If you were to throw a dozen or so copywriters in a room and ask them what matters more in regards to the craft — one’s ability to write or one’s ability to sell — there’s a fair chance a fight would break out.
It’s hands down one of the most strongly debated topics in the world of copywriting with both sides arguing a strong case.
Well, because copywriting is quite a bit different from writing. Unlike writing, copywriting exists to get the reader to do something, buy something, sign-up for something or share something.
I go into great detail about this difference in my top-secret copywriting guide, How to write words that sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.
But, for today’s article, all you need to know is that copywriting exists to elicit an action in the reader. That’s tremendously different from writing.
Some folks think you can be a subpar writer and still be a great copywriter as long as you know how to sell. Others argue that to be a great copywriter you need to first be a great writer.
While I can’t say I have an opinion, I will say this… it doesn’t matter how prolific you are at sales… if people don’t want to read what you’re writing you’re not going to get very far.
When aspiring copywriters reach out to me about learning copywriting one of my first pieces of advice is to learn how to write and write well.
Some of the best copywriters I know have backgrounds in English or journalism or creative writing (or were just born with some serious writing chops). I think anyone can gain a deep understanding of the psychology of selling and the basic principles of copywriting… but honing your writing takes both thoughtful practice and time.
I would also argue that what could have been some of the greatest copywriters never chose to write copy at all because they were just too damn good at writing… if any copywriter thinks that Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck or Virginia Woolf wouldn’t kick their ass in a copywriting showdown then they’re sorely mistaken.
Many old school copywriters point young aspiring copywriters to books like The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, The Gary Halbert Letters and Scientific Advertising to become dangerous in the copywriting game.
I think this is sound advice. But, with this, I think aspiring copywriters should also be reading great writers (like everyone I named a few sentences back).
If you can learn to sell like Ogilvy and write like a poor man’s Hemingway… you’re going to make the brands you work with and yourself an assload of money.
I consider myself a writer first, copywriter second. Unlike other copywriters, when I sit down to write for a brand I’m not just trying to sell something, I’m trying to write something that will be the prettiest most powerful thing my reader reads all day.
I practice this on a weekly basis with my newsletter, Sticky Notes.
All copy — be it a headline or an email subject line or a 3,000 words behemoth of an article — begins with one damn good sentence.
What better place to pull inspiration for crafting damn good sentences than from literature?
Below, you will find 81 staggering lines in literature. They will make you feel something. But, let them do more than this for you… let them serve as examples of what it looks like to write well.
I’ve curated 81 of the best lines in literature… they’re staggering. I imagine I will add a few more to this list, as I stumble across them. Though, these should keep you occupied for now. If you work through them quickly, remember… you could do worse things for yourself than reading them two times, three times and four times over. They were written by some of the most prolific writers to have ever lived.
Lines in literature that will give you goosebumps.
- The Sun Also Rises.
Isn’t it pretty to think so?
2. The World According to Garp.
They were involved in that awkward procedure of getting to unknow each other.
3. Gone With The Wind.
You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.
We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.
5.Winnie The Pooh.
If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.
6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.
7. Franny and Zooey.
I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.
8. Infinite Jest.
Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.
9. The Road.
You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.
10. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.
11. The Catcher In The Rye.
Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.
12. A Girl I Knew.
She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.
13. Pride and Prejudice.
It is a truth universally that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
14. A Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
15. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.
16. The Glass Menagerie.
Time is the longest distance between two places.
17. Gone With the Wind.
My dear, I don’t give a damn.
18. Memoirs of a Geisha.
By the time we arrived, as evening was approaching, I felt as sore as a rock must feel when the waterfall has pounded on it all day long.
19. To Kill a Mockingbird.
Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit em, but remember that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
20. East of Eden.
I think of my life as a kind of music, not always good music but still having form and melody.
21. The Scarlet Letter.
We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.
22. Other Voices, Other Rooms.
And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.
23. The Fellowship of the Ring.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
24. Anna Karenina.
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
25. One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aurelio Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon that his father took him to discover ice.
26. The Fault in Our Stars.
As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.
27. And the Mountains Echoed.
Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.
28. The Time Machine.
It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.
29. American Psycho.
There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.
30. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her.
31. Wuthering Heights.
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.
33. In a Free State.
The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.
34. Gravity’s Rainbow.
A screaming comes across the sky.
35. Fahrenheit 451.
It was a pleasure to burn.
36. The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The curves of your lips rewrite history.
37. The Book of Strange New Things.
Forty minutes later he was up in the sky.
38. The Waves.
The sun had not yet risen.
You exposed your penis on national television, Max.
40. The Corrections.
She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life.
41. The Temptest.
Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
And the rest is rust and stardust.
43. Summertime: Fiction.
A book should be an axe to chop open the frozen sea inside us.
44. On The Road.
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
45. The History of Love.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.
46. The Age of Innocence.
Each time you happen to me all over again.
47. East of Eden.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
48. We Love You, Charlie Freeman: A Novel.
I miss her, with a never-ending ache that I did not think was possible, that crowds out any other feeling and certainly all my reason, and any good sense.
49. The Alchemist.
It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
50. Anna Karenina.
He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.
51. To Kill A Mockingbird.
It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
52. The Shawshank Redemption.
Get busy living or get busy dying.
53. Life of Pi.
Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.
54. The Time Traveler’s Wife.
He is coming, and I am here.
55. Charlotte’s Web.
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart.
56. The Old Man and the Sea.
The old man was dreaming about the lions.
And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.
58. Looking For Alaska.
I know so many last words. But I will never know hers.
59. The Fiery Cross.
When the day shall come, that we do part,’ he said softly, and turned to look at me, ‘if my last words are not ‘I love you’ — ye’ll ken it was because I dinna have time.
The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off.
61. The Hand That First Held Mine.
His body stirs beneath the sheets. He twists his head from one side to the other. His eyes, she sees, are open. Then she feels a pressure on her hand and he speaks his first words for a week. ‘Keep going, El,’ he says, ‘Keep going.’ And so she does.”
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
63. Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.
64. Vile Bodies.
And presently, like a circling typhoon, the sounds of battle began to return.
65. A Moveable Feast.
But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.
66. The Stranger.
Mother died today.
67. The Outsiders.
Stay Gold, Ponyboy.
68. The Crow Road.
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash.
70. Middle Passage.
Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.
71. Changing Places.
High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour.
72. Peter Pan.
All children, except one, grow up.
73. The Essential Neruda.
The moon lives in the lining of your skin.
74. The Diary of Anne Frank.
In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.
75. This Is How You Lose Her.
You were at the age where you could fall in love with a girl over an expression, over a gesture.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
77. The Art of Fielding.
It was strange the way he loved her; a side long and almost casual love, as if loving her were simply a matter of course, too natural to mention.
So it goes.
79. Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.
I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
80. From Rockaway.
Her legs swing complete afternoons away.
81. The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that’s beautiful.
By Cole Schafer (everything except the 81 staggering lines you just read).
You gotta check this out — Sticky Notes is my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.