Question-Answer features

These fillers have been around print products almost as long as publications have existed. Why?

Some experts speculate that it’s hard for a reader to see any group of words that ends in a question mark without looking at the next sentence. And as you know, advice columns have long been popular in newspapers and magazines.

Of course, you could write an advice feature, or a series of them. If you’re an interior decorator, many people may already be asking you for advice. So creating a regular column in your local media could be a great way to attract even more clients.

Or — for a stand-alone story — you might begin your feature with an intriguing headline. Example: “What is today’s most popular lamp style?”

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Offer positive thoughts

This series of questions can all be answered with the same two words. Here come the questions:

What helps us remember great childhood stories? Why do we recall radio and television advertising? What do most of Aesop’s fables teach us? Why do we buy a certain brand of shampoo, or soap, or shirt, or shoes?

The answer? Each offer positive solutions. At the end of the story or advertisement, we’re given a solution that makes us happy, or solves a problem, or enhances our lives in some way.

If you must propose a problem in a story you write, can you tell the reader how to solve that problem, or where to search for an answer…or at least leave the reader with a happy thought or teach them something?

Goldilocks encountered several problems in the three bears’ house. But on the plus side, she learned not to enter homes where she wasn’t invited.

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Repeat performance

Imagine yourself in an elevator. As you step aboard, you hear some old song. When the door opens again, and you walk out singing it.

Why is this? Maybe because (1) it’s simple, (2) the chorus repeats, and (3) it either surprises you, or tells you a memorable story.

Now, think back to some of humankind’s “greatest hits”…the timeless messages people repeat to one another. Want examples?

Edgar Allan Poe’s enthralling poem “The Raven” ends several stanzas with the line “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” Or listen to some radio commercials, and hear how many repeat a phone number or web site.

Repetition can build memorability. But…I’m repeating myself, right?

Got a question for Rix? E-mail him at

Persuasive words

It’s reported that a major university conducted a study to find the English language’s 12 most persuasive words. They were:

(1) you, (2) money, (3) save, (4) new, (5) results, (6) easy, (7) health, (8) safety, (9) love, (10) discovery, (11) proven, and (12) guarantee.

I’ve also been told that the strongest word in a headline is the verb. And many claim the more active the verb, the better! Would these action words enhance school paper and theme headings, too? Probably.

 Which heading would make you read more? “John Player wins game with touchdown” or “John Player’s diving catch clinches playoffs.”

Please send me the strongest headline you’ve ever written for a story or essay. My e-mail is

Where are your archives?

A historian asked a question the other day that turned my world upside down.

“Where,” he asked his audience, “will future generations store their greatest documents if everything is stored electronically?”

I never see paper or books going completely away, because humans still have reasons to write things down, and to read and retain printed materials. So — in today’s multimedia society — the larger question becomes “We generate lots and lots of data, but what’s the most important to retain?”

One logical answer: Make everything you write memorable in some way. Aesop did this by teaching lessons with each story. Dale Carnegie offered wonderful tips in his book on “How to win friends and influence people.” Leonardo deVinci both drew and described his futuristic inventions.

It’s a tall assignment…but think about creating something memorable every time you sit down to write.

Look at Rix’s new booK; How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message