Saturday 28 March 2015

Ten Tips on How To Grab the Reader's Attention

Michelle Ruberg says that when you write an article, try to grab the reader's attention.  While you want your article to have a level of respectability, take a page from the tabloids, who are so good at grabbing the reader's attention, they sell three million copies a week.  Here are ten tips to keep in mind:

1.  Never Be Boring

Here is a line from a tabloid:

"Cats may have nine lives -- but dogs go to heaven!  Just ask Stephen Huneck who spent $200,000 building a church for dogs."

The reader immediately wonders how a dog would need a church, and for $200,000, no less.

2.  Find the "Hey Martha" quality

When you read an opening like the one about the dog church, it makes you turn to your wife and say "Hey Martha, get a load of this."  That's the quality you want for you opening.

3.  Use your Best Shot

"Kirk Douglas put a pistol in his mouth determined to kill himself and only an accident of fate prevented him from pulling the trigger."

The questions swirl in the readers head after reading this line.

4.  Make a long story short

Fill your paragraphs with lots of details

"The Queen, seventy five, has been on the throne for fifty years, and married to a grumpy husband for fifty four,  Even palace insiders admit she shows more affection to her beloved pet corgis than to her dysfunctional family.  Personal fortune of $2 billion has not bought her happiness."

5.  Make Effective Transitions

Write tightly and make effective transitions.  When referring to the heroes of 9/11 who rerouted the plane intended for the White House, into a Pennsylvania field, the Star used the transition:

"Glick and the other heroes stormed from their seats into history."

6.  Pace yourself

While your sentences should vary, some long, some short, for the most part your paragraphs should be short.

7.  Keep it Simple

Write to express first and to impress second.  Your writing should be easily understood.

8.  Use Active Verbs

ex. "6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Chile" is more effective than "Chile Struck by 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake".

9.  Have Fun with Puns

Harrison Ford dated a much younger woman and the headline read:  "Raider of the Lost Cradle", referring to his movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

10.  Come Full Circle

Return to the lead in your conclusion.  When I wrote a Maranatha News article about the black settlement of Africville on the fringes of Halifax, I introduced it with the following statement:

“Where the asphalt ended and the dirt road began, that is where Africville started”, recounted Gus Wedderburn, after investigating the black community of Africville at Halifax’s north end in the 1950’s.  Mr. Wedderburn, who wondered why Halifax was  largely devoid of 'coloured people...'" 

I finish the article by tying the ending to the beginning:

"While Halifax is no longer devoid of coloured people, Africville is."

For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg).

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