Hook me, but trick me not

I just read Copywriting 101, on how to “tell compelling stories that grab attention and connect with people.” The first tip is about having a ‘hook’… the purpose of the title is to get people to read the first sentence. The purpose of that sentence is to get people to read the second sentence, and so on.

Sure, drawing people in is important, but it can seriously backfire if the hook has little to do with the actual point of the piece. Your goal should be not just for your reader to get to the end, but for him/her not to regret having read it. I come across many articles that start with some compelling ploy, but then switch gears once it appears you have ‘committed’ to reading. I guess this is a marketer's perspective: once the traveling salesman has his foot in the door, his mission is all but accomplished: the message will be delivered.

But I think this perspective is not ideal for writing on the web. There is no commitment: it's far easier to hit the back button or close the window than to slam the door on a salesman's foot. If I feel betrayed by a lead-in, I'm probably less likely to read other articles or subscribe. Journalistic style dictates that the first sentence should not just draw you in, but should give you some idea what the piece is about. Then, even if your reader gets interrupted or decides to go elsewhere, you were able to deliver a few sentences' worth of your message in a short time.

©20022015 Christopher League