Start your sentences with strong words and they will sound more authoritative.

Avoid using the and there at the start of paragraphs and sentences when you can.

Those words reduce reader comprehension and make the reader have to scan more of the page to find out what a paragraph or sentence is about.

Weak words you should avoid when possible:






Consider reader comprehension in the below example:

Weak: It’s not always possible to abide by this rule.

Better: Abiding by this rule is not always possible.

Starting with It’s is common and vague. The reader does not know what the sentence is about yet and must read on to find out. Whenever you make the reader work harder to understand what you’re writing, you risk losing him.

Starting with Abiding tells the reader the main action taking place in the sentence and gives a strong indication of what it’s about.

Many articles and stories start with I. This is bad for a simple reason: right off the bat, the reader cannot tell what’s going on and it sounds like any other story she has read. This forces the reader to examine the following words and sentences to get a feel for what’s going on, rather than you setting the stage straight away with your first word.

Weak: I listened to the storm clouds rage.

Better: Storm clouds raged.

Because these words are so common, it is ultimately unavoidable that you will sometimes start sentences and paragraphs with them. Try to limit their use as best you can and consider variety of language.

The to start a paragraph doesn’t look bad if it’s surrounded by other paragraphs that start with strong words. In fact, it can serve to tone down the language of a piece. Too many sentences starting with strong verbs can, in the other way, make an article feel heavy and tiring to read.

As with most things, it’s all about balance.


Posted by Stewart Burnett

Journalist, stutterer, rockhounder, painter.

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