Seven Ways to Start a Blog Post … and Seven Ways to Finish It

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Where do you get typically get stuck when you’re writing a blog post?

For a lot of bloggers, the first few lines of the post – and the last few – are really tough. You might have a perfectly good plan for what’s going to come later … but you just don’t know how to begin.

One solution is to simply type anything to get you going. While that’s fine when you’re drafting, at some point, you’re going to need to come back and revise.

Another is to skip the introduction and jump straight in with your first key point. Again, that’s a great way to get moving … but it doesn’t really solve the problem. You’re still going to have to write that introduction at some point.

Beginnings and endings matter, and it’s important to get them right.

The first few lines of your post draw the reader in and, ideally, set the tone for what’s to come.

The final few lines are a crucial opportunity to ensure your post makes a difference.

Here, I’ll go through seven different ways to start a blog post, and seven ways to finish it – with examples from a bunch of blogs.

Note: You can use more than one “start” or “finish” technique in a single post (as you read through, you’ll probably spot that some of the examples do this). To begin with, though, you might want to focus on just one at a time.

Seven Ways to Start a Blog Post …

I’ve ordered these from the more common and straightforward methods to slightly more advanced ones.

#1: With a Question for the Reader

This is a simple and pretty much foolproof way to begin any blog post: ask a question. Normally, you’ll want the answer to that question to be “yes” – you’re demonstrating that you know what your reader is going through.

Example:

start-question

(From How to Be Original: 18 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Creativity, Carol Tice, Make a Living Writing)

In this example, Carol gets straight to the point of her post: that many writers struggle because they’re afraid they don’t have any original ideas.

#2: With a Question From a Reader

Some of my favourite posts have come from readers’ questions. If you ever get questions from your readers – in comments, by email, in a survey – then these are fantastic starting points for blogging.

By putting the question up front, you present your post as a dialogue (generally much more interesting than a monologue!) – and you provide a focus not just for your readers but also for yourself, as you write.

Example:

start-question-from-reader

(From How to Transform Your Story With a Moment of Truth, K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors)

Here, K.M. has likely drawn together several questions she’s had on this topic. You don’t necessarily have to use a reader’s question verbatim – but even if you’ve paraphrased, putting it in quotation marks like this helps it stand out. Which leads me on to the third way to start a post…

#3: With a Quotation

Quotations can be a great jumping-off point for your own work, or a way to frame your post as part of a larger conversation. You might use an inspirational quote, or choose something less well-known. If you’re quoting another blogger, it’s good practice to link to their original post – especially if you’re quoting at any length.

Example:

start-quotation

(From Life is Like Photography, Barry Demp, The Quotable Coach)

This example is from my friend Barry Demp’s blog (which is essentially an archive of his mailing list). He has a huge collection of great quotes and picks one each day to write about, offering his thoughts plus a practical exercise. Of course, you might not want to build your whole blog – or even a whole post – around a quotation, but this is a great example of how powerful quotes can be.

#4: With a Surprising Statistic

Numbers get attention, which is why they’re often used in blog post headlines (and on magazine covers). A statistic that gets readers to raise an eyebrow will often draw them into your post – they want to find out why that statistic is true, and/or why it matters.

Example:

start-statistic

(From Use stats to convince your client or boss of the benefits of WordPress, Review Squirrel, DailyBlogTips)

This statistic wasn’t particularly surprising to me – I’ve been using WordPress for eight years now, and I know it’s an incredibly popular platform for all sorts of websites, not just blogs. Most people, though, won’t know much about WordPress and they’ll want to read on to find out just why it’s so popular … and whether they should be using it too.

#5: With a Short Anecdote

Opening your post with a story, or a little slice of your life, can be a great way to quickly connect to a reader. It draws them in, but it’s also a chance to let them know a little more about you, your life, what you do, what your values are, and so on.

Example:

start-anecdote

(From 5 Common Mistakes That Even Longtime Bloggers Make, Jane Friedman, JaneFriedman.com)

This isn’t a dramatic anecdote, but it gets the job done. Jane lets the reader know that, if they’re struggling with their blog, that’s perfectly normal … and she also reminds readers that she offers consultations. (Note that she’s included a link so that a reader who wants to find out more about her services can easily do so.)

#6: In Media Res

If you’re a fiction-writer, you may well have come across the term in media res before – it’s Latin for “in [or into] the middle of things”. It means starting a story at an exciting action point, not with all the lead-up to that point. For bloggers who have more personal, diary style blogs, or who are writing personal essays, this can be a particularly good way to begin posts.

