Keep Readers Hooked With This Copywriting Technique

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

Think about the last group conversation you had with your friends or colleagues.

Chances are, each of you (at least sort of) took turns speaking. And you probably never thought about it.

Turns out, human beings are really good at figuring out when someone has finished speaking.

And ums and ers — the filler we use while we’re transitioning to our next thought — are essential conversational cues.

They tell the person listening to us that we are not done speaking.

Nick Usborne showed us how it’s applied to copywriting. He called them “pause fillers.” Words and phrases that let the reader know we have more to say, such as:

But wait! There’s more.

Better still…

That’s why…

It’s a fantastic, effective copywriting technique that’s based on leveraging the conventions of conversation to hold a reader’s attention.

But it gets better.

Look at this headline:

They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano. But When I started to play!~

Written by advertising legend, John Caples, this headline expertly taps into what academic George Lowenstein called: “the information gap theory of curiosity.”

Source

Really, it’s just a cliffhanger: the tried and true technique that’s applicable to just about any type of writing.

But I didn’t realize that right away. A cliffhanger only works for novels or TV shows, right?

After reading Demian Farnworth’s article, I understood the cliffhanger in a new context, the context of writing content.

Farnworth demonstrated the idea of what he called the “internal cliffhanger.” And the basics of it is this:

Even if you hook your reader with a headline, your job is far from over. In fact, every sentence is a battle to keep that reader on the page.

How does Farnworth suggest you fight this battle?

With a cliffhanger of course. But not the kind that keeps you watching Netflix until you don’t know who you are anymore.

Rather, it’s the kind of cliffhanger that keeps your reader on the edge of every sentence: the internal cliffhanger.

After reading Farnworth’s article I was both enlightened and confused.

I understood the internal cliffhanger. But I still didn’t know where and when to use it… it seemed to just happen.

Then I took the concept of those “pause fillers” and mashed it together with Farnworth’s “internal cliffhanger.”

It made perfect sense.

Social norms dictate that when you know someone is about to say something, it’s rude to interrupt. It’s even ruder to leave.

But clicking the back button on your browser isn’t rude.

And on the web, people are moving quickly. If they think they’ve gotten all of what your post or article has to offer, they’ll leave.

So you need to keep them hooked at those critical moments when you’ve finished a thought. And an “ummm” isn’t going to do it.

You need an internal cliffhanger. And you need to place it right where a pause filler would otherwise go if you were speaking.

So how do you do it?

Construct your sentence such that the edge of your cliffhanger falls at each transition in your thinking.

I’ll show you what I mean.

In the excerpt below, everything in bold is both a pause filler and an internal cliffhanger. Everything else is me advancing my idea.

It’s a fantastic, effective copywriting technique… the idea that writers can leverage the conventions of conversation to hold their reader’s attention.
But it gets better.
Look at this headline:
They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano. But When I started to play!~
Written by advertising legend, John Caples, this headline shows us how to write a headline that taps into what academic George Lowenstein called: “the information gap theory of curiosity.”

A Copywriting Technique that Anyone Can Learn

As a writer, you’ve probably been preached to about the benefits of writing the way you speak. And those preachers are (sort of) right.

Still, “write like you speak” is pretty vague instruction…

Plus, if you don’t speak well, you probably shouldn’t write like that.

So forget that advice, and use this method to “write like you would speak, if you were a good speaker.”

The best part of this copywriting technique is that anyone who has ever spoken implicitly understands the concept.

You just need to analyze the flow of your written ideas and understand when those ideas change direction.

Then, once you can tell where your ideas change direction, you know where to insert your internal cliffhangers.