8 crucial mistakes to make in your opening paragraph


Photo: SunWALKer

Here is an opening paragraph which will make your readers close the travel magazine, log off the travel website and never want to read you again. Eight crucial errors that suck any element of seduction out of the words:

“You lose,” he said. Laughingly, he poked me in the ribs and handed me the empty canteen. I was making up my mind about what to do when something crashed throu the underbrush. Pow! He doubled over and crashed to the ground. OH my god, you can imagine how I felt.

1. Never begin professional writing with dialogue (e.g., “You lose,” he said). The reader is immediately off-balance. He or she has no idea where he or she is. Identify where you are in the first paragraph.

2. Identify the person(s), rather than just writing he, she, or they (e.g., “You lose,” he said). Tell the reader their relationship to you. Otherwise, the person(s) are just a vague concept.

3. Use active language (e.g., Laughingly, he poked me in the ribs and handed me the empty canteen.). Better: He laughed, poked me in the ribs and handed me the empty canteen.

4. Be specific (e.g., something crashed). What kind of “something” crashed through the underbrush? A big animal, etc?

5. Proofread your work at least three times before sending it out. (e.g., throu) If you aren’t sure about your proof-reading skills, use either the grammar/spell check on your word processing program or Grammarly.

6. Avoid comic book exclamations. (e.g., Pow!) Even more, avoid exclamation points unless in dialogue – and, if that, use rarely.

7. Never address the reader directly (e.g., you can imagine.) Stay grounded in yourself.

8. Avoid Valley Girl slang (e.g., “OH my god”). And avoid capitalizing letters for emphasis.

Bonus tip: “He doubled over and dropped to the ground.” As it is written, the reader doesn’t know if “he” is your friend or the mysterious something.

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