6 Proven Single-Sentence Openers To Hook Your Reader’s Attention

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 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:

  • Distractions
  • Over-editing
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-confidence
  • Generating ideas
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Writing consistently
  • Finding time to write
  • Loose feedback loops

(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these 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 hook the attention of your reader from the very first sentence (so you can confidently write your next piece).

Have you ever tried to eat just ONE Pringle?

It’s impossible.

Because once you have one, you tell yourself, “Just one more.” And then you have one more, and you tell yourself again, “OK—just one more.” Until 12 minutes later, you’ve eaten the entire bag and you’re back in the kitchen opening a second one.

This is how readers should feel reading your work.

One of the core principles we teach in Ship 30 for 30: You have to get readers to “eat the first chip.”

Once they eat the first chip, they’re 10X more likely to eat the 2nd, the 3rd, and so on.

To make sure your reader keeps reading, you need to pay special attention to:

  • Your headline
  • Your formatting
  • Your opening sentences

These should all be optimized for the the reader to say, “Fine, one chip!”

But unlike the guilt of eating an entire bag of chips, once the reader gets to the end of your essay, thread, or blog post, they’ll feel like you just gave them 6 pack abs! You’ll have readers flying through your work at record speed—and then clicking to read everything else you’ve written (because they know you don’t waste one second of their time!).

So, how exactly do you do this?

Today, we want to dive into a crucial element to keeping your reader’s attention: your opening sentences.

Our 6 Proven Single-Sentence Openers

Your won’t be able to keep the attention of the reader if you hand out Kale chip sentences when what they really wants is a delicious, salty Pringle of a sentence.

These single-sentence openers are perfect for the first sentence in your piece (whether that’s an X thread, a blog post, an email, or a LinkedIn post) and at the start of each of the section in your writing (so you can keep your reader hooked all the way down the page).

Here are 6 easy ways to keep your reader wanting more:

1. Open with a strong, declarative sentence

Plant your flag in the ground.

Choose a side and stick to it. Readers who agree with you will want to read on so they can feel more confident in their worldview and the readers who don’t will be instantly hooked and want to know more about your opinion (this opener is a win-win). State what you believe to be true or false—no hedging allowed.

Here are some examples:

  • Being physically fit isn’t a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.
  • The wealthiest people have simple investment portfolios.
  • Becoming a successful entrepreneur doesn’t just “happen.”

Onwards to the next one!

2. Open with a thought-provoking question

Get in your reader’s head with a curiosity inducing question.

  • Is there such a thing as complete happiness?
  • Did you know the average Millennial has less than $10,000 in savings?
  • What holds back amateur basketball players from ever making it to pro status?

The question you choose will depend on your target reader—it should be one they are asking themselves (and bonus points if you’re asking a question your readers have asked you before).

3. Open with a controversial opinion

Challenge the status quo by finding a point of view in your niche and offer a counter-point to the accepted narrative.

But there’s no need to be outlandish. Just make sure you believe it and you’re ready to back it up.

For example:

  • ChatGPT is overused and overhyped.
  • Becoming wealthy changes your character.
  • 95% of reading is procrastination disguised as planning

Claim the opposite of conventional wisdom to interrupt the reader’s thinking and get their attention.

4. Open with a moment in time

Ground the reader in a specific date, time, scene, or setting.

  • My fear of bottomless fries began in 4th grade.
  • In 1982, David Ogilvy wrote a memo to his ad agency employees titled “How to write.”
  • At 7:55 AM Hawaii time, December 7th, 1941, America (and the world) changed forever.

This puts the reader into the middle of a story, one which instantly captures their imagination and pulls them down the page.

5. Open with a vulnerable statement

This isn’t about telling your reader everything about your personal life in an attempt to be “authentic.”

Instead, these statements help you relate to the reader on an emotional level.

  • For 27 years, I’ve struggled with OCD.
  • As a teenager, I was plagued with social anxiety.
  • For the first 10 years of my career, I was a terrible husband.

Bring the reader in by sharing your personal experience—we all want to relate to other people.

But make sure you always bring it back to the reader. You’ve hooked them with a vulnerable statement, but you have to give them a reason for them to keep reading: what’s in it for them? Personal stories are fine as long as they help provide a lesson for the reader.

Now, onto the final proven single-sentence opener.

6. Open with a weird, unique insight

Similar to the question opener, look for interesting stats or facts that make the reader say, “What?!”

  • Texas is not the largest state in the US. Alaska is.
  • On average, it rains more in Paris than it does in London.
  • Crows are one of the most intelligent animals on planet earth.

Find a little known stat in your industry and then open with it to grab you reader’s attention.

And if you want to dive into the other two core components of keeping your reader’s attention, you can find more Deep Dives over on our blog with this step-by-step guide to flawless formatting and creating headlines your readers can’t help but click.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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