Getting people to read something is hard work.

Thanks to the internet and mobile devices, we’ve evolved into skimmers not readers.
That means we only see headlines or bullet points – and we only stop at these if they grab our attention.
So how do we grab people with headlines?

One way is by using words people don’t expect to see together.

Like the headline I’ve used above, for example.

Putting words with opposite meanings into the same sentence catches people out.

Like wrong and right. Dark and light. Crazy and calm. Healthy and sick.

The fancy name for this is ‘juxtaposition’.

Whatever you want to call it, it works.

You’ll also see this used with great effect visually.

There’s a great ad for a vitamin supplement where they’ve reversed the roles of two animals – the predator is being pursued by its prey to demonstrate the benefit of the product.

Headline act

Writing a compelling headline is a critical part of any communication, whether it’s for an article, an ad, a blog, or even an email subject.

It’s also one of the hardest parts to do.

Sometimes a great headline might come to you before you’ve written anything else; usually it’s the thing you do last, after the content has sorted itself out.

Another great way to grab a skimmer’s attention is to say the opposite of what they expect to see.

For a client selling a new variety of turf grass I wrote a Yellow Pages ad  with the tongue-in-cheek headline:

“We’re happy when the competition walks all over us.”

I was making a valid point about competitors wanting to check out the quality of their product (because it’s so good).

Headlines like this catch you out and make you want to read more.

When it comes to grabbing attention, opposites definitely attract.