words and phrases that will be in my next guest post, so those can keep you busy until then. πŸ™‚

    • Robert van Tongeren
      May 23, 2014 @ 08:35:32

      Yeah, I know. Those edits are little goldmines. I already collected quite a few from them.

      But still, having them all in one big list makes it a whole lot easier πŸ˜‰

  25. Aqilah Norazman
    May 22, 2014 @ 21:25:38

    Great post, Shane. Thanks for putting this together. I appreciate it. It’s posts like these that gives bloggers hope. It gives bloggers inspiration. And it gives bloggers the opportunity to be better writers. πŸ˜‰

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 07:37:29

      @Aqilah: πŸ˜‰ You’re most welcome.

  26. Ion
    May 23, 2014 @ 01:30:21

    When you say it seems so easy. You know what you are talking about. You are confident in your words. You are Shane Arthur πŸ™‚

    And, what about us?

    Few people will reach your level of writing and there is nothing wrong in it. Writing helps me understand myself. It tells me what I’m capable of and brings me down to earth when I’m flying in the sky dreaming about becoming the next Jon Morrow.

    Because there are not many writers I was able to find you and Jon Morrow and stick with.

    I used a question in a couple of my articles, but I didn’t know about the delayed transition and the rule of three tehnique.

    I will deconstruct articles and I hope to learn from it.

    That’s defenately a great tip to learn writing and it’s rare

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 07:46:07

      @Ion: I’ve been studying language rules and mechanics since middle school. It’s a fascination with me, and my abilities with writing took all that time to grasp. Jon can’t move his body, so he devotes his life to the written word and works all day each day to sharpen his writing skills to interact with people.

      Writing is in no way easy. And I searched this article for that word and I don’t see that I used it. I did say, “Writing well is hard enough ….”

      But, I have a saying and it goes, “Write or die.” In other words, if you tell yourself that you’d rather die than not master the craft of writing, you will indeed master the craft of writing. You will do it. Just have faith and kick some butt.

      • Ion
        May 23, 2014 @ 15:36:12

        Shane is there an app for browser that allows you color text while reading? I could deconstruct masters work directly from the broweser.

  27. Bryan Collins
    May 23, 2014 @ 05:54:55

    Hi Shane,

    Great post. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to shorten the opening lines of my blog posts. This really breaks it down for me.

    As an FYI, the colour-coded example doesn’t display for me in Chrome, but it works in IE.

    The John Caples example is superb.

    I look forward to your next post.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 07:47:42

      @Bryan: Thanks for letting me know. I’ll pass that along and hopefully get that fixed. We had one hell of a time getting the styling to stick in any browser before posting it live, so I’m not sure what is the issue. Glad you liked the post.

  28. Emily Filloramo
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:04:31

    This is ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS Shane!!! Will be incorporating many points in the epic post I am writing now.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 08:14:18

      @Emily: Go forth and write epically! πŸ™‚

  29. Michael Feeley
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:10:04

    GREAT post Shane! I just took action on what you suggested and changed a new post of mine on LinkedIn. It was fun! It was exciting! It was successful!

    Thank you for your skills, clarity and care.

  30. Shane Arthur
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:15:11

    @Michael: That’s what I love to hear. Write on!

  31. Ahmed Aljonaid
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:24:30

    Shane,
    One of my weakest points “or at least that’s what I thought until I read this article” is writing. And yes, I was told over and over that copying other writers’ copies is the way to improve that, except that they never told me “How” to do that!

    You’ve nailed it Shane. You really have and made it crystal clear it made me feel that writing and learning from other writers’ work is not that big challenge after all if you know how to do it.

    I relay on writing for my business a lot since I do have several blogs and followers. In addition of that, I am starting a new blog with a new journey which depends solely on attracting as many readers as possible. With the discomfort I had before reading this post, I thought I might never be able to do that, but not anymore.

    Thank you Shane, thank you very much and looking forwards to reading more of your coming articles to enjoy and.to learn from too πŸ™‚

    • Shane Arthur
      May 25, 2014 @ 23:50:41

      @Ahmed: Thank you for the great comment.So glad you liked it.

  32. Aphro
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:41:05

    Thank you, Shane! As a quivering introvert who has recently entered that fearful realm of public speaking, I’ve discovered that these same copywriting (storytelling) techniques also apply to public speaking. Hook the audience with a tantalizing question, use delayed transitions, and wield poetic iterations with conviction. How is this relevant? The fact is that many organizations have to pitch proposals and present their work live. The default is the droning PowerPoint presentation given without panache, without lyrical use of language, and without any passion or conviction. I can tell you from witnessing this first hand that whoever walks in and and “performs” using the copywriting tactics you outlined, will mop the floor with their competition. Looking forward to more of your articles!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 08:48:33

      @Aphro: True about the public speaking. Whatever you are speaking about, you surly had to write out what you’d discuss in the presentation. And these rhythmic techniques transfer well to the spoken word.

