You’ve written an engaging headline, and now your reader is intrigued – and willing to give a bit more time to reading your blog before leaving. After the headline, your compelling first line is your second chance to grab your readers’ attention. If you pull them past the headline, make sure you keep them.

How do you hold their attention? It is a challenge because 80-90% of your readers won’t go beyond the headline. However, if you write a good one, you want to capture their attention with a compelling first line.

Examples of A Compelling First Line with Headline

  • “Your Headlines Can Save You or Sink You.
  • Here are 10 great ways to write headlines that zing.”
  • “Your Doctor Says: ‘Lose Weight or Die.’
  • Resist the urge to run home and bury your fear with food.”

From Problem to Solution Formula

In these pairs, the headline presents the problem, and the next line demonstrates that by reading the article, you can find solutions.

  • “Noise Pollution is Making You Sick.
  • How to turn off the sounds that kill.”

The problem-to-solution formula is a very popular approach. However, the first line is important for any kind of story.

Shock-Value Headlines and Follow-ups

  • “I Grew Up in a Satanic Cult.
  • I ran for my life when I was sixteen.”

Below are some examples from old issues of True Confessions magazine. This magazine is worth studying, not because you want to write those kinds of stories but because they know how to ramp up the dramatic value of headlines and following lines that get read.

  • “When a Girl Goes to Prison:
  • What really happens on the inside.”
  • “Search and Rescue:
  • I saved a life and found love.”

Your slightly less lurid pairing might read:

  • “I Was 30 Days Away from Bankruptcy.
  • I had given up all hope.”
  • “He Asked, ‘Why Should I Hire You?’
  • I had 10 seconds to come up with an answer.”

Location Is Everything

Where your first line appears is important. This is especially true when you’re writing a blog post. Position the compelling first line so that it falls ABOVE whatever graphic or image you use. That way, it’s a continuation of the headline.

If you’re writing for a publication where you don’t have that kind of design control, you can keep the headline and first line together by making the line a subhead.

For example, you write this:

“I Was 30 Days Away from Bankruptcy: I Had Given Up All Hope”

I’ve changed the former first line to upper and lower-case and deleted the period. The character count is 58 for this revised title and subtitle, less than the recommended title maximum of 70.

Be Creative

Experiment. It’s always important to check your statistics and to study the comments you get on articles. It’s unlikely that someone will tell you, “I loved your title and first line,” but if they leave a comment, you can be confident that these article elements pulled them in enough to read further. And don’t tease your reader with clickbait (misleading headlines.)

Focus on SEO

front cover of 52 Writing TipsAdhere to the need to include your SEO phrase in the first paragraph, if not first sentence, under your headline. A you write, know what phrase you are targeting for search engine optimization and ensure you include it in the headline, first paragraph, a header, and the last paragraph, at a minimum. I use the Yoast SEO tool to ensure I am including the phrase enough, and to train me to think in terms of SEO.

Can you tell which phrase I selected as the term for this blog? If you got “compelling first line”, you are right.

Read more great writing tips to polish your writing by purchasing my book, 52 Writing Tips: Fast and Easy Ways to Polish Your Writing. Order it here.