Justin Theng
Multi-award winning marketer, Justin Theng, is the owner of ALSOF Publishing. His background stems from leadership roles in some of the world’s most celebrated agencies.
10 06 2017

When you’re looking to attract customers, you need to think the way the world’s best copywriters think. In order to write great copy, you need to understand both the psychological makeup and mentality of your target audience, as well as the power words that get people buying.

A Word from a Copywriter

Gary Halbert, a top copywriter, has pointed out two not-so-obvious lessons for anyone trying to boost the appeal of their copy. The first lesson is that your readers are bored – they are desperately looking for something that is interesting and emotional. The second lesson is that everyone reads your copy by himself at his or her computer. You’re not talking to an audience of 1,000 people – you are having a personal conversation with one person.


So, how do you go about inserting emotion and power words into your copy?

The place to start is with your headlines. If there’s absolutely one headline template that you need to know, it’s the “How to” headline. “How to Lose Weight.” “How to grow ripe red tomatoes.” “How to never again slice a golf ball.” You get the idea. The reason why the “How to” headline is the most universally applicable and diverse headline is because it promises to offer a solution. It promises to solve a problem, and it promises to give information.

From there, you need to be able to tweak these basic headlines so that there’s an element of surprise or something interesting. As people see your claims, you need to start adding specifics – specific claims, specific proof, etc. For example, “How to lose five kilograms” is a claim that’s been made many times. But how about something like, “How to lose five kilos by eating twice as much bread as you are now”? Now, that’s something different.

The secret to a truly great headline is surprise. If someone is surprised, he or she will want to read more. And then you’ve done your job.

The secret to a truly great headline is surprise.

The good news is that there is actually a list of words that will help to improve the newsworthiness and the surprise of your headlines. These words include: secrets, quick, easy, instantly, anything with the word “you” in it, how to, fast, at last, discovery, amazing.

These are newsworthy sorts of terms. People just really do love to be fascinated. They are looking for a certain spark in their day. That’s why it’s always a good idea, if you’re really keen on learning how to get people’s attention, to read tabloid magazine covers. It’s all cheap and dirty, but the teasers they come up with are incredible. People literally can’t keep their hands off those tabloids at the supermarket checkout line.


So spend some time thinking about how to insert emotion into your headlines, and why some words are so much more powerful than others. And, most importantly, you just really need to understand what drives human nature. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or the seven deadly sins – this is timeless stuff that defines humanity. If you can adapt it for your products and services, your starving crowd is going to go crazy for it.


  1. Think of at least three headlines for your company using the power words described above.
  2. How can you use the power of “How to” headlines to sell more of your products?
  3. What is an angle on the subject your reader won't expect?
  4. So you want to avoid the brain pain? ALSOF Publishing are experts at copywriting. Learn More
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