Write Powerful Bullets That Your Readers Will Devour Like Starving Teenagers …

John Wood here, taking over this week of The Writer's Life.

Over the next five days, I'm going to focus on practical persuasive writing tips that will help make your writing stronger and more effective.

Today, I'm going to talk about an essential skill: bullet writing.

Bullets, of course, are an essential part of every writer's marketing arsenal.

Whether you write advertising copy for print, websites, or email, bullets are a great way to break up the text of a web page, long sales letter, or email message. They draw the eye and are a great way to pack a lot of information (and persuasion) in a small space. And that makes prospects and clients more likely to read your copy.

But knowing how to write a great bullet is a good skill to have even if you're not a sales and marketing writer. Writing them is great practice at how to quickly create curiosity and desire in your reader.

In the AWAI Masters Program, Michael Masterson writes that three or four pages of well-written bullets can do the work of eight to 16 pages of regular copy.

I'm going to focus on the four "U's" and how they can play a key role in your bullet writing success. So let's quickly review the 4 U's. You should strive to make every bullet:

  1. Communicate Urgency – Your bullet should give the reader a reason to act sooner than later.
  2. Useful to the reader – The bullet must have a value to the prospect.
  3. Suggest a Unique benefit – The bullet should only list one benefit at a time. Plus, it should be different – even if in a very small way – from everything else.
  4. Ultra-Specific – Your bullet can't be vague. A vague bullet is a product of "lazy copywriting."

To illustrate the 4 U's, I'm going to use one of the examples Michael Masterson uses in his "Accelerated Bullet Workshop" in AWAI's Masters Program:

  • Cut Your Taxes 35% to 50% by Turning Your Hobby into a Business. This "Patented" Technique Can Be Accomplished in About 2 Minutes! (Find Out Before Tax Day Rolls Around Again!)

Let's break this bullet down:

  • Cut Your Taxes 35% to 50% by Turning Your Hobby into a Business. (Ultra-Specificity)
  • This "Patented" Technique Can Be Accomplished in About 2 Minutes! (Uniqueness)
  • (Find Out Before Tax Day Rolls Around Again!) (Urgency)

Overall, the bullet is Useful for someone who is looking to cut down on the amount of taxes they pay.

So assigning one point for each of the 4 U's, this bullet would rank a 4 because it has all 4 U's. Now, you might be asking yourself, "Does every bullet I write have to rank a 4?"

The answer is no.

A rank of 4 is something you should strive for, but bullets of lesser strength also have their place.

In fact, it's important you mix perfect bullets with "imperfect" bullets (bullets that rank a 2 or 3 – but never a 1) because, in Michael's words, you "create an ebb and flow that works to relax and soothe the prospect. He senses that he is being spoken to by a real person."

He suggests you make the first two or three bullets in every series of bullets perfect. After that, one perfect bullet out of the next three or four should suffice.

When writing a sales letter, I often start by writing the bullets. If it's an information product, I read it looking for bullet opportunities. I search for interesting, benefit-oriented nuggets that are useful, unique, ultra-specific, and have the potential to create urgency.

I try to always find and write more than I'll need in the finished copy. I then edit and re-edit them until I have a good mixture of 4's, 3's, and a few 2's, discarding the 1's.

If you have any comments on today's issue, I'd love to hear them. You can post them here. Tomorrow, I'm going to show you 23 ways to write more effective bullets.

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Published: December 19, 2011

9 Responses to “Write Powerful Bullets That Your Readers Will Devour Like Starving Teenagers...”

  1. Thanks for writing this John!

    Guest (yulanda)

  2. Hi John,

    Are you writing to readers who bought 'Cooking With The Hannibal Lecter'?

    Last time I sent out a survey, the results were pretty clear: readers don't eat starving teenagers!

    Guest (Aaron)

  3. Brilliant, John! I've always liked writing bullets, but after reading your article, I've gained a better understanding of the "inner game" of how and why you write bullets. I can see how crucial it is for me to firstly have a thorough knowledge and understanding of my product, and its benefits to the reader and to maintain this kind of mindfulness when framing the bullets. Achieving that, I should be more able to effectively craft the language to bring that across. Michael Masterson's 4Us are terrific tips. Hmmm...I'm slowly getting there. :-). Thanks, John!


  4. Thank you so much for this article. I like AWAI, but may I be frank? (Because I think those in charge will want to know)... I don't always open it because the subject line isn't appealing enough. This one did appeal and you had great pointers. Thanks again.

    Deborah Owen CEO, Creative Writing Institute

    Guest (Deborah Owen)

  5. I have not arrived at this point in the course yet. This too advanced for me. I will get there, when the time comes. Thank you.

    Guest (Emmanuel Bandoh)

  6. Thank you for this article and the incentive to get focused. I bought the Masters Program a few years ago, still working on the Accelerated Six-Figure Copywriting and recently joined PMA. By joining The Professional Writers Alliance I received 'The AWAI Copywriter's Cheat Sheet'and spotted The Four U's right away. I'm looking forward to the series of articles on this subject.


  7. Interesting, informative and useful article, John. It's precise and to the point as every bullet has to be. Interested in reading more of your articles. Thanks.

    Guest (Preetinder)

  8. John, that was awesome. I have been following copywriting and internet marketing for about 11 years. I use these techniques to sell cars on Ebay and this buy far is the single best nugget of info you could have shared. Can't wait to see what you say about headlines!

    Guest (jerrethammons)

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