      At one point in my life I was a computer instructor. The most important part of the class (or presentation) to nail is the opening. You have to set the tone for what to expect and get people excited and involved. Hook them with flair in the beginning and they love you.

  33. Sheeroh
    May 23, 2014 @ 09:30:05

    I’m a huge fan of Jon Tzu…lol and I love your post Shane. What I love about opening questions is that if you do it right, you’ll engage the reader and spark the reader’s curiosity to delve deeper into your post. I believe its a great way to make an awesome first impression.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 09:37:35

      @Sheeroh: I’ve read Jon’s stuff for so long before noticing the specifics. Amazing what it hidden right beneath the surface. Glad you enjoyed it.

  34. maximyou.com
    May 23, 2014 @ 09:43:20

    Shane – thanks for this wonderful surprise! The best and most practical advice on writing I’ve come across in a loooong time.

    Fab stuff. Now over to me, do it.

    I wish me good luck, and more post from you :-]
    And to you, thanks a bunch, again.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 09:51:57

      @Beat: Love comments like this. Thanks. And write on!

  35. Fiona Scott
    May 23, 2014 @ 10:19:29

    Seriously guys – I can’t keep my hands off boostblogtraffic!!!

    Yet another practical, insightful, exceptional post. Thanks Shane.

    My biggest takeaway is – practice, practice, practice.

    Guess what I’m doing now?

  36. Shane Arthur
    May 23, 2014 @ 10:26:03

    @Fiona: “Guess what I’m going now?”

    Umm, tantalizing me with a tantalizing question? πŸ™‚

  37. Shane Arthur
    May 23, 2014 @ 10:47:14

    @all: Hey, can you all tweet this post for me? Happy Friday regardless.

  38. Tom Southern
    May 23, 2014 @ 11:31:41

    I wished you’d write more posts, Shane! This is excellent!

    Copying the Greats of Advertising is always a master class. I think copying the techniques of best-selling authors is paramount too. It’s no surprise that some of the Advertising Greats have also written best-sellers. And vice-versa. Both forms of writing pull heavily on each other’s techniques for pulling in readers and keeping them hooked.

    And, it’s also nice to see you promoting the use of “And” as a sentence starter. It’s a favourite of mine. As is the dot … dot … dot … or elipses (however you spell it πŸ™‚ ) technique because of it’s leading power.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 11:39:33

      @Tom: Thanks. Yeah, I wish I’d write more post too, but my editor brain won’t shut off long enough to let my writer brain have any fun. πŸ™‚

  39. LeAllyson Meyer
    May 23, 2014 @ 11:37:39

    Shane – All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. I am going to reread and apply your advice to my writing.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 23, 2014 @ 11:40:05

      @LeAllyson: My pleasure. Write on!

  40. Elke Feuer
    May 23, 2014 @ 14:47:51

    Very cool stuff, Shane! Thanks for sharing.

    Definitely trying this for my next blog post!

    • Shane Arthur
      May 25, 2014 @ 08:46:53

      @Elke: Excellent. Do a follow up comment and let me know how it went.

  41. ProdGem
    May 23, 2014 @ 15:17:44

    Hmmn. Have not read it yet but I cant just wait to digest it fully when I get home> Fro just glancing at the contents, it is so so awesome

  42. Lucas
    May 24, 2014 @ 05:11:20

    Shane, this is easily one of the top 5 articles I’ve ever read in my life. I’ve applied the outlined techniques in the blog post I’m currently writing and the quality has improved tremendously as a result.

    Thanks.

    • Shane Arthur
      May 25, 2014 @ 08:45:48

      @Lucas: Wow! I’m honored to get such a great comment. Thank you.

  43. Ada Boyd
    May 25, 2014 @ 17:01:05

    I don’t mean to be contrary–or insulting–because I do think Jon writes pretty well, but as a matter of fact I’ve thought about that very opening you single out, and I have a much different take:

    In answer to your question–“Did you know that Jon starts 72% of his posts the same way”–I didn’t know the exact percentage, no, but I’ve most certainly noticed that the overwhelming majority of his posts (and so many others in this niche) do start that way (how could you not?), and I’ve long thought that, rather than being compelling and provocative, these openings have the reverse outcome: they’re dulled. They’ve become mannered and cliche, and because of that they achieve the opposite of their intended effect. They read formulaic and transparently so. It’s become a stylistic mannerism–which is one of the (many) pitfalls of the write-by-numbers approach.

    I’m not trying to be hypercritical or rude in saying any of this–and of course I only speak for myself here–but one must call em like one sees em.

    I think that that opening method — the interrogatory method (you know the one I mean, right?) — is, first of all, played out, so much so that I honestly don’t continue reading a great many of the articles that start this way, in part because I’m too busy throwing up my hands, and, second of all, even before it was played out, it’s a little too obvious, isn’t it? At any rate, I never quite bought into into it.