Example:

start-in-media-res

(From The Snowboard, The Subdural Hematoma, and The Secret of Life, Brian Clark, Copyblogger)

Here, Brian Clark jumps right into the story (if you read the full post, he backs up later on and explains what led up to this point). It’s a dramatic, arresting start to a post – who could resist reading on, on after that opening line?

#7: With a Controversial Statement

One sure-fire way to get attention is to say something bold and controversial. I’ve put this last in the different openings, because it’s easy to get wrong – and it’s not generally a technique I’d advise if you’re very new to blogging.

If you’ve mastered some of the other forms of opening, though, and if you’re sure you’ve got the facts (and potentially the credibility) to back up your statement … go for it!

Example:

start-controversial

(From Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors, David Gaughran, Let’s Get Digital)

Here, David makes a very clear statement about Amazon, the biggest e-book retailer. Granted, being critical about Amazon isn’t necessarily super-controversial these days … but saying “sometimes [Amazon] gets things very wrong” is bold and sure to get attention. David goes on to present a ton of evidence for what he’s saying, and towards the end of the post, he’s included updates based on Amazon’s responses to him.

Which leads me on to … what final impression are you giving the reader at the end of your post?

Seven Ways to Finish a Blog Post

When I’ve done blog post reviews in the past (I currently only offer these for Writers’ Huddle members), one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is not ending a post properly. In fact, many bloggers don’t seem to think about the ending at all … they just stop.

That’s sometimes jarring for the reader and, almost always, a wasted opportunity. Here’s how to finish your post on a strong note. Again, I’ll work from the easiest, most common ones to the more advanced options.

#1: By Inviting Comments

This is a really easy way to end almost any blog post (and some bloggers pretty much exclusively use this technique). Some readers won’t think of commenting unless you prompt them to do so.

This technique can get a little over-used, though, and you may find readers respond best if you mix it up with other types of endings.

Example:

finish-invite-comments

(From You Got an E-Mail List … Now What?, Nathalie Lussier, NathalieLussier.com)

Nathalie offers a very specific call to action here, with “over to you now” – opening up the conversation – and clear instructions on what to do (“leave your opt-in page link”) and where to do it (“in the comments below”).

Quick tip: If you are inviting people to leave links, make sure your blog isn’t set up to automatically moderate – or worse, send to spam – any comments that include a link.

#2: With a Question

We’ve already covered starting posts with a question – and it can be very effective to end them with one, too. You might want to use an open-ended question (i.e. not one with a yes/no answer) to help readers really engage with it. This technique can be – and often is! – used in conjunction with asking for comments, but simply giving questions to think about can be just as powerful.

Example:

finish-question

(From Are Your Readers Getting Digital Fatigue … and, Are You?, Judith Briles, The Book Designer)

While readers may well view these questions as an invite to comment (which is perfectly fine), they also offer food for thought to readers who aren’t inclined to comment. They encourage deeper engagement – readers might spend a few minutes thinking about the post, or they might bookmark it or share it so they can work through the questions at more length.

#3: With a Summary

If you’ve written a long post (say, 1,000 words or more), then it’s often a good idea to finish with a quick summary.

This doesn’t have to be a recap of what you’ve said – you might want to summarise what you consider to be the most important point, or you might want to draw the post back to something you wrote near the beginning.

Example:

finish-summary

(From So You Think Your Marketing Idea Might Be Silly, Naomi Dunford, IttyBiz)

Naomi gives three highly specific examples here of potentially “silly” marketing ideas, emphasising and re-emphasising her point that it doesn’t matter whether your idea is silly or not: if there’s no downside, why not give it a try? It’s a clear, empowering end to the post, and it helps give the reader one key message to hold onto.

#4: With Further Reading

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ll find yourself covering topics that have some overlap with things you’ve written about in the past.

It’s well worth pointing readers to older posts: new readers probably won’t have seen these, and the more posts someone reads, the more engaged they’ll be with you and your blog.

Example:

finish-further-reading

(5 Tips for Getting Accepted by Bookbub, Lindsay Buroker, Lindsay Buroker.com)

Lindsay introduces the links (“here’s that interview and a couple of links to helpful articles…” then presents them in a simple, clear list, giving the title of each post.

#5: With Homework

Unless you were even swottier than me in school, “homework” probably doesn’t sound super-appealing.

