Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last three weeks, you know about the two big gamma ray emitting bubbles that US astronomers found at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
No you don’t. That’s just stupid.
I hate it when blog posts start out with the overused phrase “unless you’ve been living under a rock” followed up by some assumption that “everyone” knows about this, except for hermits and Tom Hanks’ character from Cast Away.
The problem is that because we don’t all read the same newspapers and blogs (I had to search to find something to put into this opening, because even I didn’t know about the gamma ray bubbles), we all have different sets of knowledge. The best thing to do is to assume your audience doesn’t know. “Write for the person who just woke up out of a coma,” my journalism professor used to say.
The writer who uses this opening is making a dangerous assumption that a) everyone knows what he or she knows, and b) their readers won’t find it insulting that they didn’t know this.
Here are four openings you should avoid in your blog posts, because they’re overused, insulting, or not enjoyable to read.
1. The Rock/Cave Dweller
I’ve already ranted about this, so I don’t need to go into it anymore, other than to say I’ve seen this from a couple professional PR bloggers who should know better. Unless you’ve been in a coma for three years, you know who you are.
2. The Recipe Opener.
Take one cup of overused cliche, two tablespoons of tired old trope, and two equal parts of “GAAAH!” and “please kill me now!” Mix thoroughly, and you have a recipe for my least favorite opener. This one is just tiresome and plodding. It was cute the first time I ever saw it in high school, but the 5,000 times since then just make me want to bite my own neck.
It can be used for any story, in any industry, and any publication. And often is.
3. Once Upon a time
I fell prey to this again and again when I first started writing. The inclination is to write like we talk, and we often tell stories to make a point. And where does a story start? Right at the beginning. So I would open a column or article by starting at square one and explaining how I got to to the important lesson of the piece. (See, I even did it to start out this particular paragraph.)
Write your blog posts like a journalist writes a story. The most important part of the story should be the very first sentence. The lead should answer who, what, when, where, why, and how in the first sentence or two. It should not start out with “so I was sitting in a coffee shop with my friend Dave. . .”
I’m sick of seasonal openers that have nothing to do with the blog post.
The TSA had a stunner on a recent post about their Secure Flight program.
November 1st is right around the corner and with that date comes cooler weather, fall foliage and the seemingly never ending battle between rake and leaf. It also marks the end of the year-long grace period for airlines to clear their systems of old reservations made before TSA’s Secure Flight requirements took effect last year.
The post is not about the autumn colors, cool weather, or the blister-raising tedium of leaf raking. So why even mention it? In fact, the TSA post doesn’t even mention it ever again. Your lead needs to be about the topic, not about the time of year that have nothing to do with what you do.
What bad openers have you seen? What are some good ones? Leave some examples in the comments section and let me know.
My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).
Photo credit: Zakmc (Flickr)