Think writing is like a roller coaster? You’re right — but not in the way you think.
Sure, writing can have its ups and downs. Some days, you’re soaring through it. Other days, you stare at the blank page just hoping for something to come out.
But sometimes all you need is a little push to get started. And once you’ve gotten going, it can all come pouring out of you.
The same is true about reading a well-written piece of copy. It can be slow to get started, but soon after there’s that sudden drop — the rush of connecting with what’s being written — and it can be hard, or even impossible, to stop.
A good piece of copy will keep you glued to it right until the very end.
As a writer, how do you achieve that? Here’s the secret:
The Best Copywriters Build Momentum
Legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman wrote that copy should be like a “slippery slide,” with every element so compelling that it keeps you falling down and unable to stop. To that end, he wrote:
“The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence.”
If you think about that roller coaster metaphor, that means it takes a big push up front to get things going. That first sentence is the most important one you’re going to write, so it’s important to take some time to craft it intentionally.
Let’s look at the important elements of a first sentence.
Crafting Your Copy
There are three important elements you need to capture someone’s attention:
- Keep it short: The shorter, the better. To quote Sugarman, “Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.”
- Make it weird (or ambiguous, or unsettling): Your reader is more likely to keep reading if you wallop them with something unexpected. Take a look at some of Laura Belgray’s writing for some good examples of this.
- Tease your reader: Use the power of implication to create an open loop. Imply that the next sentence will answer a question, solve a problem, or give the reader something they’ve always wanted.
Then Keep Going
While the first sentence has some heavy lifting to do, every sentence that follows needs to keep the momentum going. If the purpose of the first sentence is to get you to the second sentence, then the second sentence needs to get you to the third. And so on.
Be purposeful and intentional in your copywriting — every element serves a purpose:
To keep folks reading til the end.