This post will change your life

This is a copywriting tip. Well, not a tip, but something that works my nerves and I wish people would stop.

There are human interest stories floating around the internet that use the ‘More News at 10’ method of a headline. ‘More News at 10’ was the hook a lot of local news anchors would use — back when people watched local news.

For articleYou know the rhetoric: ‘Something in town could be killing your child… More at news at ten o’clock.’ It was sensationalism meant to entice viewers to watch the evening news. This style of hook has overflowed into digital journalism. Yes, journalism has always had hooks, and you’ll still find print journalism using headlines like ‘Death Toll Shocker’ on their sandwich boards, but at least ‘Death Toll Shocker’ informs the reader that the story is about death.

The insipid digital headlines found at the moment run along the lines of ‘This story will change your life’, ‘You will have your faith in humanity restored’, ‘You cannot unsee this image.’ These headlines not only tell me nothing about the piece, but they make me not want to click on the article/image/video. In fact, the few times I have I guarantee my life has not been changed in any way.

On a more critical level, they assume that my opinion of the piece will be the same as the writer, placing me into the story (through the use of, or by implying, the second person pronoun) makes me uncomfortable. Overall, this sort of writing is ineffectual. Which do you find more interesting?

‘You will never believe what this ape did to this boy.’

OR

‘Ape eats boy’s hat.’

Personally, I’m more likely to click a link to watch a video of an ape eating a boy’s hat, than a video that promises to shock me. Human interest stories are just that, interesting. Don’t try to make them out to be more than they are.

The lesson learned is Do Not Assume to Know Your Reader. Give them the information, lead them through well written prose, structured narrative and (in non-fiction) strong research. Stop with the gimmicks.

 

 

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