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A BULLET LIST isn’t actually supposed to be a list of features, benefits or outcomes.
But a heavy reliance on “scannable copy” has made many a marketer opt for bullets… forgetting all the while that you can do so much more with a bullet than simply list some stuff. In this Tutorial Tuesday, Joanna Wiebe introduces you to “fascinations,” aka the end of the boring bullet list. If you need a primer on the Fundamentals bullet lists, here is an article with an Infographic on how to write better Bullet Lists.
Joanna is writing in Airstory, the writing software for research-based projects.
Below is the summarization on how to write a better bulleted list in 5 steps, taken from the Tutorial Tuesday presentation above.
Writing better bullet points begins with fascinations
What are fascinations? A better bullet point that invites the user to read more, through curiosity.
When you are writing copy for scanning eyes, you tend to want to use bullet points, especially for long feature lists, or for lots of data that you might be putting out on a page.
A mistake a lot of us do is list out features, parts of features, benefits and outcomes in our bulleted list. However, this does not leave enough room to capture the curiosity of the reader, and wouldn’t be considered a fascination.
Today we’re gonna talk about how to take that quick expression of a single piece of information, and make it more interesting (with Bullet Points!)
Why do we fall into the trap of listing features, benefits and outcomes in our bulleted list?
Our goal as conversion copywriters is always making every word on the page work. These days, there is a lot of pressure to get pages as short as possible. It doesn’t mean I believe that, but I am very aware that a lot of businesses and C level management tend to put pressure on the copywriter to make copy shorter.
How can we maximize the persuasiveness of our bullet list?
If you’re relying on bullets to do a lot of persuasive work, then let’s make it do that work and not just be a list of information.
The Goal of Creating Fascinations in a Bulleted List is to TEASE
We don’t want to just put down facts on the page, that’s not the point. That’s not gonna be persuasive copy. We want to tease people. We want to pull them into something where we get our reader interested, get their mind kind of going. We’re really opening a lot of curiosity gaps here, so if you’re a fan of using the open loop, which I am, if you like curiosity gaps, then you’ll love using fascinations.
Our goal is to tease, not to give. We don’t want readers to jump to the TLDR.
5 Steps to writing bullet lists that capture the readers attention
Again, your goal is to tease, not to give. When we are writing a fascination list we start by just writing out the facts.
Step 1. Write down the facts
Just put down the bullet list as you already would. Just throw it down as draft one.
You shouldn’t edit as you go. You should start by writing it down, just dumping out your bullet list, just go, go, go, go, go with the features, the benefits, whatever those things are.
Below is a real example of the first draft of the bullet list I used to send out for this Tutorial Tuesday.
Step 2. Replace the facts with Fascinations
We don’t want to give people the fact. We want to tease them.
We want to tease them so that they have to watch the video, in this case, or they have to buy the book, or they have to do whatever that thing is that you’re trying to get them to do. So, we are replacing facts with the teasers or the fascinations.
You’ll rewrite your first draft, and add the fascinations. Below are the ways to do this.
You can begin the sentence with who, what, when, where, why, or how.
Good words to start your bullet points with
The actual and the exact, are good starting phrases for your fascination.
3. An un-word is a copywriters friend. Unexpected, unpopular, unknown, words similar to that.
In the example of my bullet list email, I replaced the fact, “you should email your copy to your client 10-20 minutes before a meeting with them” with the teaser/fascination, “exactly when is it okay to email copy to your client?”
Step 3. Add your finders to the bullet points
What are finders? They are what seed a reader’s curiosity on where they will find this information within the greater body of work.
A book or article? The finder could be “chapter X” or “section Y”
A video course? The finder could be “module A” or “@ time B”
An example of how I added a finder in my bullet list: “how to make sure you don’t get straggler feedback after the call, skip to 541”.
Then once you are done with replacing the facts with fascinations, and adding your finders, you’re going to delete any double fascinations, and you’re going to optimize the order.
Step 4. Remove the boring bullet points
We want to get to the place where we delete the boring bullet points. If it’s not gonna be fascinating, just cut that crap and then reorder it.
You have to ask yourself, what’s going to be interesting for your reader? What must you leave in? There’s that word must again, and what, we’re beginning with one of the five Ws.
Step 5. Optimize the order of your bulleted list
The way that we want to optimize the order of the bullet list is to try to put the most interesting bullets at the top and at the bottom of the list.
What must you put on slide one to set the tone for the convo?
Then we’re going through and we’re kind of staggering the length of the fascinations.
You don’t want all your bullets to be long. You don’t want all your bullets to be short.
You want to have different varying lengths. Just do this, it goes back to 18th century English lit. Honestly, this is where I first picked up this technique when I was in university studying Samuel Peaks and the way he would stagger sentence lengths. We can do the same thing. It makes things readable, it keeps your mind kind of whirring.
Recap of the steps to create better bullet lists
1. We start with a list of facts, just a regular bullet list that you’re used to making.
2. We go through, we take out facts and replace them with fascinations. We replace them with the five W sentences like, the one, the only, the actual, the exact. We add in will and must into our bullets, and we use un words.
