Sometimes, it’s best to lead with your main point .
Be upfront with your reader. Open with the punchline. Put your cards on the table in the very first sentence…
Wait a sec. In the first sentence? Isn’t it better to introduce the topic, explain the context and then gradually move onto the main point?
It depends. If you’re writing an academic essay where there’s a long argument to develop then yes, perhaps that would be the best approach. Are you writing an academic essay?
As I was saying, sometimes you need to give the reader the main facts right from the start.
It might feel a bit strange to do this. Maybe you’re used to putting in a few introductory sentences before you spill the beans.
This can soften the tone of what you’re writing, but that’s not always a good thing. If you’ve got an important announcement to make, you don’t want to bury it under paragraphs of unnecessary waffle. Work out what your key message is and tell your reader right at the beginning.
Right at the beginning? I mean, spoiler alert! Don’t we want to keep the reader guessing so that they read on?
It depends. If you’re writing something where there’s a mystery to solve, then yes. Are you writing a detective novel?
Most of us aren’t writing tense thrillers or ground-breaking scientific theses on a daily basis. We’re writing emails, customer letters, information leaflets, community news articles and so on.
What are you writing?
A council notice about parking restrictions.
Brilliant. Let’s use that as our example.
You could start your notice with some general information about the area and save the key point for later. Here’s what that would look like:
A notice for residents
The Wafflington area was pedestrianised in 1994 and has been a bustling hub of business and activity ever since. We have also seen a sharp increase in vehicles on the high street and surrounding roads.
As a result of this, Wafflington Town Council have consulted town planning experts who have advised that certain parking restrictions are put in place. They have recommended a two hour limit for parking along the high street and we have agreed to enforce this from 1 June 2019. Thank you for your cooperation.
Now let’s try leading with the main point:
New parking restrictions on Wafflington High Street
From 1 June 2019 onwards, there will be a two hour parking limit along Wafflington High Street.
This new restriction is due to the recent increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic in and around the area. Wafflington Town Council would like to thank you for your cooperation.
Starting with your key message gets the reader’s attention. It shows them that you’re not hiding anything from them. It gets the information straight to them without any fuss. It makes clear from the start exactly what you expect from them.
It may not be a great strategy for your next detective novel, but try it in your next email and see how it works.