On Writing Well: How to Write a Great First Sentence

As a writer, I’m sure that you want each of your sentences to be equally perfect. To choose one as a favorite would be like a mom preferring one child over another. A terrible thought, indeed!

Yet, today, I am going to persuade you, for the sake of your prose alone, to attend to one sentence more than the others. This is the first sentence. See, the first sentence has a great deal of responsibility and deserves extra care. In a fictional piece, the first sentence has to invite you in, persuade you to linger a while, read up into the second sentence, perhaps even further. In a non-fiction piece, the first sentence details the information that you are about to share and the importance of that information, so that the reader is instantly intrigued.

As Hubber J.S Matthew says, the first sentence of a Hub is “just as important as the title itself.” Hubber ThePracticalMommy goes a bit further, “Without a strong Line (first sentence), you’ll never catch the reader.” And Hubber Mary Stormshade is more poetic when she declares that the first line “must be tantalizing, creative and in a manner seductive to the reader.” They are all correct, of course. The first sentence bears an awfully tough burden and deserves much attention from you, my dear Hubber.

But before we go onto describe how you can make your first line as strong as Samson, here are ways that you weaken your first line without even realizing it. So here’s a list of things of things not to do when crafting your first sentence for a Hub.

When writing the first line, do not:

  • Start with a quote from a famous person – forget what your English teacher told you, this does not draw enough attention
  • Start with a description of the weather. Unless you are Tolstoy, chances are that your descriptions will be less than enchanting. Writers have been describing the weather in English for about seven centuries now, starting with Chaucer and there’s little left to say that’s original.
  • Start with something that is entirely disconnected from the rest of your Hub.

Instead:

  1. Jump right into the action – if you are going to be sharing a tale of adventure, start at the critical moment. If you are going to share a recipe, tell us right away what makes it unique. If you are writing about science, get right to the point
  2. Start with an active sentence – active sentences get a lot more attention than passive ones. They work harder too.
  3. Consider starting with an anecdote from life. The Wall Street Journal does it, and you can too.

 

Some of my favorite first lines of Hubs are:

** I suffered through a lot of mediocre fish and chips at restaurants before learning how easy it was to make great, crispy-crunchy beer battered fish at home. From “How to Make Great Beer Battered Fish” By John D. Lee

** Nobody likes shopping for jeans — it’s up there with bathing suit shopping as frustrating, discouraging shopping experiences go. From “Best Jeans Brands for Short Women” by S.Carver

** People spend far too much time trying to figure out how to make people happy and comfortable. From “How to Make People Uncomfortable” by Simone Smith

3 thoughts on “On Writing Well: How to Write a Great First Sentence

  1. Hip Hip Hooray, I am always up for learning more and that is what I want to say.

    A Big God Bless You is a given from Him above, to you and from me this day.

    I thank you

    I have been given more wisdom and intend to put into practice the lesson I have learned from you on a glorious day.

    Hugs Galore. lol

  2. Hi there PIA,
    You are so right – what a difference the first sentence makes! This post has been very helpful with my article writing.
    Thanks
    Catherine

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