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Writing tip: less introduction, more bottom line

One of the most common things I do when I’m reviewing a piece of copy – whether it’s a proposal, report, media release or any other piece of content – is to cut out the first paragraph entirely.

People are so focused on having a good introduction that they over-introduce, and the writing starts to take on the character of a school essay. It often feels like the writer could have used the words, “Once upon a time”. And most often, the stronger introduction is right there, in plain sight, in paragraph two.

And here’s where you can learn from journalists. They place a great deal of emphasis on their introductory paragraphs – the “intro” or “lede” – but they don’t overdo it. It’s one paragraph, it makes one point, and it usually sums up the most important thing you need to know in no more than 30 words.

The key is not to overthink it, and not to lay all of the groundwork for what’s coming. Dive right in. Make a strong statement. Tell us the bottom line – upfront.

Write that intro so well that if people read nothing else (and that’s a distinct possibility, trust me), they will have digested the most important information.

And if you don’t know how to do that and either want to learn, or have me do it for you, get in touch on mandy@mandycollins.co.za. I’m just an email away, and I’d love to help.

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