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That quote belongs to John Caples, one of the most successful copywriters of the 20th century.


Over his career, Caples ran thousands of headline tests.

These tests scientifically proved that headlines around self-interest and news were more effective at capturing a reader’s attention (which is the purpose of a headline) than any other two concepts.

Knowing that, here are the words and phrases every copywriter should use…

When writing a “self-interest” headline:  

  • why
  • sale
  • save
  • easy
  • quick
  • proven
  • how to
  • results
  • bargain
  • guarantee
  • last chance

When writing a “news” headline:

  • new
  • now
  • at last
  • it’s here
  • discover
  • just arrived
  • introducing
  • announcing

These words and phrases are powerful “triggers.”

When used in headlines, they alert the reader — consciously or otherwise — to the presence of value in the form of self-interest or news, respectively.

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These words are also constantly used by copywriters because they work.

They worked a hundred years ago and they’ll work a hundred years into the future.

“Human nature is perpetual,” wrote Claude Hopkins, another master copywriter. “In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them.”

When I explained all of this to one of my mentees, he said:


“But what about originality?”

“What about it?” I said.

“Well,” he said, “I don’t really want to sound like every other copywriter. I want to express myself.”

I didn’t like that, and decided to tell him exactly what he NEEDED to hear…

“Then you might be in the wrong business,” I said. “Direct response copywriting is not about self-expression.”

He just looked at me.

“It’s not about originality. It’s not about being cute or clever or creative with your turn of phrase,” I said. “Direct response copywriting is about generating sales.”

The kid nodded.

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“These trigger words are  proven to capture the attention necessary to get people to read the rest of the copy,” I said. “And that’s all that matters. And that’s why all copywriters should use them.”


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