Sex, lies and the art of commanding attention

October 10, 2012

Okay, show of hands: Who wonders if their writing might be just a teensy bit boring? You’re likely not as boring as your high school math teacher but many of us do go off on tangents and have a tendency to get so wrapped up giving people valuable information that we forget to make it fun. Result: your work is easily ignored.

We live in an ADHD world, and if you don’t grab people’s attention, they quickly pass you by. Smart writing is about learning to command this attention, creating spectacles and hypnotising readers with words that are so interesting that they can’t click away.

But how does one do that? A few things to consider…

  • Not all words are created equalSome words have strong emotional ‘anchors’, meaning they stand out in a sentence. Words like ‘sex’ or ‘lies’, even ‘taxes’ encourage us to feel certain emotions, so these words are hard to ignore. Deliberately use these words in your writing, even better – in your headlines.
  • You only have half a second to grab their attentionThat’s fast, but the majority of readers will decide (not even consciously) whether or not to read your content based purely on the headline. They scan the headline and make a gut-level reaction.  You don’t have time to educate here or provoke thought, your headline merely needs to punch them in the gut.
  • Stuff your headlines with power wordsLacklustre headlines won’t cut it. You need to add a few power words and tap into people’s emotional responses. After all, those are already established – they can do some of the work for you.

Of course, power words aren’t everything. If you really want a great headline, you need to combine them with a strong structure as well as write about a topic that keeps your audience awake at night.

Proven Headline Structure + Important Topic + Power Words = Great Headline

Give it a shot – Write some great headlines.

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