South of Jewfish Creek

Dear Friend & Subscriber,

Let's do the twist!

You know, I've been writing this newsletter since 1986 and I've written a number of issues on how to write copy. However, there's at least one important area I haven't covered... and... at least to my knowledge, it hasn't been covered in other newsletters or books on how to write copy. What I'm referring to are known in the profession as "bullets." Bullets are little one line statements of what you'll learn about in the book the copywriter is trying to get you to purchase or some other product he's writing about. Bullets are usually preceded by a dot or an asterisk (the bullet) and they look like this:

  • What question you must ask when you rent a car to get the lowest price humanly possible!
  • How your military record can get you extra Social Security money!
  • The single best way ever discovered to sell a house... and... sell it fast!
  • How you can legally tape any telephone call you get from a collection agency... and... how to use that tape to scare the hell out of them... and... even use it (legally) to make them pay you  a big settlement!

And so on.

Listen, many of the most successful ads running today are nearly all bullets. Often there's a headline and then maybe two or three (or even just one) paragraph to preface the bullets. Here's an example of such a one paragraph preface:

 "Are you troubled by prostate problems? If so, you may be interested  in a new book just released by XYZ Publishing. Here's a small sample   of what you will learn when you read this book:"

Then, of course, there are bullets, bullets and more bullets followed by ordering instructions. Let me tell you something: Many times a person will read an ad or a direct mail letter containing dozens and dozens of bullets and... he'll order just because one of them appealed to him. A long time ago (I think it was clear back in the '70s) I was doing some work as an outside consultant for Entrepreneur Magazine and I was writing an ad for one of their reports or something and, out of a tremendous amount of bullets there was one hidden in the copy that caused calls to come in for months and maybe even a year later. Here is that bullet:


  • FAKE COCAINE: a legal substitute that fools almost everyone!


All that bullet referred to was a small part of the literature in the report or whatever it was in and, I'm not exactly sure who was responding to that particular bullet who would be reading literature from a magazine like Entrepreneur. Come to think of it, maybe it was entrepreneurs... only just those who were doing (or wanting to do) something illegal.

Had I to do it over, I probably wouldn't have included such a bullet because I sure don't think it attracted the target audience we were hoping to sell. But, this tawdry example does illustrate the pulling power of a single bullet even if it's buried in a large ad.

I started this issue with the words "Let's do the twist!" What I meant by that is, when you write bullets, you've got to take the facts about the product you're trying to sell and present them in a way that "teases" the reader into wanting the full scoop. Now listen, when I say "twist" I don't mean distort! Your bullets need to be 100% truthful but you need to twist the way you write them so the reader gets a teasing glimpse of a particular benefit for what you're selling which makes him hungry for the rest of the story.

Writing bullets is a real art and I don't have a magic wand that will teach you how to do it. The only way you'll acquire this skill is through a lot of practice. However, what I can give you are examples of how it's done... and... give you those examples in such a way I bet it will be very illuminating for you. So then, here's Gary's attempt to give you a few "aha!" experiences on the art of writing bullets. The way I'm going to do this is to give you a number of real life examples taken from an ad for a book. First, I'll show you what it actually says in the book and then I'll show you the "teaser bullet" written to correspond to that section of the book.


"Buyers always ask how long a property has been on the market, and when they find out the home has been on the market a long time they smell blood. What's more, many buyers wonder what's wrong with the property since it hasn't sold yet. They have second thoughts about bidding on such a place, figuring if nobody else thinks the property is worth what the seller is asking, why should they? As a result, the seller can no longer get the kinds of offers he would have gotten in the past... if your home has been on the market for a long time, you may want to consider taking it off the market for a little while. When you put it back on, you can honestly answer it's been on the market a short time..."

The Bullet:

  •  How to sell your home faster by taking it off the market!

what it says in the book:

      "The real estate brokers who come to view your home are in essence competing against each other for the listing. And those brokers who have been around for a while have learned from experience that very few new sellers are prepared to hear the truth about what their homes are worth.

      "So rather than risk alienating you and losing the listing to a competitor, most brokers will tell you what they think you want to hear, rather than what your home is really worth.

      "After a broker has secured the listing, he'll work hard on it for months, gradually getting you to lower your price further and further until finally the home is sold."

The bullet:

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Copyright © 2003 Gary C. Halbert.  All Rights Reserved.