The intro should be:
2. About 20 words
3. One sentence
4. Simple to read and simple to understand
5. Engaging – making readers want to read on
Let’s talk about those numbers ….
1 OK, define newsworthy.
Something that grabs you because it’s new, unusual, relevant, shocking, funny, about or affecting people.
2 Did you really say 20 words?
Yes. Fewer than 20 can work really well. More than 25 rarely does. Learn to make every word count.
3 Why only one measly sentence?
Because you’re demonstrating how decisive you are. Two sentences and you’ve copped out and stitched two angles together. Woolley thinking from you means confusion for the reader. One simple sentence – one idea - one angle - one top intro.
4 So are you calling me simple?
Anything but. It’s hard to use straightforward language and short, easily-understood words in simple sentences that are uncluttered by subsidiary clauses and too much detail. Difficult to achieve, but appreciated by readers.
5 Why should I care about the reader?
Because you’re wasting your time writing a story no one wants to read. You need to understand the readership. Our target is the NCTJ-created world – middle-market, family-oriented and local. The intro should be pitched to make such readers want more.
6 Active? I go to the gym most days!
No doubt it keeps you tight, just as an active sentence construction of subject-verb-object keeps your intros tight, immediate and relevant. Like you, intros don’t want to be flabby.
So what else should intros avoid being?
1, Cluttered with information. The detail can be added later. Even (Sir) Harold Evans in his 1970 world of 40- word intros said the wise reporter concentrates on what happened rather than how, when or where. He wrote: “They should offer a short sharp sentence conveying maximum of impact in a minimum of phrase.” He should know.
2, A quote. We keep banging on about the relevance of attributing quotes. Starting a story with a quote leaves the reader wondering who the hell is speaking. It can look ugly too.