How do introductions work?

Introductions have three key elements that scope the story

All stories need a beginning, and in business communication that beginning needs to bring the reader and writer to a common starting place that prepares the audience for the scope of the piece of communication to come.

A mini-narrative, including a situation (which we call the context) and a complication (which we call the trigger) to lead the reader toward one unifying question is a terrific way to do this.

There are a number of ways to organise these three ideas into such a narrative, depending upon the tone you would like to create for your reader:

Standard flow: CTQA

The introduction begins with a short explanation of the background, purpose, or context that both the reader and the writer agree is true. It is then followed by a description of the issue that triggered the need for this piece of communication, which will naturally lead toward the specific question that the piece of communication aims to answer in the body of the document.

Regardless of the tone you would like to create for your audience, it is best to prepare your introduction in this order to test that the context leads to the trigger and then one – and only one – inevitable question. Once you are confident this is so, feel free to modify the order to create a different tone for your audience.

Direct tone: ACT

This order (Answer, Context, Trigger) is used when the audience is already familiar with what you are recommending and is open and expecting the message.

Concerned tone: TCA

This order, (Trigger, Context, Answer) is used when the audience is already aware of – and agrees with – the issues and is anxious about the complicating event described in the trigger.

Assertive tone: QCTA

This order (Question, Context, Trigger, Answer) is used to grab the reader's attention by posing the question up front and then leading toward the answer.



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