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Rosemary's not-so-secret tips to copywriting great headlines and subject lines

Rosemary Gillespie - Monday, November 30, 2009

There's an 80/20 rule for everything, including copywriting headlines. Read anything about copywriting and you'll discover that the headline, or subject line, of your email, article, brochure or letter is where you need to spend 80% of your writing time. That's right: only 20% left to copywrite your article or brochure.

It does depend on what you're writing, of course. When you're writing tenders and proposals there's rarely time for a catchy headline, whereas writing headlines or subject lines for your letters, articles, emails and brochures gives you time to play.
Like most things in life, there are a few good tricks to help you write a great headine or subject line.

The most accessible ones are:
"How to..." suggests we'll learn something useful without much effort.

"The Secrets of..", or "Revealed..." hint at something a little mysterious that we really need to know.

"Discover the..." means we'll find something useful.
5, 7 or 10: we're all used to Top 10s. Five and 7 are great too and more credible than even-numbers except 10. But when you're writing about large numbers, it's more persuasive to use the precise figure than a rounded figure.

Don't forget, you can combine these for even more attention-grabbing headlines and subject lines. For example:

  • Discover how to...
  • How my aunt saved $46,729 on her tax bill
  • 7 deadly copywriting to avoid...
  • Copywriting secrets revealed
  • Discover the 7 secrets of copywriting
  • Revealed: the 7 secrets of copywriting
  • How apostrophes can get you arrested
  • Top 10 tender mistakes

Why are these so useful? Because they work. They're simple, straight to the point, attract attention and make your reader curious about what's coming next. In my article Is This the World's Most Attractive Headline?, I've written about other attention-grabbing words for headlines. Put them together and you get:

  • Discover 7 easy ways to write for a living
  • Revealed: 5 simple tricks for younger looking skin
  • How to get the haircut of your dreams - for free!
  • Faster, better copywriting in 5 easy steps
  • Save $2,397 a year with this foolproof money-saving tool

Another useful headline trick is to ask a dramatic question. My free guide, Do You Make These Mistakes in English? is very popular because people wonder what mistakes they might be making. 

You can download the guide right from this website.



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