Getting Started Quickly, Easily (Part 3): The First Paragraph

Over the past two weeks, we’ve discussed how to get started quickly and easily with your business writing. This week, in Part 3, our focus is on The First Paragraph. (Also see Part One, The Strategic Business Writing Blueprint; and Part Two, Why Use a Blueprint for Business Writing?)

The First Paragraph:

  • The first paragraph of your writing is critical. The first paragraph could be the entire message, or it could prepare the reader for a longer message.
  • The purpose of the first paragraph is to make your point quickly, to establish your professionalism, and to reinforce your credibility. It also provides your best chance at the reader’s 100% attention level. The odds are, the first paragraph will be the only part of your communication that your reader reads with complete focus. If the first paragraph is all he or she reads, will that reader “get it” for the entire piece – or at least know what it is all about?

The first (“lead”) paragraph will have 3-5 lines – not more than five at the most – maybe one or two sentences, and should tell the reader who, what (action), when, where, why, and how. These elements can be in any order, so consider moving them around.

A tip: if you find it hard to get started, start with the “Why.” Why is your reader getting this message? To improve readership, consider using a “why” that is stated in benefit-to-the-reader terms.

I hope that you’ve found this article to be helpful! If you have, please  leave a comment. Next week, I’ll be discussing Part 4, how to go about writing the first paragraph.


Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email to learn more.

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