Grab 'em at the beginning and don't let 'em go.

Powerful beginnings - whether we're talking about short stories or sales pages - are crucial to capturing your reader's attention. If you don't grab her right away, she has no reason to keep reading. And you've lost her.

Conversely, if you've kept her attention from the very beginning but you leave her wanting or, worse, confused at the end, then that's just as bad.

Let's start with beginnings and introductions. (We'll cover endings in Part II.)

You can introduce a piece of writing in just about any way. The introduction for any piece is similar to writing copy for the web; you have just a few seconds to catch and hold your readers' attention. The intro sets the tone, voice, audience, and purpose of the piece. It's really important to have something compelling and interesting, something that is going to keep the person reading along.

Now while Real Writer (that fictional guy that most of us have built up as the model of what a writer SHOULD be) seems to intuitively write the beginnings and endings off the cuff, you can actually pull from a variety of introduction models, without losing your Writer Card in the least.

Here are some models of how to introduce a piece of writing along with examples of each. Use this list as a resource any time you have to start a writing project, be it a proposal or a poem. (All examples are taken from real-life articles or books, mostly nonfiction.)

1) Short, staccato sentences

Example: "Empty spaces. That's the commanding association of the ECM label" ("ECM Remixed: Feeling the Space" by Brian Morton, Wired, June 2011).

2) Quotation/dialogue

Example: "'It was all about the squishy bell peppers,' laughs Tara Jasinski, a recent Cornell University grad who now works in Princeton, New Jersey, an interior designer at architecture firm HDR. She's recalling the inspiration for the Design for America project she worked on this past spring at her alma mater" ("With Stars in Their Eyes" by Rick Tetzeli, Fast Company, October 2011).

3) Description

Example: "Fluffy white terry robes. Meditative music. Piping hot mugs of cappuccino and other refreshments. Wifi capability. Comfy sofas. Spacious Locker Room. A waterfall. Soothing aesthetics." ("Saints Women's Center for Health and Wellness Aims to Merge Cutting-edge Treatment with Soothing Amenities" by Debbie Hovanasian, Lowell Sun, February 1, 2010.)

4) Question

Example: "Our furniture? Made in China. Our cookware? Made in China. Our knickknacks? Made in China. Is there anything left that is still homemade?" ("Modern Americana" by Tim McKeogh, Fast Company, October 2011).

5) Story

Example: "Greg Watkins stood at the bar at a New York City nightclub, watching a fashion show unfold onstage and trying not to think about all the drinks his guests were charging to his credit card. He was paying for three rappers, two of whom each ordered an entire bottle of Hennessy cognac. Pretty soon the tab exceeded $600-and that was the least of his worries"("Case Study: Anatomy of a Business Decision" by Kermit Pattison, Inc., February 2008).

6) Metaphor

Example: "How do you lead a brainstorming meeting? First, forget about the box that, according to generally accepted brainstorming practices, you're supposed to be thinking outside of" ("What's the Secret to Better Brainstormin?" by Ross McCammon, Entreprenuer, October 2011).

7) Shocking statement

Example: "I wasted a lot of Harvard University's endowment. More than $6 million, to be specific. And everyone around me applauded" (Permission Marketing by Seth Godin).

8) Promise

Example: "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." (The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford.)

9) Thought/theory

Example: "Some people are horrible. It's a fact." ("Workshop: Fiction - The Bad Guys" by Sue Moorcroft, Writers' Forum, August, 2012.)

10) Problem

Example: "There is a widespread belief that children's poetry doesn't sell. As a result booksellers understock it and many publishers are pruning it from their lists." ("Workshop: Children's Books - Poetry for the Facebook Generation" by Louise Jordan, Writers' Forum, August, 2012.)

Look for Strong Writing Part II - Powerful Endings. Don't miss it!

Author's Bio: 

Dawn Shuler, Content Creator Extraordinaire, helps entrepreneurs and authors convey their deep message into compelling words, whether it's marketing material or a book, as well as to create powerful content to increase their credibility, visibility, and profitability. Her soul purpose is to help entrepreneurs unleash their authentic selves into their businesses through their content. She created the Writing From Your Soul system to help business owners connect more powerfully, reach more people, and make a difference. Download the free, 13-step system at