Take yourself back to middle school for a second.
Are you there?
Can you smell the smell of three-day-old french fries and chicken patties coming from the lunch room? See the florescent lights? Hear the sound of lockers? Still cringing at the frosted tips and spiky, gelled hair?
Now, imagine yourself at the end of the lunch line. You’re the next to the last person. The guy behind you makes a stunning observation, “Man, this line is LONG!”
Then, the guy in front of you, hangry from over-exerting himself in gym class to show off in front of the cheerleader quips: “Thaaaaank you, Captain Obvious!!”
Because, much as you felt sorry for the socially awkward guy behind you, it was an obvious statement. And no part of voicing it out loud could do anything about it.
And while I’m glad most adults don’t treat each other like this anymore, sometimes I wish this phrase had survived puberty along with us. Especially when it comes to writing. And not just copywriting, writing anything. Here’s why:
(To illustrate, I’ve chosen blog posts on one of the most boring subjects around: budgeting.)
Yeah, that opener doesn’t really do it for you, does it?
It sure as shit didn’t do it for me.
Because the opening line is obvious.
And here’s the thing: the obvious DOES NOT get a human brain’s attention.
It’s the moments of “Wait… what?” that get our attention.
You see what I mean?
And THIS is why I wish the “Thank you Captain Obvious” phrase had made it past middle school with us. Not as an insult, but as a litmus test for good writing.
If you read something and it makes you want to say, “Yeah, thank you Captain Obvious,” then the writing isn’t good enough.
You either need to re-phrase, choose an anecdote to start with, or bring out the truly interesting part that’s buried under your boring intro up to the top.
I’ve been teaching this litmus test lately to clients who’ve hired me to teach their in-house teams, and you know what?
Their blog posts are improving.
Even if this is the only piece of advice I teach them that they decide to implement, you can tell a difference in the before & after in their company blog posts.
So. If you’ve got a blog post that you LOVE but you don’t absolutely adore the opening for, go back and run it through the “Thank You Captain Obvious” test.
I’ll bet you money that’s the issue with it. Almost guarantee it.
And to fix it, 9 times out of 10, you can read down a couple paragraphs and find something that would make a REALLY GOOD opening… so just rearrange things a little bit and you’ll be golden.
It’ll work for you, I promise.
Now close your eyes, forget the badly-dyed frosted tips and smell of rank food in the lunch room, and come back to adulthood. And the next time you edit a blog post, channel your inner twelve-year-old.
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