They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play!~
See it? Right at the end? That's the thing I'm borrowing from the famous advertisement copywriter John Caples wrote. His 1926 ad for the U.S. School of Music was a great headline then, and it's a great headline now. And that little thing at the end - the "tilde" (~) is, I think, one of the reasons why.
Oh, there are other reasons it's a great headline. Reasons like ...
It tells a story.
There's a beginning, middle and end in those 15 little words. There's the time that begins the story (when he sits down), the time when he starts to play (the middle of the story), and then there's an ending that's alluded to but not seen in the headline. But it is the alluding to, the hinting of the end of the story (a happy ending?), that grabs our attention and pulls us through, that makes us want to read more.
It's the punctuation that speaks volumes.
The little tilde symbol after the exclamation mark is reminiscent of musical notation, so very appropriate for the ad's offer of a free booklet and demonstration lesson to learn to play your favorite instrument. Instead of using the more common ellipsis, which often inspires a feeling of melancholy or longing, Caples ends his headline with a bang and flourish.
Or maybe his creative director or the designer put the "~" in the headline.
Whoever did it was pure genius.
Maybe they laughed at first, but then!~ Then what did they do? Did they cheer, clap or roar with delight? Did they boo or cry?
You've got to read on to find out what happened next.
Some of the best headlines I've seen lately in the world of social media
They're coming my way via my Facebook feed from Upworthy. Headlines like:
A Teacher Shows A Bunch Of Kids What They Gained By Failing Their First Test
What If All The Crap You've Ever Thrown Away Came Back To Visit You?
Oh Snap! The Government Just Got Put On Notice ... By An 8th-Grader.
Here's A Kid Who’s Determined To Get His Voice Heard Now. When He’s An Adult, It’ll Be Too Late.
This Family Has Been Basing Their Life On 5 Words Since 1916
A TV Host’s Response To An Intolerant Jerk Isn’t Clever Or Witty. It’s Just Absolutely Perfect.
All of these headlines evoke curiosity and are coupled with a video. They make you want to click and watch the video until the end, to see the punchline or get the pay-off, much like the famous John Caples headline from 1926.
I write headlines for a living - subheads, banner heads, blurbs, body copy, footnotes, disclaimers, and directional copy, too. And I think I'm going to give the ellipsis a break for now. I've been using it a little too much. Time for the tilde!~