Now that you’ve arrested your reader’s attention with a clear, concise and compelling headline, this opening sentence expands on it with an opening hook line.
The next one or more sentences make up the rest of this introduction section, the purpose of which is to connect with your reader on their level so they feel there’s something in this for them. This feeling leads to a rapport between you and them. This relatedness inspires enough trust in them to give of their precious time to read on.
In other words, you have earned their permission for you to keep talking.
This transition sentence (or ‘metabasis’ in rhetoric) sums up what has been said in the above introduction section and sets up what will be said in the substantiation section that follows, guiding the story (and reader) forward smoothly, logically and conversationally.
Your reader is now sufficiently engaged to read the following sentences, substantiating your claim or promise or offer or idea.
Each of these substantiation sentences presents a feature of the subject (quality, capacity, worth) and its benefit (meaning, value, interest) to the reader.
These sentences are arranged in narrative logic — either as cause and effect, sequential (first, second, third) or in order of importance.
If the substantiation includes bullet points, the same narrative logic and feature-benefit principles apply, and each point should:
- Start with the same part of speech (noun or verb)
- Be symmetrical in length for reader-friendliness
- Remain uncluttered with sub-bullets and sub-sections
And avoid leaving the bullet points hanging mid-air by grounding it with a summary sentence or the transition sentence.
This final transition sentence sums up what has been said in the substantiation section and sets up what will be said in the conclusion section, guiding the story (and reader) toward the wrap-up smoothly, logically and conversationally.
This is the conclusion section, and it’s purpose is to help your reader see why all your analysis, information or argument should matter to them after they exit your story.
You can use one of six strategies or a combination of these:
- Circle — return to the theme/idea by referring back to the headline or introductory paragraph, using key words or parallel concepts and images. This strategy brings the reader full circle. It also reinforces the idea while at the same time adding further meaning to it.
- Pull Together — synthesize, don’t summarise. Include a brief summary of your main points, but don’t simply repeat things that you’ve already written. Show your reader how the points fit together.
- Big Picture — This conclusion points to broader implications. To something greater than the story told. For example, if your communication piece advocates the benefits of a large-scale, man-made ecosystem that produces food, freshwater, electricity and biofuel, you can point to the future when it can provide for that extra three billion people predicted by 2050.
- Thought Provoking — this strategy includes a provocative insight, profound quotation or compelling statistic. For example, ‘the end result is landfill reduction of 25%. Imagine all the things we could do with that extra 25% of space on our planet.’
- Call to Action — Propose a course of action, a solution to an issue, or a question for further consideration. While the usual Call To Action line is often literal (i.e., subscribe here, call us now, go to our website etc.) we can also be more creative in the way we ask others to do something.
- “So What?!” — When you’ve written a conclusion you’re not happy with, ask this question on behalf of your reader. Then imagine you’re in the elevator with him or her and you’ve got ten seconds to justify the existence of your story in one, clean and conclusive sentence. This is known as the ‘elevator pitch’.
Just as the first impression counts, so too is the case with the last impression. The introduction and the conclusion frame your story and provide a bridge for your reader to enter (with great interest) and exit (with an impression that lingers on).