How To Begin A Web Article
Neil Bromage has run his own small business and is a freelance business writer working on a range of newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. This book is based on a wide range of columns and Q&As written and answered by Neil for Business Link over a number of years. He is based near Preston, Lancs.
‘Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’ Web readers would be eternally grateful if web writers always followed that piece of advice.
But all too often writers do nothing of the kind. Instead of beginning an article about growing tomatoes with a clear statement about what you can expect to read they will either begin with an anecdote or, perhaps most common on the web, superfluous personal information: ‘My name is John, I’ve been an amateur gardener for three years, and I created this page...’
Such indirect openings for articles are fine for certain kinds of writing. But in most web writing – especially business writing – the best way to begin is with the shortest and clearest statement you can make about your topic.
People are usually looking for information on the web, and if you make it easy to find they will thank you. If you make it hard to find by burying your introduction in the second or third paragraph, no one may read your article at all. Research shows that web readers scan pages before they read anything and they may scan right past your article if it doesn’t have a straightforward intro that includes key words about your topic.
Writers often opt for indirect leads because they are insecure. They fear that what they have to say will be so unexciting that potential readers will be turned off, so they try to find an indirect but more interesting way to draw the reader in. But doing this actually makes things worse. If you’re writing about tomatoes, and the reader isn’t interested in tomatoes, it’s better to get it over with fast. Readers who have had to wade through several paragraphs before finding out they’re in the wrong place will be all the more annoyed.