Want to write something that will grab a reader’s attention and get them—and keep them—reading? Then pick up a copy of Leads & Conclusions by Marshall J. Cook.

One interesting tip he offers comes from the Direct Mail Marketing Association. They wanted to find the point where people stop reading a direct mail solicitation. And it’s no surprise that many readers never get past the envelope.

But the interesting thing was this: Of those who do open the envelope, virtually everybody who stops reading does so within the first twenty-five words of text.

Obviously, the twenty-five-word rule for leads isn’t set in stone. But as Cook points out, those first words must be riveting.

To do that, Cook gives the seven elements of a power lead:

1) The power lead offers the reader something she wants. Write something that informs, inspires, or entertains.

2) The power lead is appropriate to the material. The lead sets the proper tone.

3) The power lead is unforced. The lead emerges from the material.

4) The power lead is original.

5) The power lead is concise. A power lead may be two words or two hundred or more, but however many words there are, every word needs to be there.

6) The power lead is specific and concrete.

7) The power lead works. It inspires the reader to read more.

Cook will show you exactly how to do this. A highly recommended book for anyone who writes.