pouring water

Writing tip: Make your point like The Wall Street Journal

“Water is hot and diet soda is not.” An introductory sentence like this will stick with the reader of your article, blog post, or investment commentary. It grabbed my attention when I read “Soft Drinks Hit 10th Year of Decline” by Mike Esterl in The Wall Street Journal (March 27, 2015).

Why this sentence works

This sentence works because it briefly sums up the article. Short sentences are easier for your reader’s brain to absorb.

I also like the rhyming of “hot” and “not.” It makes the sentence more memorable than “Water is trending up, while diet soda declines.”

How to write your short sentence

Writing short, catchy sentences like this is easier said than done. A dollop of inspiration helps.

However, if you’re short on inspiration, try the following techniques to find your sentence:

  1. Walk away from the page. Sometimes letting your piece marinate in your mind for a day or two helps you find inspiration.
  2. Try freewriting. Take 15 minutes to write whatever comes into your head as you think about your article topic. Review what you’ve written, looking for a short, catchy summary.
  3. Draw a mind map of your topic. The visual nature of a mind map may help you to develop a fresh perspective on your topic. Don’t know how to create a mind map? I give step-by-step instructions in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Once you’ve found your first sentence, look at shortening it and making it punchier. Take the flab out by deleting unnecessary words. Replace Latinate words with simpler words.

More writing lessons from this article

Esterl’s soft drinks article gave me more ideas for your writing. Consider using his overall article structure, which I see as the following:

  1. Lead sentence
  2. Supporting statistics for the lead sentence—water first, soft drinks second—the same order as in the lead sentence
  3. More information about the main point of the article—the decline of soft drinks
  4. Related information that’s less critical to the main point—the rise in water’s popularity

This isn’t the only structure that’ll work. It’s just one option for organizing your article in a reader-friendly way.

By the way, Esterl’s writing abides by the advice I give “Financial writers, lead with your message, not your source.” I hope you’ll do the same.

Have you succeeded in creating catchy lead sentences? Please share your favorite lead sentence in the comments.

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net