Marketing Master? YES! Learn how to write a paragraph? YAWN. Really, there’s an important connection here. It’s one of the inside stories of great writing. And I’m here to tell you, you need to know this to write for your business.
In anything we do, there are rules and foundations that actually work.
Did you know that Picasso was an accomplished draftsman who knew how to draw a human figure that could make you cry in the presence of its realism and beauty? It was the foundation of drawing that lifted him to soar into the creative craziness that gave him a permanent place in the history of art.
I’m about to share with you a fundamental rule of writing that will help you connect with your readers (read: rabid fans, loyal clients). It’s how to write a paragraph that grabs their attention, carries them through your page, and brings them to YES! Here it is:
The first sentence of each paragraph of your written piece should be the main idea of the paragraph. Each sentence following it should support that first sentence, progressively moving the reader through proving your point – from A to B to C to Z. This was important to Mrs. Farwell, my high school AP English teacher, back in 19 (mumble, mumble) – and it is just as important today.
Especially in today’s noisy cyberworld of virtual voices fighting for your attention and your money. Every sentence needs to count in order to capture and hold your reader’s attention so they will connect with you, stick with you, and be compelled to take action.
How the Paragraph Rule works
Let’s take as an example the first sentence of the second paragraph of this blog: “In anything we do, there are rules and foundations that actually work.” My subject in this paragraph is that many people don’t care about or have time for rules and foundations when they write – but the rules do indeed matter. I go on to provide evidence for that point by saying Picasso started out with the fundamentals of drawing in order to branch out his creativity to the greatness he achieved. This is a two-sentence paragraph, so a short example, but that’s what a blog should be – short and simple. So, mission accomplished. In another type of writing, the rule still holds but you might have 4 – 6 sentences to support the idea you put forth in the first sentence. Make sense? Simple, right?
How to test it
Find something you’ve written – blog article, sales letter, web copy, white paper – and read only the first sentence of each paragraph, all the way through your piece. Does it still make sense without the other sentences? Is your point getting across? Then Voila! You’ve done it! Each first sentence is the main idea of your piece.
If you’re really hot, each of your first sentences will progress logically through the whole piece, so that the whole thing, from first sentence to last, LEADS THE READER through the thing you want them to know. That, my friend, makes you a Master.
It’s likely that your reader doesn’t know why they’re sticking with you, scrolling down your page/newsletter/sales letter (besides your awesome offer and irresistible charm, of course). But now you and I know it’s because you’ve intentionally led them simply, logically, progressively to the outcome you want them to reach – which is to know, like, trust, and buy from you.
Does this really work for everything??
NOTE #1: Marketing copy is different from other writing, you say? Yes, absolutely true (Mrs. Farwell is turning over in her grave grasping her red pen – Bless you, Mrs. F): The purpose of your marketing message is to create a CONVERSATION between you and your reader. So you do have artistic license here – Picasso used artistic license and I’d say it worked for him. But NOT with the fundamentals – don’t mess with them.
Regardless of style, your group of sentences should still progress in a logical way, leading your reader from point A to B to C. This is how a person’s brain processes information, a fact that is supported by numerous neurological studies.
So stick with the Paragraph Rule, but let yourself go and do it in your own conversational style. YOUR STYLE – your unique and authentic voice – is also key to connecting with your readers.
NOTE #2: Bonus! If you get stuck writing something, try using the Paragraph Rule to clear your path. (It’s also called a sentence outline.) Write simple sentences that describe your main points progressively from A to whatever. Then take each first sentence and fill it in with your supporting points. Before you know it, you will have written the piece. Nice, huh?
Have questions? Want to practice? Comment below and we’ll connect!
I help small-business owners succeed in making a BIG impact with their marketing – for their clients, their bottom line, the betterment of the world – through authentic, strategic, and powerful messaging.
28+ years in marketing communications, I adapt tried-and-true communications principles to today’s dynamic online marketing world. And I confess…I’m a life-long word lover, grammar geek and compulsive typo-finder!
If you’re ready to create or improve your marketing message content, let’s talk.
With origins in Chaucer, Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible, this charming 3-letter exclamation seems to have captured America’s heart. And why not? We live in an age of self-discovery and the unexpected (and ‘Eureka!’ sounds so last century).