It's just as important as the title itself. The reader will look at the article because of its title. The average reader will only read a few sentences of an average article. With that said, the opening sentence should beg them to keep reading. Often times asking a question can get the reader's attention; if it pertains to them. I think articles should follow a simple format: An intro statement that clearly tells what the article is about, some supporting paragraphs that make up the "meat" of the article, and then the conclusion. Very typical of a High School essay.
I use the same format I taught my students--Hook, Line and Sinker. Your Hook is the title that draws in the reader. The Line is that ever important first sentence that tells the reader your topic of the article. The Sinker is the group of paragraphs you write with facts, reasons, examples, etc. that support the Hook and Line and hold everything down in place.
Without a strong Line (first sentence), you'll never catch the reader. They'll just kind of wiggle off the Hook and hop to another article.
The first line in a article or story is probably the most important. Not only because it's what drags the readers in, it's the content of that first sentence. It must be tantalizing, creative and in a manner seductive to the reader, for instance in one story I wrote the first sentence consisted of: Duncan was worried. It therefore raises a question and makes the reader grab the rope that is ever pulling them deeper into the story. But then again I'm only 13 so you may not want to listen to me. Your choice.
These are awesome answers. Thank you, J.S. Matthew, ThePracticalMommy and Mary Stormshade.
In my opinion, the entire first paragraph of a story or article should be strong.
I mostly write articles about social, economic and political issues. And each time I write one of them, I open with a paragraph that fully explains either the point I am making in the article, the question I am posing, or the opinion I am sharing.
For example, if I wrote an article about the problems that exists in poor inner-city communities, I would open with something like the following:
Many, if not most, of America's poor inner-city communities are in trouble, more than ever before. They are plagued by such problems as astronomical rates of violent crime, large and growing numbers of illegitimate births and sky-high levels of unemployment. In addition, a considerable number of those areas are so filthy and rundown they resemble the battle-torn cities of World War II Europe.
Then, I would go on to state my case.
I think it is really important. It's what keeps the reader wanting to read, it grabs their attention. My junior year- my English teacher said, a first sentence is a first impression, and it's even more important than the first impressions you make in person. Good advice, I think.
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