These 10 Words Ended 400 Years of Poverty

In Use The Right Words by Chad FahlmanLeave a Comment

A sentence can change history.

Puerto Rico had starved most of its existence. In the 1940s, Governor Munoz planned to make it an industrialized nation. The rub? He needed foreign investment.

Munoz offered businesses severe tax breaks. But, someone had to get the ball rolling. An island dependent on farming is a hard sell.

Enter David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy was hired to write a piece enticing investors. The result was a total economic transformation within 16 years!

I’ll show you what he wrote and why it worked.

Now Puerto Rico Offers 100% Tax Exemption to New Industry

Huh? It looks like a normal sentence. Yet, marketers study it as 1 of the greatest headlines written. Ogilvy himself said:

…The greatest professional satisfaction I have yet had is to see the prosperity in Puerto Rican communities which had lived on the edge of starvation for four hundred years before I wrote my advertisement. If I had confined myself to a few vacuous generalities, nothing would’ve happened.

Headlines are like asking out your crush. They’ve judged you within seconds! You must arouse their curiosity to have a shot. That’s why click-bait works – it doesn’t matter if the content sucks.

Think you’ve got an awesome Kickstarter or barn-burning sale? Mastering headlines gets your foot in the door. Let’s break it down into 4 schmoozy secrets you can use.

Schmoozy Secret #1: Know your audience, speak their language.

Most people don’t even understand taxes. Telling a business owner they don’t pay any tax is like saying you’ve found a unicorn. It’s the difference between operating at all, sometimes.

Had Ogilvy merely stated that Puerto Rico wanted business, the response would have been, “So what?” He knew taxation was a top concern.

Suppose your business is hot yoga. The average person won’t respond to words like ‘vinyasa’ (I had to look it up). You’re not speaking their language! But, did you know that 350 people worldwide have arthritis? It so happens that yoga treats their ailment. Your next promotion might exclaim:

“Cure your Arthritis Naturally in 10 Classes.”
Disclaimer: I’m just throwing a number out there. Your headline must be accurate.

If your ideal client already does yoga, cool!

Schmoozy Secret #2: Brevity is the soul of wit.

David kept it short. Research says that 16-18 words are ideal for English headlines. Deliver your message in as few words needed.

Schmoozy Secret #3: Our brains love numbers.

Ogilvy intuitively knew 100% grabs attention.

Think back to the last article you read. There’s a significant chance a number appeared in the headline. People don’t read, they scan text. Digits help us process information.

“Owning A Pitbull Makes You a Better Person” is vague, but, “7 Ways Owning A Pitbull Makes You a Better Person,” tells readers exactly what to expect. Numbers promise a specific outcome.

In fact, using 7 is like adding MSG to a dish. Psychology Today reports that our brains remembers things in 7’s.

Schmoozy Secret #4: Using emotional words.

Everybody wants something new. We associate value with newness. New is a competitive advantage, juicy gossip, or status symbol. New makes people salivate! It’s not a coincidence we are bombarded with ads for new products.

The best headlines reuse certain words. They are said to have high emotional value.

Choosing emotional words is a bit of an art. Fortunately, the Advanced Marketing Institute has whipped up a headline analyzer. They’ll reveal a headlines potential to connect emotionally with 3 measures.

  1. Intellectual
  2. Empathetic
  3. Spiritual

Let’s plug Ogilvy’s masterpiece into the analyzer!

Ogilvy headline EMV Score

A solid score! Great headlines are between 30%-40%. 

This post’s own headline scores at 37.50%. If we remove the word ‘these’, it drops to 28.57%. ‘These’ reinforces the value of Ogilvy’s 10 words.

Be prepared to throw out your English teachers advice because adjectives are a powerful tool. The best advice I can give you is to study click-bait. Do you see familiar words? Think about why you clicked through.

$1,000,000 blogger Neil Patel has compiled a list of 14 effective words.


Headline writing is an essential skill in our digital era. You can make a living persuading people to read content or engage with a service. Got a sales pitch, blog post, kickstarter, or anything requiring a headline? Run your headline by me in the comments below. I normally charge $20 per headline but I offer it to you dear readers for free.

Then, please share this article with anyone you know whom struggles to promote themselves. Catch you on the flip side!

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