What is the first thing which comes to your mind when you read this brilliant ad copy crafted by Hemingway years ago, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” ? Empathy, shock, precision in language, or probably supreme admiration for the writer.
To me personally, this 6 word ad copy is my favorite short-story. A story which did justice to his own often-quoted 5 rules on writing. For what is the use of language if it fails to justify the very reason it came into existence – effective communication?
In this write-up, we take you through 5 rock solid foundations which can make or break your copy. It would be great if you can add something we missed out in the comments section given below. Let us take a look at rock solid foundations first.
1. Arrest the God damn attention like you deserve it right away!
Don’t wait till the third para for your creative juices to flow. Your reader might not reach the third one if his/her attention isn’t arrested by the headline itself. Both headlines and the opening need to be created with much thought and consideration. Find it tough to open the beginning with a bang? Read three of my favorite openings below and see how easy it gets.
Below I’ve listed 3 of my favorite openings –
Ask a question to put your reader in “thinking mode”-
Let me give you an example. I searched for “how to lose weight” on Google . The top 3 results came up with articles on “how to lose weight fast”. Why the emphasis on “fast”? It is about digging into the psyche of a consumer and thinking from his or her perspective. Remember, the 5 W’s and H always work well for both headlines and starting of a blog post, no matter the topic in front of you.
Take reader’s imagination for a flight – use phrases like “imagine this”, “picture this” and “do you remember?”
“Picture this, a golden-yellow sun gently sliding away in the orangish-blue horizon, a barefooted walk on cool white sandy beach, and a warm moist breeze casually flirting with your floral dress. Do you remember the last time you silently looked at the breathtaking sunset at a beach?” – a brilliant imagery-filled opening line which can work for a travel blog. Unleash the magnetic power of your words on over-worked and vacation-seeking audience and literally take them on a ride (mental one). 🙂
Harness the psychological power of a powerful image –
Copyblogger is one platform which continues to impress me in terms of image selection. The above picture posted in “How To Make Winning Inforgraphics Without Risk” is a perfect example – a picture which amused, humored, and conveyed the key idea of the post.
2. A lover of language ignites the passion by titillating the senses!
A passionate copywriter titillates the senses of a reader – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. What is the impact of the following sentence on you? “Sweet scent of a freshly bloomed fragile rose petal lingered on my palm for a long time”. It probably takes you to a pristine garden filled with freshly bloomed roses and you inhale the sweetest scent in the world. ATTENTION, get back to your desktop now!
The idea is to let a reader visualize it first in the eye of the mind, then, they would crave for it in reality. For instance, reading “a sizzling slice of Pizza with extra mozzarrella cheese dipping” works perfectly for a foodie like me, and now, I desperately need to order one! 🙂
3. Hang on to cliffhangers to keep the interest alive!
Anyone would start to lose attention at some point in a copy. By the way, did you know that the silent film era of 1900s showed the main character actually hanging on to the edge a cliff? And your attention is back! That is how a cliffhanger works – it humours, amuses, withholds information, or challenges a reader to come back wanting more. Remember the dreaded “to be continued” cliffhangers at the end of an addictive television series? 🙂
4. Edit and re-edit, and edit once more!
Any layman might think that the job of a copywriter is to write stuff which is way beyond anyone’s vocabulary. A seasoned copywriter knows this to be a false premise. An expert copywriter writes a sentence, then edits, then takes out another word, and re-edits yet again. Brilliance of a copy rests in conveying maximum information in minimum and precise words.
5. A perfect copy demands a perfect finish!
I often come across some brilliant copies with a storehouse of information written with precision. Yet, they fail to get noticed. What went wrong? Maybe a perfect closing! What are your options?
- For a marketing copy, a “Call To Action” might do the trick
- For a general copy, an open-ended conclusion might work
Remember, if you manage to grab the attention of a reader till the very end, you need to show them how should they feel about something. To me, it is about adding value to someone’s life. It helps to ask yourself a question once in a while, “Am I adding value to someone’s life when I write these words?” The answer may surprise you!