Sentences brawl for your attention daily.
They masquerade as subject lines in your cluttered email inbox… as slogans on towering billboards… as tweets on your overflowing timeline…
But, despite this, only a select few hit you like a freight train, stopping you dead in your tracks.
Which, leads one to ponder…
What makes some sentences harder hitting than others?
Once upon a time, Ernest Hemingway wrote something striking on the subject of writer’s block.
And, while today we aren’t discussing writer’s block, what he wrote provides an answer to the above question.
In Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, he wrote the following whilst reflecting on a time when he had great difficulty stringing words together…
“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
The gem (and answer to our question) can be found in the second to last sentence in the above excerpt…
All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Having spent the past three years of my life running a small creative writing shop that helps brands sell like hell with words, I’ve come to find that one true sentence (one that hits like a freight train) is worth thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.
In a grey sea of mediocre writing, one true sentence can stand out like a highlighter orange life raft.
And, the world’s most impressive brands, like Apple, are wildly aware of this. Peruse Apple’s latest landing page for their iPhone 11 pro and you won’t find paragraphs of ambiguous long-winded sales copy but instead brilliant sentence after brilliant sentence working cohesively to pull the reader down the page.
Here are the first few sentences that strike the reader like Muhammad Ali as soon as they step foot on the page…
“A transformative triple‑camera system that adds tons of capability without complexity. An unprecedented leap in battery life. And a mind‑blowing chip that doubles down on machine learning and pushes the boundaries of what a smartphone can do. Welcome to the first iPhone powerful enough to be called Pro.”
Apple, of course, isn’t the only brand aware of the power of a damn good sentence….
Basecamp writes … We’ve been expecting you.
Nike writes … Why not faster?
Airbnb writes … Book unique places to stay & things to do.
Away writes … Thoughtfully designed for modern travel.
And, these are just the sentences you see when first hitting the page, more follow in droves as you explore deeper, each one pulling you in a little further.
Now, let’s explore how to write them.
On writing one true sentence.
While I talk extensively about how to write compelling sentences like the ones above in my copywriting guide, in this article I want to share a bit of insight to get you writing in the right direction…
Here, in my opinion, are several truths to writing true sentences.
Most of the sentences you read above were under 10 words. Some of them were as short as three. If three words are good enough for Nike, they should be good enough for you, too.
Keep them simple…
True sentences are easily understood, they don’t try to impress folks with grandiose verbiage. Charles Bukowski once wrote… “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” As writers and marketers, we’re not intellectuals, we’re artists.
Keep them interesting…
If you don’t have something interesting to write (something more interesting than the last sentence you wrote), don’t write it. Most of the content you see online consists of thousands of words that say absolutely nothing. Say something. Make it something interesting. And, say it quickly.
But, as always, I digress.
(Psst… if this article made you feel some type of way I curated some of the most beautiful lines in literature here).
By Cole Schafer.
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.