Why you can usually kill that first (and probably the second) sentence

Unless your opening captures attention, creates interest and compels people to keep reading, delete it. To grab and keep attention, thrust your reader ‘into the midst of things.’

Do something for me.

Pull up the last work email you sent (or just follow along in your head). What’s the first line?

Is it a salutation, such as, “Hey, Nate!”

Fluff. Delete it. Onward.

What’s the second line?

Is it, “Hope you’re doing well!” or, “Glad it’s Friday!” or, “Can you believe it’s summertime?”

Definitely fluff. Delete it. Moving on.

What’s the third line?

Whatever it is, ask yourself this question to determine if it stays or goes:

 Is this sentence necessary?

More specifically:

  • Does it capture attention?
  • Does it create interest or desire?
  • Does it compel people to keep reading?

Even more specifically:

  • Does it educate?
  • Does it somehow entertain?
  • Does it give the reader important context?
  • Does it help you make a point?

If not, delete it. It’s fluff, filler and flat-out unnecessary.

Writing “in medias res

In medias res is Latin for “in the midst of things.”

It’s a technique used by novelists, playwrights and screenwriters to throw audiences into the middle of the action, which immediately captures attention.

In the eighth century B.C., Homer opened “The Odyssey” in medias res.

In 2008, Vince Gilligan started “Breaking Bad” in medias res.

Today, you, writer, can start an email or a landing page or a sales letter “in the midst of things.” Why not immediately address your prospect’s chief pain point or get straight to the gist of why you’re emailing a colleague?

This means sacrificing the buildup, platitudes and pleasantries—and hooking the reader as soon as possible.

Drop your reader into the middle of things by starting with something “necessary.” You’ll grab attention right off the bat, which is great start toward winning the battle of persuasion.

Eddie Shleyner is senior copywriting manager for G2 Crowd. A version of this post first appeared on Very Good Copy.

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