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

29 Oct 2018 | Blogging

Quick announcement before we get into the post: my course “Successful Guest Blogging” is now open for registration. (The course begins on Monday 12th November and runs for six weeks.) If you’d like to blog for large sites, get your name out there, grow your own audience, sell your books, promote your freelancing services, or even get paid as a guest blogger … then this is the course for you.

You can find all the details, including the full course outline, here: Successful Guest Blogging.


Main post image: shows laptop screen with WordPress loaded up.

Note: This post was originally published in July 2016, and updated in October 2018. 

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 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.

I’m going to take you 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:

Image shows screenshot of the start of a blog post. Title: "How to Be Original: 18 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Creativity". Introduction text: "Do you feel like everything has already been said? That it's impossible to be original, in an age where everyone has instant access to everything?

(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:

Image shows the start of a blog post, with title text: "Part 4 of The Do's and Don'ts of Storytelling According to Marvel" and introduction: " 'How can I fix the saggy middle of my story?' I love it when writers ask me that."

(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:

Image shows the start of a blog post that begins with the quote: "Life is like photography. You use the negatives to develop."

(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:

Image is part of a blog post introduction and reads "Even though WordPress is used by over a quarter of all websites on the Internet it's still avoided by most small businesses. WordPress is free, simple, and powerful. It's behind some of the biggest and most popular websites there are."

(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:

Image is from a blog post introduction and reads: "Several times per month, I consult with authors looking for an evaluation of their online presence and often that includes their blog content. Sometimes they're wondering why they don't have much traffic, or they ask if they should continue the effort at all. Given the time and energy that's involved in meaningful blogging, it's an important question. Here are five things that I often discover when I evaluate authors' blogging efforts."

(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:

Image is from the introduction of a blog post and reads: "The massive pool of blood in my head pressed precariously against my brain. The doctors marveled that I was alive, much less walking and talking. They looked and shook their heads in wonder at the MRI results. I politely reminded them I was indeed alive, awake, and actually in the room."

(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:

Image is from a blog post introduction and reads: "Amazon is an extremely innovative company -- and usually quite responsive to self-publisher's concerns -- but sometimes it gets things very wrong too. Today is one of those times. I've received several reports from writers threatened with having books removed from sale, and heard even more worrying stories from others who had their titles actually removed from the Kindle Store without notice."

(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, one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is not ending a post properly. In fact, some 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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "This email autoresponder should get you off to a good start, and the good thing is that you don't have to manually contact each new subscriber ... it's all done for you. OVER TO YOU NOW... Do you have a great auto responder sequence in place? Leave your opt-in page link in the comments below so we can check it out!"

(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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "Presently, I have all my books in print; all current ones in "e" and a few in audio--my personal goal is to get all current ones into the audiobook format and then do an assessment of which "oldies" might enjoy a resurrected life. Why? ... I avoid digital fatigue that only an eBook will produce; I've opened up to the huge market that is the listener market (and maybe the multi-tasker as well); and I deliver a variety of options. What about you ... what options are your books in? Are they delivering what you expected? How about what your readers would like?"

(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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "You always wanted to advertise your new book on the side of a bus, and you've got the money? Go for it. There's no downside. You always wanted to package your soap like the woman in Castaway, with the colorful butterflies? Go fir it. There's no downside. You want to send a little present after every clarity call, and it'll only cost you $80 a month? Go for it. There's no downside. If there's no downside, or you can easily absorb the loss of any predictable downside, go ahead. Put your bluebird where you want."

(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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "If you have any other Bookbub acceptance tips, please leave them in the comments. Now, here's that interview and a couple of links to helpful articles on the Bookbub blog too: How Bookbub's Selection Process Works; Tips on Optimizing Your Submission for a BookBub Featured Deal; Free vs. Discounted: How BookBub's Selection Rates Vary"

(From 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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "But if something tells you that having a successful blog could change your life, you must bring your *why* to life. So block out an hour on your calendar right now to work out your motive for blogging. Don't worry -- Netflix will still be there when you get back."

(From 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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "Lastly, perhaps worse than finding out your work wasn't judged to be good enough (by whose standards?) would be never doing the work. The pain of failure is felt once; the pain of regret is felt for a lifetime. I know I may sound preachy here -- forgive me for that -- but I'm wanting to remind you to feed the wolf you want to win."

(From 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:

Image is from the end of a blog post and reads: "Hopefully these points will help you decide which lens to buy next for your camera. If you have any questions about lenses let us know in the comments and I will do my best to answer. Mastering Lenses If you want to know more about buying and using lenses then please check out my ebook Mastering Lenses: A Photographer's Guide to Creating Beautiful Photos With Any Lens

(From 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.


If you’d like to take your blogging further and get your name out there onto large blogs in your topic areas, don’t forget to check out Successful Guest Blogging.

The course begins on Monday 12th November, but registration closes on Friday 9th November (so everyone has a chance to get settled in). As soon as you join, you’ll get your Welcome Pack with the full course schedule and everything you need to know, plus your link to our private Facebook group where you can start getting to know other members.

You can find all the details here: Successful Guest Blogging.

About

I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

10 Comments

  1. Anh Nguyen

    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)

    Reply
  2. Jason Ellis

    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!

    Reply
  3. Xceptional43

    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.

    Reply
    • Ali

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

      Reply
  4. jhon Mark

    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.

    Reply
  5. Joanna Finch

    Ali, such an inspirational blog post. I personally learned how to properly write both the introduction and conclusion. I agree blogging will be fun if we do it right. Especially I love this line “Surely it would be better to try, even if that means risking failure … instead of not trying at all”. Keep it up

    Reply

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