Headline tips: Copywriting Pearls of Wisdom from Gene Schwartz

Copywriting tips for headlinesMany folks appreciated Gene Schwartz’ rules of copywriting that I posted here. So, I thought I’d share more pearls of wisdom that he wrote about in his book Breakthrough Advertising.

In his own words “. . . I’ve written this book – not from the mail order perspective alone – but from the universal problem of all copy writing: How to write a headline – and an ad that follows it – that will open up an entirely new market for its product. . . This . . . is a practical book, of practical rules that produce, and exploit, creativity, and that are meant to pay off on the very first ad.”

According to Gene, “your headline has only one job – to stop your prospect and compel him or her to read the second sentence of your ad.” With that in mind, while he explores the topic extensively in his book, here are just a few of Gene’s favorite tips for writing great headlines:

1. State the claim as a question. “Could you use $200 a week extra income?”

2. State the difference in your headline. “The difference in premium gasolines is right in the additives.”

3. Address the people who can’t buy your product. “If you’ve already taken your annual vacation, don’t read this. It will break your heart.”

4. Address your prospect directly. “To the man will settle for nothing less than the presidency of his firm.”

5. Accuse the claim of being too good. “Is it immoral to make money this easily?”

6. Challenge the prospect’s present limiting beliefs.
“You are twice as smart as you think.”

Which of these ideas have you used in your marketing pieces? Have any of your own pearls of wisdom you’d like to share? Please do!

Source: Schwartz, Eugene. Breakthrough Advertising, Boardroom Books, 1984.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. Loved it again, I need to try “the claim of being too good” and “address the people who can’t buy your product”!
    Lena recently posted…How to Wear Peplum Tops: Look Trendy & FeminineMy Profile

  2. I’d like to try #3 and #6…those would be a completely different approach for me. Thanks! And I think I need another cup of coffee, because I misread “Boardroom Books” as “Boredom Books” in Eugene’s publishing credit. Sheesh. 🙂
    cassie recently posted…ubc favorites list (week 3)My Profile

  3. More great ideas here, Debra. I’ve saved the post in my ideas folder to come back to when I next sit staring at a flashing cursor when writing landing pages, thank you!
    Jan recently posted…Facebook Frustration: Page Updates, Newsfeeds and Promoted PostsMy Profile

    • You’re welcome @Jan. It’s good to know that you found this worth saving in your ideas folder for the future. I know what you mean about staring at the flashing cursor. Sometimes it’s best to just get up, step away from the computer, take a walk outside & breathe! Thanks. ~Debra


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  2. […] are some tips for better headlines from my mentor and veteran direct response copywriter, Gene Schwartz. And, check out this post on 5 […]

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