I e-mailed an article I’d just written for ETR to Charlie – and he sent it straight to his trash bin!
Charlie, ETR’s Editorial Director, helps me make all my writing stronger, clearer, and more enticing. And when he told me why he’d deleted that article after reading the first sentence, I completely agreed.
I had written: “Ever de-planed in a far-off city or country… and found your suitcase didn’t make it?”
Charlie copied that sentence in the e-mail he sent back to me, followed by: “No. Anything else you want to talk about?”
I had to laugh. I’d made a common writing mistake.
The problem with a lead like mine? It allows a big portion of your readers to say, right away, “I’m not interested in what this article has to say”… and stop reading.
“Michael Masterson taught me early on to be very careful about exclusionary copy,” Charlie told me. “Especially when the exclusionary copy comes at the beginning of your sales letter or article.”
He told me how he’d walked into Michael’s office with some sales copy that started something like this: “If you’ve ever wanted to become a sports marketer, I’ve got good news for you…”
Michael looked at Charlie and said, “Guess what, I’ve never wanted to become a sports marketer.” Then he threw Charlie’s copy in the trash and said, “Now what?”
The purpose of your lead is to catch your reader’s attention, draw him in, and make him want to keep reading. If you don’t grab him right off the bat, you won’t have a chance to tell him your story or convince him to buy your product. All your hard work – down the drain.
The next time you write an article, sales letter, business memo, or anything else, ask yourself, “How many of my readers would throw this in the trash after reading the first line?” Then rewrite your lead to make sure it includes the maximum number of people possible.