How many times have you struggled to find an opening line that will grab your readers by the lapels and hook them in?

What you need is a mind-boggling fact that’s so startling that they’ve just got to read on…

It’s an art that’s been refined over the years by tabloid news journalists.  Their stock in trade is the alluring headline, the seductive opening paragraph and the ability to tell a story.

When I started as a reporter, I learned the golden rule of what sells newspapers.  If dog bites man, that’s not news, but if man bites dog…

1. Hook them in

Imagine telling a tale to someone in a lift. You only have ten seconds, so you need to be quick. Kick off with a bold statement, but don’t exaggerate, and be honest.

2. Make it human

Don’t be put off if your subject matter is dry as dust. All work activity has one thing in common — people. Give your story relevance by talking about the effect on individuals.

3. Ask a question

Many tabloids hook their readers in by asking a question, either in the headline or in the opening paragraph. It’s a good way of inviting the reader to continue. 

4. Surprise them

It may seem obvious, but don’t tell your readers something they already know. News is information that people are unaware of. Everything else is advertising.

5. Qualify your facts

Don’t make bold statements that can’t be proven. Attribute quotes to people who can back up what you’re saying.

If you're still looking for inspiration, try a sample of our daily red-tops. Whilst the tabloids might not be your usual source for political insights and global current affairs, they’re responsible for some of the most concise and entertaining news writing in the world.

And if the red-tops don't help, give us a ring.

Stuart Morrison is a freelance journalist and editor specialising in corporate communications.

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AuthorStuart Morrison