The headline above is the culmination of my studies.
In the simplest form, a headline or subject should have a Question, a Problem, and Curiosity.
Over supper I took out a piece of paper and a pencil and drafted these headlines:
- Effort 1: What do you have to lose if you don't read this? (11 words!)
- Effort 2: What might you lose by not reading this? (8 words)
- Effort 3: What might you gain by reading this? (7 words)
- Effort 4: How did I know you would read this? (8 words)
- Effort 5: How well do I know you? (6 words)
- Effort 6: Do you need to know this? (6 words.)
I don't know how Effort 3 slipped in; it has no problem or pain; it implies a problem or pain in a negative sense, but that forces the reader to think, and I don't want the headline/subject reader to think; I want them to ACT.
Efforts 1 & 2 were truly top-of-my-head.
4, 5 and 6 dropped on to the paper as generalized questions, and I tried to reduce their lengths.
6 words is, I think, digestible.
This whole drafting exercise took less than 5 minutes.
I could go back over my earlier blogs and re-jig each subject into a question.
Really all I need do is super-glue a question-mark to the end of the subject, and then adjust the grammar so that it becomes a question.
That's 1 out of 3 fixes in place.
I need to re-phrase one part of the subject so that it becomes a problem or a source of pain.
That's 2 out of 3 fixes in place.
I need to include a word or phrase that induces curiosity. I am told that words like "this" and 'these" are good, because they specify SOMETHING is available without revealing what it is.
That's 3 out of 3 fixes in place.
"This" is therefore more powerful than "This Idea"; readers may decide that they don't want any more ideas, and the headline "This Idea" tells them that there's no need to read the email, whereas "This" tells them they need to open the email to see if they needed to open the email. Subtle, huh?
So from now on, every email I send out, every essay I write, I should spend AT LEAST 60 seconds making sure I have at least (1) a question (2) a problem (3) curiosity.
Otherwise I'm wasting my time.
On the Buses
So, take a PrtScr snapshot of your InBox, print it, and take that sheet of paper with you on the bus, or to the next boring presentation.
I have found it to be a fun exercise.
So can you.
And we will all be better for it.