Lesson 18: Writing your headline—and what comes after
All about your whole deck copy
So far, we’ve just focused on your headline. But you may have noticed that a headline doesn’t generally lead straight into the kinds of features and benefits you wrote last week. There is usually at least a paragraph in between.
This section of copy — the headline plus any subheads and lead-in paragraphs — is called your deck. As a rule, you want to write the whole thing at once, for reasons which will become obvious. So while the focus this week has mostly been on your headline (because that’s the tricksiest bit), you also need to know about writing the rest of your deck copy.
You recall back in lesson #2, we figured that the ideal length for CTA button copy is 6–8 words (or less, if it can still be specific enough)? The same applies to your headline. Indeed, all the same rules for writing calls to action apply to your headline.
Very often, 6–8 words are not enough to say everything you want to say in your headline. But very often, they are enough to get Sam interested. Therefore, it’s smart to use a shorter headline, and develop it in a longer subhead. This has a couple of advantages:
It eases Sam into reading your copy. Each chunk of copy gets progressively longer, from headline to subhead to first paragraph, so Sam is kind of “accelerated” into your page incrementally, rather than being asked to read several dozen words straight up. The page becomes visually more inviting.
It allows you to take maximum advantage of point first/last weighting. You can weight your headline, then your subhead, and your first line. This increases the chances of Sam’s eye snagging on something interesting.
Writing your subhead
In your homework last time, you wrote a whole bunch of headlines. And I explicitly advised you not to worry about length. This is why: when you aren’t constrained by length, you tend to discover you have a lot to say in your headline. And while you obviously don’t want to use every single word you come up with, a lot of that verbiage is ideal for your subhead.
If 6–8 words are best for your headline, the same can be true of your subhead — but because you’re also trying to ease Sam into your copy progressively, it is appropriate to as much as double this. So 6–16 words. Once you get longer than this, you’re probably better off breaking it up further, and “spreading out” what you’re saying into the first line of your body copy as well.
There isn’t much to explain here, really — so let me give you some examples to illustrate instead. Notice:
How the “patterns” you learned in lesson #17 can be used as cues for phrasing both the headline and the subhead.
How these patterns are not hard and fast rules — adding precision in the form of detail can “break” them, yet make your headline stronger; or they can be pared down into something shorter and sweeter that still reflects the same basic idea.
How sometimes I move ideas around to weight the most important points first or last.
OK, here are some illustrations:
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