How Cliffhanger Paragraphs Capture Readers

About 50 years ago, movie serials kept theater crowds coming back week after week. Each episode ended with a "cliffhanger," a suspenseful unresolved problem. Audience members had to return the next week to see what happened.

Surprisingly, this narrative form isn't new. Even in the Middle Ages, storytellers journeyed from castle to castle spinning suspenseful yarns without end. (What a way to guarantee return appearances!)

How can you create a cliffhanger for your readers? (1) Define a problem; (2) tell how to solve it; (3) state that the solution might link to another problem, (4) solve that one, but point to another difficulty, and so on.

Here's a way to use this in business writing. Let's say you'd like to send potential customers a series of three letters about your new cleaning service.

That first letter might present a brief outline telling how your firm offers three new cleaning innovations, including (1) environmental-friendly detergents, (2) well-trained personnel, and (3) weekly, monthly, or quarterly payment plans.

During that first letter, you might discuss ways your detergents lead to a cleaner environment. Near the end of the letter, your "cliffhanger" paragraphs might say:

"We're proud that our work might lead to a cleaner planet. And the folks we send to your office - who've been carefully trained in cleaning techniques - can also show you five other ways to improve your workplace.

"We'll share those five ways with you in next week's letter."

Rix Quinn's new book "Words That Stick" offers lots of writing ideas to captivate readers. Order it today from

For more information on Rix's free phone seminars, e-mail him directly at

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