As a blogger, though, you’ll often be trying to help your readers accomplish something … and they’re not going to make much headway simply by reading your posts. They need to take action, and the end of your post is a great opportunity to give them a particular task to tackle.

Example:

finish-homework

(A “Cheat Sheet” For Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral, Glen Long, SmartBlogger)

Glen gives a very specific piece of homework: “block out an hour on your calendar right now to work out your motive for blogging”. Of course, readers might choose to do something different – maybe they’ll spend ten minutes brainstorming, or share their answer in the comments – but this at least gives them a clear starting point.

#6: On an Inspiring Note

This one can overlap with a summary: sometimes, the main thing you want to leave the reader with is a sense of encouragement or inspiration. The point of your post is to leave them feeling more confident about something, ready to take action – or perhaps ready to change their mind.

Example:

finish-inspire

(You Learn How to Live By Living, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing)

While Charlie’s words about pain and regret might not seem conventionally “inspiring”, they’re honest. They help readers frame a key worry (“what if I’m not good enough?”) differently. Surely it would be better to try, even if that means risking failure … instead of not trying at all.

#7: With a Link to a Product or Service

Obviously, this one only works if you actually have something to sell! If you’re blogging purely as a creative outlet – or if you’re new to blogging and have yet to create products or establish yourself as, say, a freelancer – then this won’t yet be an option for you.

Once you have a product (or a service) to promote, though, do make sure you regularly remind your readers of it – and don’t assume that they’ll be checking out your navigation menu or your sidebar links.

Example:

finish-product-link

(8 Things to Consider Before You Buy Your Next Lens, Andrew S. Gibson, Digital Photography School)

This is a simple, straightforward example of how to include a product link. Andrew chooses a product that has a clear relationship to the post – it’s about digital camera lenses – and gives a clear link and call to action (“please check out my ebook”). When you plan and write posts, it’s worth thinking about how they might tie in with products or services that you sell.

 

Ultimately, there’s no one “right” way to start or end a post: what matters is choosing something that (a) works for you as a blogger (keep it simple while you’re getting to grips with these different techniques) and (b) works for your reader (don’t constantly promote expensive products if you haven’t yet built up much trust with your audience).

Next time you sit down to plan a blog post – or next time you schedule content for your blog – spend a few extra minutes thinking about how you’ll grab the reader at the start, and how you’ll make sure your post continues to resonate with them once they’ve finished.

The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing (Plus: How to Get 35% Off)

If you’d like to go further with beginnings, endings and everything in between, check out The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing. It’s a detailed .pdf guide, full of examples and screenshots, and it comes with exclusive post templates to help you create well-structured posts every time. You’ll also get a couple of bonus videos, so you can see the techniques discussed in the Guide in action.

Get Your Discount: If you’re not already signed up to the Aliventures newsletter, you’re not just missing out on great writing / blogging tips every Thursday … you’re also missing out on your 35% discount code for The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing (and for all my other Blogger’s Guides too).

To join, just pop your email address in the box below. You’ll get an email asking you to click a confirmation link (this is an anti-spam measure for your protection), and then you’ll receive your Welcome email with the 35% discount code. Any problems, just drop me an email at ali@aliventures.com and I’ll be glad to help.

 

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9 thoughts on “Seven Ways to Start a Blog Post … and Seven Ways to Finish It

  1. Ali,

    An extremely inspirational read! I love that you shared all these real-life examples. This is probably the most throughout post I’ve read on writing an introduction and conclusion. You showed how there isn’t one blueprint but a bunch of ways to effectively deliver a post from raising curiosity to getting personal with a story.

    I learnt a lot in and can tell how much you are passionate about writing. It’s admirable.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

    P.S. I just tweeted.
    Anh Nguyen’s last blog post ..8 Affordable SEO Software Tools (Under $50 Per Month)

  2. I love these – up until now I always just followed the AIDA formula (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) , but these will definitely add some variety to the way I formulate my posts. Thank you!

  3. Hi Ali,
    This should be my first comment on your blog. I’ve been a visitor for a while. Thanks for this piece, it helped cement some old lessons and taught me new ones.
    Thanks.

    • Thanks for sticking around and for taking the time to comment — it’s really appreciated. So glad this post was helpful for you!

  4. Blogging may be fun for lots of people as it helps them to share their beliefs and thinking with others. Many blogging platforms are available these days that can help people find the right services easily. Selecting just any blogging platform will not do any good for aspiring bloggers who are looking to continue blogging for a long time.

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