I am going to write this post with the view that you are an impatient reader. And that if there was a pill for fast acting knowledge and insight, you’d more than likely take it. Impatient readers love bullet points. But that doesn’t mean you can get away with a random shopping list of facts and features and expect the love to keep giving. At best, such an approach communicates a lack of writerly competence; at worst it communicates plain laziness. So use bullet points thoughtfully.
Now before we get into the fascination that makes for effective bullet points, with two case studies that demonstrate this, here are the 4 essentials of writing of bullet points:
Good bullets points (like headlines) aren’t always complete sentences, but do keep them consistent with one another. Notice that bullet points can be in a numbered list (as above), or they can be “unordered” bullets. If the introduction sentence of bullet points states a number (as above), then use numbers in the bullet points. If not, then you can opt for the dots.
Now for “fascinations”. It’s an old direct mail copywriting term, meaning the intriguing element or aspect of a subject matter’s feature that can be teased out and used to entice your audience. Fascinations are written to be so compelling and benefit-driven that the reader can’t help but want to discover the answer.
The formula goes like this:
FEATURE FACT + UNIQUE BENEFIT = RESISTANCE IS FUTILE
Here is a classic example from Bottom Line Secrets, a subscription periodical on how to make life easier:
While it may break the symmetry rule, you can’t deny the strong desire to find out the answer to each bullet point.
So how do you do fascinations?
Here are two case studies from my Copywriting classes to demonstrate fascinations. The red highlights the fascination of each feature fact.
CASE STUDY 1 | TARGET AUDIENCE – FRANCHISE BOTTLE SHOP OWNERS:
(“Buy in the green” is trade talk referring to the buying season. An important point here is to write in language familiar to your target audience).
CASE STUDY 2 | TARGET AUDIENCE – VCE STUDENTS CONSIDERING INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AT UNIVERSITY TO COMPLIMENT THEIR COMMERCE OR LAW/HUMANITIES DEGREE:
Whether your aim is to make the world a better place or create success in international business, this course is designed to open the gateway to your global career.
CASE STUDY #3 | TARGET AUDIENCE – MILITARY DECISION-MAKERS LOOKING TO UP-GRADE THEIR MILITARY’S VIRTUAL BATTLESPACE (VBS) SIMULATED TRAINING PROGRAM.
Nothing can truly prepare your troops for the real battlefield, but VBS3 comes closer than ever before:
VBS3 uses highest end gaming visualization and immersion, heightening senses to the point where even taste and smell senses are alerted
VBS3 uses the leading-edge in state-of-the-art gaming intuitive interfacing, making your troops completely one with the virtual battle field
VBS3 adapts to cutting edge training and development, so you capitalize on years of ingenuity from developers who are on the bleeding edge
VBS3 crosses ever-new boundaries with Sim-expert customer feedback so you can easily customise it to meet ever-changing military needs
VBS3 enables joint training exercises across defense forces to more effectively accommodate, prepare and coordinate a unified action plan
VBS3 generates terrain as far as the eye can see, opening your scope of vision to the bigger picture and a far greater capacity of foresight
The key to a fascination is dangling the benefit in a teasing manner, compelling the reader to either seek the answer or complete the story with their own hoped for, aspirational or desired outcome.
To conclude on the father of modern communications (and a mother of a communicator!), Bill Bernbach, “Our job is to bring the dead facts to life”.