3. Add in finders where it’s possible, for future pacing, so if there is a place on the next page where they can find the thing you’re talking about, cool, that’s a finder, add it in in brackets.
4. Delete the dull ones. Nobody cares about a boring bullet point. Get rid of it.
5. Then optimize the order. You’re gonna sandwich the best, the boring stuff that’s gonna have the best bullets around it because sometimes that boring one you don’t want will end up there and then you’ll have to say it. You’re gonna want to vary lengths as well.
Q&A from the video
1. Marina asked, “Should you repeat the formulas or make sure it’s only one of the interesting things per fact per list?”
Repeat them. You’re gonna thing they’re boring. You’re gonna think the formula is boring or people are going to recognize the formula and they’ll be like, “Wah-wah. I can’t believe they used the same one again and again.” It’s very unlikely that people will. If you’re writing them in a compelling way, people aren’t paying attention to the way you’re writing them. They’re drawn in to what you’re saying. It’s just like good design. Like good design where you shouldn’t notice it. People shouldn’t notice that you’re using these formulas because you’re writing them in a compelling way. As long as they’re not noticing, then we’re in good shape. Feel free to keep reusing those formulas. Okay?
2. Carlos … No worries, Marina. Carlos asked, “How many bullets are too many?”
It’s like, this goes back to the, how long is a piece of string? It’s too many if it’s no longer doing the job of pulling people deeper into the list and making them want to say yes to the thing that you’re talking about. I mean, long form sales pages, there’s that one in one of the first Tutorial Tuesdays that I did, and you can still find it on Copy Hackers under tutorials, you can see the long form sales page one where we broke down a page that Ben Settle wrote and it was filled with bullets. It was list after list of fascinations. It just kept going with cross heads between and it just … More, more, more, more, but it was so compelling because these fascinations were really tapping into things that the ideal prospect was interested in. They were pulling you along. They were doing a great job of it. I wouldn’t worry necessarily, Carlos.
I think it’s a perfectly legit question, but I wouldn’t worry about how many bullets are too many. If it feels like you’re losing your reader, cut it. Stop the list. Or, can you optimize what you have already to make it more compelling and more engaging as a read. Can you really push further on the copy that you’re writing so that it doesn’t feel like it’s too many and you’re still drawing people along. Okay? Cool.
3. Todd says, “I often bullet the first portions of bullets to make copy even more readable. Do you do this?”
Okay. For a bullet, yes. For a fascination, the thing that you want to bold is not the summary point or the data, the actual … Oftentimes when we’re bolding, we’re bolding for scanners, right? We’re like, “okay, so if an important fact that we wanted everybody to get is that they got 103% lift … Lets say, I’m just throwing an example out there because I don’t have one otherwise. One of my bullets is … If I’m trying to sell agency services for CRO, let’s say, one of my list points is, got 103% lift for a client in Georgia medicare. I don’t know. Let’s say that’s what it is. Okay, fine. What’s the part that you would bold? In most cases, we would default to bolding the point that we hope that they take away, which is the 103% lift.
You think, “Oh wow, they’re gonna see 103% lift and that’s gonna be great.” That’s us saying, “Don’t read my copy.” That’s us saying, “Just take this point,” and you’re forcing their brain to stitch together all the points that your copy should be doing. Instead of bolding that 103% lift part or the part that you hope they see, bold the stuff that makes them want to read the bullet. If it’s more about 103% lift for a company in medicare, is there a … That’s not a good fascination, by the way, so you’d want to push that one further. You want to bold the part that gets them to read the important part of that bullet. The unknown way that we got 103% lift, and so again, an un, unknown way that we got 103% lift, you’d want to bold the unknown way, not 103% lift. Does that make sense?
It’s hard without an example to show you right now. Don’t bold the first … Don’t bold the beginning just because you’re like, “Well, that’s what people will read.” Guess what? If they’re already reading it, you don’t have to optimize it. They’re already gonna read the beginning of the bullet points. They’re not gonna read the end of it. They’re not gonna read the middle of it. Bold the part that will make them read the whole bullet. Okay? Cool, cool, cool. Alright. I know it takes a lot of words for me to get to some points, because I need an example.
Alright, cool. Then we are seeing. That’s it. That’s it for Q&A. No other questions coming in, so hopefully you are able to go forth and write better fascinations than ever before, better bullets.
I do think, like Neil just said, they’re easy to do. They should be very easy to do, okay? Rewrite those bullets, turn them into fascinations. Pull people through your copy, and then get them to say yes by the end of it. That’s our job, right? That’s all that we do. That is it for this week’s Tutorial Tuesday. Thanks everybody for showing up. Next week, I’m speaking at Business and Software on Tuesday, so I do not believe we’ll have a Tutorial Tuesday next week. If you’ll be in Boston, hope to see you there at Business and Software. Sarah will be there. Steven will, Lance will. If you’re in the area, come say hi to us. Come on over to Business and Software. It’s a great event. Other than that, we’ll see you the following Tuesday. Have a great week everybody. Thanks so much. Bye.