3 Reader’s Digest-Inspired Frameworks For Writing An Epic Opening To Any Article

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into the biggest problems all writers face stopping them from writing on the internet, building an audience, and monetizing their writing.

(And, of course, if you want to defeat these problems and master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to help you write powerful openers to your articles, emails, and newsletters so you immediately hook reader attention.

Here’s a brutal truth abut writing in the digital age:

A mediocre introduction is a death sentence for your content.

It doesn’t matter how groundbreaking the rest of your writing is. You may as well not have written anything at all if you’re opening isn’t an absolute killer. Harsh? Maybe. Necessary to hear? Absolutely.

You've got 0.5 seconds to pull the reader down the page.

If you fail, you're throwing all your hard work down the drain, never to be seen again by your ideal reader. Once you’ve hooked the reader with a headline and fired up their curiosity with a single sentence opener, you want the reader thinking:

“This is something I can't afford to ignore!”

Your intro sets the stage for everything you write.

And if you don’t know how to craft the perfect intro, then you’re fighting a losing battle.

Most writers make a huge mistake by diving straight in, hoping inspiration will strike mid-sentence. Others recycle clichés, thinking familiarity will do the trick. Neither of these work.

Which is why inside Ship 30 for 30 we teach you how to “assemble” your writing first. And only after you’ve done the thinking, do you come back and color in the lines, write your introduction, and elaborate on each main point with examples, tips, stories, lessons, etc.

So, let’s assume you’ve got a working title and you know the main points you want to cover.

How to lay down a solid intro (at lightning speed).

We have a saying in Ship 30 for 30:

Don’t re-invent the wheel!

Instead, study the titans of industry:

  • "The Atlantic"
  • "The New Yorker"
  • "Harvard Business Review"
  • And yes—your grandma’s "Reader's Digest."

Each of these publications has been around for over 100 years!

And Reader’s Digest wasn’t just a staple coffee table staple. No, it democratized information and storytelling by condensing articles, offering easy-to-digest insights, and providing practical advice that appealed to the masses. They mastered the art of simplicity and accessibility—long before tweets, threads and TikToks. So if you're serious about standing out online, it’s worth giving it your attention.

The good news?

You don’t have to visit “Mom and Pop” to learn from these staple publications. We’re going to look at 3 different Reader’s Digest intros that never fail.

Let’s dive in!

3 simple frameworks to write an irresistible opener for your next article, newsletter, or email.

Framework #1: The Storyteller

Everyone loves a good story.

  • They’re relatable
  • They’re engaging
  • They draw your reader into your world

But a poorly chosen (or executed) story can do the opposite.

It can jar the reader out of place, or even alienate the audience. The challenge is finding the right balance between relevance and engagement. Some people over do it with too much drama which overshadows the main content. While others play it safe with a forgettable (generic) story.

Both approaches miss the mark.

The trick?

Keep it concise and relevant to your main topic.

  • Set the scene—immediately. “I slammed my laptop shut to leave for a 3PM meeting.”
  • Introduce a problem or question. “It was 4:30. This was my last shot at funding.”
  • Hint at a solution or answer. “I lost the deal, but my life changed forever. And so can yours with this tiny life-hack I learned from a billion dollar investor on that same day.”

It's an intro, not a novel.

Get to the point.

Framework #2: The Problem And Solution

This intro is about understanding your readers' pain points and offering tangible relief.

  • Nobody wants to be in pain
  • Nobody wants to stay in pain
  • Everybody is looking for a solution their problem

When you address a clear, pressing problem for your reader and promise a viable solution, you will have to chase the reader away to get them to stop from reading.

But if the problem you present is far-fetched or you don’t really understand your audience, you'll lose them faster than you can say "clickbait."

Here’s how to frame up this intro:

  • Present a clear problem. “Quit dieting.”
  • Agitate it. “Losing lbs. shouldn’t have more ups and downs than the Colorado Rockies.”
  • Promise a solution in the content that follows. “This science-backed approach will get you (and keep you) in your high-school jeans until your 80.”

Pinpoint the problem and then tease the solution.

Framework #3: The Provocateur

The goal here is to jolt your reader into engagement with a bold statement and compel them to read on.

  • Cardio is killing your weight loss”
  • Jealousy isn't a sign of love—it's a red flag”
  • “Recession is the wealthy's shopping season"

There's a fine line between provocative and sensationalist. Cross it, and you risk losing credibility or coming off as insincere. But ground it in truth—and you’ll suck the reader right in.

Here’s how it works:

  • Make a bold claim. "Most introductions are forgettable.”
  • Elaborate on it. "It's not only about grabbing attention, it's about making a promise."
  • Explain it. "And with the right technique, your intro will crush it."

Make a bold promise and back it up.

Now you have 3 proven intro frameworks to use in your next email, article, or newsletter. You can use these anywhere you need to hook your reader’s attention and keep them reading all the way to the end.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Enjoyed this edition? Click here to share it on Twitter!

You might also like...