When you’re reading good copy, it might seem to read your mind. Sometimes it’ll call the exact thought you’re thinking but, more often, you won’t notice when copy reads your mind because it’s already guiding you to the next sentence. And the next. And so on.
There’s no exact science to making this happen. Some of it is knowing your audience. Some of it is good editing. Some of it is guesswork and intuition.
Still, we can spotlight the single best skill for writing mind-reading copy: anticipating and overcoming objections. After all, re-read the name of the skill and one translation is “trying to read minds,” right?
But this isn’t mind-reading, and it’ll be intimidating if that’s what you think you’re trying to do. You just need to see the working pieces here—and that’s easier to do if you stop for a second and realize that every complete declarative statement is an argument. That’s a bit hyperbolic, but still accurate; every statement about the world is a contestable claim, even if 80% of all “arguments” are simple observations nobody bothers to argue over.
If you keep this in mind, you’ll start to notice which phrases are simple observation and which ones go out on some kind of limb. For examples of the latter, let’s identify the three most “questionable” claims we’ve made so far (and how we’ve managed them):
That anticipating and overcoming objections is the “single best skill for writing mind-reading copy.” The phrase ‘single best’ is an emphatic superlative — a “selling phrase,” if you will — so we made sure that the sentence after this claim could squarely answer the claim somehow.
That “every complete declarative statement is an argument.” This isn’t a claim readers are likely to contest on its face; they’re likelier to think “OK, but what’s the point?” So in this case, we were just couching a bit; we gave context beforehand and clarification afterward.
That specifically 80% of all arguments are simple, uncontested observations. As a ballpark figure, this probably won’t raise many eyebrows. Still, it’s curious whenever people pick specific figures like 80% instead of generic words like “most,” so we’ll just say this seemed like a fair application of the 80/20 Rule.
Having underscored three places where we’ve anticipated and (hopefully) overcome objections, let’s convert them into three handy tips for doing the same mind-reading work in your own copy:
🔁 Use the “restatement trick” after your boldest claims. The easiest way to draft a bold, out-on-a-limb claim is to (1) just say it, flat out, and then (2) validate it as clearly and directly as possible starting with the word because. We call it “the restatement trick” because, if you quickly restate the claim and then add because, whatever comes next will have to get straight to the point for skeptical readers. (The previous sentence uses a version of its own advice.)
Clarification: This is drafting advice, more than writing advice, because this just helps the right ideas wind up on the page. You might choose to keep this setup in the copy (see paragraph above) OR you might edit it out once it’s helped you find the real point you’re making. For instance, in paragraph 3, the “After all” sentence was originally drafted using “It’s the [best skill] because” as the setup.
🧲 Be careful with superlatives and other “oh really?” phrases. In case you don’t know, superlatives are the top-shelf examples of something, usually words ending in -est like “best” and “biggest.” Because superlatives are by definition singular spots, they’re most often right-or-wrong claims (quickly verifiable in the Google Era) or bald statements of opinion. Hence, superlatives are the prime example of what we call Oh Really? Phrases — which, when you read them, prompt little jolts of skepticism like “you might be overstating this” or “I wonder if you fact-checked that.” Numbers are another big category here; numbers are precise by their nature, and can therefore prompt readers to wonder about their accuracy.
😇 Make it easy to agree with most individual statements you make. We should temper this one carefully because, if taken to its logical extreme, your content would become more of the fluffy, say-nothing filler we skim past on a daily basis. A few of your statements should NOT be immediately obvious or agreeable, and those should be the interesting things you say (and they should be easy to spot). But whenever a sentence is not making one of your fierier claims, it should be supporting one — because the boring stuff supports the novel stuff, not the other way around.
As a word in closing: how should you handle the “controversial” parts, where you know your readers won’t be nodding in unison yet? To borrow Taylor Mali’s three most important words: speak with conviction. (If you need some motivation and guidance, the link is 1000% worth your time.) If you’re confident in the point you’re making, then say it like you know it — because you do know it! — and the audience will stick around to hear you out.