  44. Ron. N. Sullivan
    May 25, 2014 @ 23:06:47

    What a great post, Shane.

    If a post doesn’t add something to a reader’s life, then it shouldn’t be written.

    Thanks for the insight.

  45. Haifahaque
    May 26, 2014 @ 08:04:47

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  46. Ed Lieber
    Jun 03, 2014 @ 14:23:08

    Great stuff. I might add one other thing — didn’t read every response so forgive me if I’m repeating, but the writer uses vivid words that build a physicality to the story. He writes of tinkering with a blog or small job, for instance. He uses visual cues rather than mental abstractions. Too many newer writers wallow in vagueness, when they should be depicting images with words. Nabokov described writers as being on par with painters.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jun 03, 2014 @ 14:30:12

      @Ed: I agree with you on Jon’s use of vivid words. He wrote the following after all: //smartblogger.com/power-words/ πŸ™‚

      Thanks for taking time to add to the conversation.

  47. TemiTope Olofin
    Jun 10, 2014 @ 08:33:20

    Shane, I thought I understood writing, but you just showed me how much I need to go back to the drawing board. I think what did it for me is the opening question.

    I couldn’t even wait to finish…I wrote this down

    Can you feel that? The silly little butterflies jumping around in your tummy? Encountering blogging was love at first sight!

    • Shane Arthur
      Jun 10, 2014 @ 09:33:59

      @TemiTope: Glad you benefited from this. The learning process never ends. If it did, what fun would that be, right? πŸ™‚

  48. Sam mudra
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:35:48

    Shane, you are awesome in teaching, you know. I am coming to your blog since last couple of days and read couple of articles and I truly amazed the way you wrote all of them. Shane, you are a great teacher.
    This is something huge and will take time to intake and digest for me and above all there is so much to learn from this piece of content. I am sure this is going to be a very much helpful resource for me. Thanks Shane, thanks for sharing and educating me.

    • Shane Arthur
      Nov 20, 2014 @ 20:34:58

      @Sam: How did I miss such a wonderful comment like this for so long. Sorry and thank you. Teaching is indeed in my blood.

  49. Hitasoft
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 11:07:09

    Shane, Thanks for sharing a Superb Article About writing introduction. The learning process never endup.

    • Shane Arthur
      Nov 20, 2014 @ 20:36:27

      @Hitasoft: Indeed it never ends. And as I mentioned before, what fun would that be anyhow, right? πŸ™‚

  50. Paul
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 19:47:19

    I found this article has been quite informative. And I extend gratitude for your commitment to write articles that are authetic, educative and inspiring.

    • Shane Arthur
      Nov 20, 2014 @ 20:37:00

      @Paul: Thank you kindly good sir.

  51. E.J.
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 14:34:47

    Fabulous. I use a lot of these techniques, myself, so I love seeing them here.

    It can be tough, but look at your opening paragraph through two other people’s eyes — someone who knows next to nothing about your topic and someone who knows more than you. Will they be sucked in? Would you?

    Again, thanks for this post. Even a seasoned old writer like me can take this one to heart.

    • Shane Arthur
      Jul 02, 2014 @ 14:49:01

      Glad you liked it, E.J.

      Write on!

  52. Akshay Hallur
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 07:32:08

    You are right, Shane.
    I liked all the strategies.

    For a newbie blogger to attain success in blogging, copying helps a lot. Hell yeah! Like babies explore the surroundings and imitate others, and grow.

    Most of the time most of the bloggers find themselves difficult in churning out intros. In those cases the above strategy helps a lot.

    Intros and titles are the welcome stuff for visitors. It should be catchy and appealing. It should make visitors stopcand read your posts. Using personalistic approach and making the topic clear immediately helps a lot.

    Cheers,
    Akshay Hallur.

    • Shane Arthur
      Nov 20, 2014 @ 20:38:14

      @Akshay: Cheers to you too. And write on!

  53. Andre
    Mar 11, 2015 @ 10:26:21

    I’m late to this, but thanks @Shane. This is a great post that’s inspired me to revisit my old posts, to write better intros, and to hone my craft. πŸ˜‰

    In fact, I tried it out in my latest post “The Three Qualities of the Best Camera” and it was quite fun.

    Specifically the structure was this:
    – Opening question
    – 3 common counterpoints
    – A delayed transition
    – My three qualities that make a camera the best

    • Shane Arthur
      Mar 11, 2015 @ 10:32:44

      @Andre, my pleasure. Glad you used it with your post. Well done. Now you won’t be able to write a blog post without thinking about this concept. πŸ™‚

  54. Ψ³ΩˆΫŒΫŒΪ† سیسکو
    Mar 16, 2015 @ 02:47:54

    Glad you liked it, E.J.

    Write on!

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