Writing Tips & Tricks
3 Questions That Make Irresistable Headlines
Most people don't read past 5 words of a headline, let alone the content that follows it. So you need to make your headline count. One of the most successful strategies is to focus on arousing the reader's curiosity by asking a question in the headline.

Curiosity is a driving force behind much of what we humans do with ourselves. It drives decisions and motivates change in behavior. If your headline taps into that curiousity, you've got your reader hooked.

But how do you do it?

A good question.

No, really. That's the answer. A good question will make a reader curious enough to invest the time to read further. So how can you use this tendency to your advantage when composing your headlines?

in his book, Question Based Selling, Thomas A. Freese describes a whole new approach to sales and marketing based on asking questions. In a chapter focusing on how to generate curiosity in a prospect, he's found that he's been much more successful selling by first piquing the prospect's interest and then moving into positioning his products value, instead of trying to sell based solely on the features of the product.

It's a losing battle trying to get attention just by stating that you're the best or by trumpeting facts about your product. The headline isn't about reciting your product's features, and if it is, it's just going to get drowned out by the noise in our marketing-saturated society. You need to do whatever you can to get your prospect to read your material. And the question is one of the most effective ways to do just that.

What are the 3 types of question-based headlines?

In his book on copywriting, U.K. marketing expert J. Jonathon Gabay outlines the three different categories of questions that you can utilize to create attention grabbing headlines.

1) The Simple Who?
Gabay splits the question Who? into two parts. The simple Who? includes the question explicitly in the headline.

Who wants ice cream?
Who does fish better than the rest?

2) The Testimonial Who
Why a testimonial considered question? Because the 'who' in question is asked by the reader. Who is this person and what do they have to do with the product? Why did they like the product? Quotes and testimonials are very effective selling tools. They reduce the perception of risk, and if you've got a celebrity giving the quote, they can get you a little more attention based on name recognition.

However, it can backfire on you. The statement must be believeable, and the language used must be appropriate for the source of the quote. If not you run the risk of your potential audience rolling their eyes in disbelief, and that means they aren't reading your piece.

3)The What, Where, and How?
This category encompasses the remaining types of questions.

How does free cable sound?
What $100k in water damage compared to the satisfaction of doing it yourself?

There are a few things to keep in mind when using standard questions. Avoid the self-answering questions and questions with explicit yes or no answers. The point of the headline is to entice the reader by promising to answer the question later in the copy, or even if they know the answer, you want to tease them a little.
Gabay uses the following examples of how not to write your question headline:

Are you overweight?
Would you like some life insurance

These are dull, and they don't get people to read past the headline. If you feel driven to use this type of question in your headline, you can sometimes avoid the pitfall by answering the question in a sub-headline. Gabay, a Brit, has a great example of a subhead:

Are you overweight?
Call us. We'll start saving you pounds over night.

What 3 things do you accomplish by using a question based headline?
Here are the three things that you as a copywriter will accomplish when you use a question in your headline:

1) Questions arouse curiosity. We want to know the answer. By starting with a question, you've gone a long way toward getting your prospect to read on. Ask a question, and the reader naturally wants to know the answer.

2) Creates a predictable response. You can take advantage of our marketing-savvy world by stacking the odds in your favor that your audience will respond with curiosity, but that curiousity will be guarded. "Interesting...What's the catch?" is the reaction you can count on.

3) Copy can be written to address the question and the reaction, making the most of the opportunity to reach your reader.

By using a question in your headline, you can stack the deck in your favor. There can be lot of punch packed into a simple question. Take a look around and see just how the pros use that question mark to hook you and take advantage of that curiosity.

Teach Yourself Copywriting, J. Jonathon Gabay
The Copywriter's Handbook, Robert W. Bly
Question Based Selling, Thomas A. Freese
A Little Grammar Never Hurt Nobody
There's an article has been making its way around the net today that really wants to help you.

Grammar's no fun and it's a right pain, but not paying attention to what you're saying, especially when you're tapping out an important email in a rush, can hurt your credibility.

These days, we tend to communicate via the keyboard as much as we do verbally. Often, we're in a hurry, quickly dashing off emails with typos, grammatical shortcuts (I'm being kind here), and that breezy, e.e. cummings, no-caps look. It's expected. It's no big deal. But other times, we try to invest a little care, avoiding mistakes so that there's no confusion about what we're saying and so that we look professional and reasonably bright.

Take some time to read it through, and while you're paying attention to the grammar of what you're saying, you might just catch some other mistake and save yourself some grief.
10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid - [ZD Net UK]
Lessons Learned From Global Warming
Seth Grodin’s written an interesting article that discusses one probable cause for our lack of initiative to stop global warming: bad copywriters.

Global is good
Warm is good
How can "global warming" be bad?

In his own
reaction to Grodin's article, Brian Clark draws a comparison between the marketing of global warming's impact and the marketing of your business.

In today’s business environment, it’s not enough to have a story. It’s got to be a vivid, engaging story that connects at an emotional level. Anything less may well lead to disaster.

Are you choosing the right words to tell your story and sell your product?

The Problem With Global Warming - [Seth Grodin's Blog]
How to Avoid the Pollution Plague - [Copyblogger]
Email Authoring Tips
Matt May from Blue Flavor has served up an email authoring tutorial that demands worldwide circulation.

Popular as it is, the web is not the most-used Internet application by transaction volume. Email is. It's also the most misused. Since it's such an important and often overlooked component of our online lives, I'm going to step away from preaching about the web for a moment and focus on simple steps to make your email discussions more effective.

He targets the following sore spots in today's e-messaging habits:
• Brevity
• Context
• Something to act on
• Reasonable expectations
• A deadline

Email: an author’s guide - [Blue Flavor]
Simple Writing for Easy Reading
Simple writing is difficult to pull off. Making a complex topic 1) readable and 2) understandable poses a huge challenge, as anyone who's tried to read any sort of technical manual knows.

The most important thing to do in your writing is consider your target audience. Stack the odds in favor of them taking the time to read what you've written and understanding what you've said. It's becoming more and more important to bring your message in the simplest terms possible and to take advantage of every tool at your disposal to help your audience digest it.

Write Bite-sized

People are busy, and there is a lot of noise out there, a lot of badly or "ramble-on-and-on" writing. It's easy to click away or trash the message if something isn't catching the eye. This article from the Inside Firefox blog stresses this point, and gives some good examples of things to keep in mind when writing:

Making important points up front
Clear taxonomy of headings, and lots of them
Writing clearly and succinctly
No long, unbroken paragraphs or tracts of text.
Preferring bulleted lists with clear points to paragraphs.
Use of emphasis in formatting to make important things clear

Write Basic

Comprehension of your message is another major consideration in your writing. An article in Brian Clark's Copywriting 101 series includes a very sad statistic taken from a recent college student literacy study:

A study released today shows that more than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges in the United States could not:

• interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure;
• understand the arguments of newspaper editorials; or
• compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees.

Taking the time to write succinct, well-organized material will pay off, because it is quite likely that your target audience will fall into one of the two categories.

Copywriting 101