Writers have always had to work hard to grab (and keep) readers' attention. But today it’s harder than ever.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said that we live in a world where “the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention."
He's right. That's why your writing has to have these two things: a strong hook and clear idea.
Without these, most readers won't make it past your introduction.
A CLEAR IDEA
A clear idea is the one thing you’re trying to get across—the one thing you want your reader or audience to take away. Without a clear idea, your audience will get frustrated trying to follow along and move on.
If you don't have a one main idea for your article, church newsletter, or sermon, you might not be ready to draft it—and you certainly aren't ready to deliver or publish it. Clear writing comes from clear thinking, so if you don’t have a clear idea, it’s likely that you haven’t thought sufficiently about your subject.
Here’s where things usually go wrong, according to Copyblogger:
It might be easy to think of an idea for a piece of content, but when we actually sit down to write:
1. We discover we don’t have as much to say about the idea as we first thought.
2. We start writing about one idea, but then introduce another halfway through.
In both of these situations, if we publish that content, the reader may be left feeling either bewildered or cheated at the end. Not ideal.
Before writing your next piece, see if you can boil the main idea down into one clear sentence that communicates what you want readers to know, do, or think.
Once you’ve got a clear idea, you’re ready to craft a hook.
A hook is an intro so compelling that the reader has to keep reading. It's the opening where you grab your reader's attention and get them on the edge of their seats.
Without a good hook, it doesn't really matter what the rest of the article says because most people aren't going to read it. It's sad but true.
Here is a good example from one of our recent articles:
I have one heirloom from my grandfather. It’s a wooden walking stick with a few dozen medallions from different European cities nailed to it.
There are a few from German cities like Berlin and Munich, others from places like Prague and Budapest, and others from smaller cities across the continent. It’s still the same walking stick he started with, but it’s been permanently stamped with a record of everywhere it went.
Discipleship is one of the sticks I’ve carried with me as I’ve traveled through multiple Christian traditions over the course of my life. And, as it’s traveled through each of these traditions, I’ve nailed medallions to it, sometimes without even realizing I was doing so.
As soon as you read the first sentence in this article, you’re instinctively asking yourself, What’s the heirloom? The author answers that question in the next sentence, then moves on to connect the details to his clear idea.
Here’s another example:
I’d been caught in an off-limits room making out with my girlfriend. This wasn’t the first time. I’d been warned over and over about breaking curfew, sneaking out to the pub, and going places I wasn’t allowed.
When Charles Price, the principal of Capernwray Hall, called me to his office I sheepishly made my way, firing off prayers for mercy.
Tell me you don’t want to know what happens in that principal’s office.
Try this: After you've drafted an article or sermon or church-wide email, scan it for the most engrossing part. Use whatever is most compelling and use it right up front.
Be clear and hook your readers.