Journalists tend to be taught that there are five types of intro. Unfortunately they never seem to be taught the same five types. So here are two versions of the five types of feature intro. See if you can spot any overlaps.
1 .The one-sentence intro
This can be something specific that is very strong and leaves the reader with no doubt about what the feature is about. ‘Thorpe Arch is a children’s prison’ does just that. The reader has no doubt what the feature is about. It is a startling statement about something most people have never heard of before.
The alternative one liner could be something like ‘Bob Jones is a man with a mission’ Some readers will know who Bob Jones is but not much about his mission. Others may know his mission but not about the man. The statement indicates that the feature will detail who Bob Jones is and what his mission is, though not necessarily in that order.
2. The common denominator intro
This is where you compare the subject of the feature with an everyday subject that the reader will be familiar with. Daily tasks such as shopping, washing up or playing sport are compared to the subject of the feature.
The idea is to make the reader appreciate the simplicity of the subject you are explaining. By comparing it to something they can easily understand, you are trying to make the feature easy to follow too.
3. The specific human intro (singular)
Use one person as an example of many others. One unemployed, one homeless person or, if writing about the treatment of football fans, one football fan.
By focusing on one person, you build a personal relationship between the reader and the subject. That relationship does not have to be sympathetic; it could be based on anger or hatred.
4. The specific human intro (plural)
This is where you use the same method as for 3, but the focus is on an example of one group within your subject.
If you were writing a feature about the organisation of football violence by fans from rival clubs, you could focus on one group of hooligans. The feature could say that West Ham and Fulham hooligans organise themselves very differently and come from different backgrounds.
The individual group you have focused in on is not an example of everyone you are writing about but an example of one group within your subject.
5. The delayed/drop intro
You delay talking about your subject until a little way into the text. Start the feature with other interesting facts or commentary, usually related but always interesting, then drop in the real subject.
The next five intros are just a different way of looking at it.
This is based on storytelling. You tell a good story and draw the reader along because the story keeps them interested.
This sets the scene. A vivid description sets the reader up for what is about to follow. The reader feels in the mood and wants to read more.
III. The strong quote
One of the simplest intros. Many journalists believe a quote should never be used as an intro – it is particularly difficult if the publication uses dropped capitals for the first letter. Be warned: don’t get into the habit of using quotes for the intro, especially if you use the best quote first and the rest of the feature can never live up to it.
IV. Statement of fact
A strong statement of fact will get the reader interested. It need not be the most important fact. It could be (almost) an unrelated fact. But the fact must make the reader want to know more.
V. Opinionated pronouncements
Say something that annoys your reader or entertains them. Make the reader challenge your assertion. They will want to see how you justify your intro by reading the rest of the feature.
Confused? Don’t be
Having so many different types and definitions can be confusing. Do not use this list as a guide to how to do it but more as a basis for thinking about the intro in detail.
The idea is that this list makes you realise that you have lots of options. You are not tied to one style.