85 Open Loop Methods To Hook Your Reader And Keep Their Attention

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into the biggest problems all writers face stopping them from writing on the internet, building an audience, and monetizing their writing.

(And, of course, if you want to defeat these problems and master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to help you hook and keep your reader’s attention all the way down the page.

The best writing creates a slippery slope.

The headline grabs attention and intrigues the reader. Then they read the first sentence. And then it jumps straight into the action. The reader keeps going.

They build momentum all the way down the page, line after line.

Readers Are Finicky Little Devils, But You Can Charm Them With This Tiny Writer’s Secret.


Here it is:

Open Loops.

I will tell you what they are in a minute.

First, let’s talk about Closed Loops. A Closed Loop feels complete. It’s neat. It’s fully packaged. Do you know how many bones there are in the human foot? Here’s your answer: 26 (and 33 joints). Loop closed. You’re satisfied.

An Open Loop, on the other hand, raises a question, it holds a mystery, or provokes curiosity without immediately giving you the answer.

The “revelation” is delayed to pull the reader along. Writers dangle words, scenarios, implications or conclusions without instantly satisfying your curiosity. Feels like a sneaky trick, right? It’s not.

This is the art of the Open Loop.

But why would you want to withhold things from the reader?! Isn’t that the point of writing, to fulfill a promise—to give the reader what they came for? Yes. BUT…

Let me tell you.

The Number 1 Benefit To Leveraging Open Loops That Most Writers Forget

We already talked about momentum.

But what does that translate into?


By raising questions and delaying complete information, you create momentum that pulls the reader through your writing. Which makes your writing interesting, engaging, and fun to read.

The mistake most writers make is they move you from point to point in a logical, well-organized BORING manner. The content could be amazing, but if you fail to hold the reader’s attention with open loops, you’re leaving any hard-earned attention from your headline on the table.

Open loops keep the reader's attention focused on your content.

Use These 5 Open Loop Techniques To Pull Your Reader “Gently” Down The Page

You can use several techniques to create open loops in your writing:

1. Ask Questions In Headlines And Openings

Ask an intriguing question in your headline that readers will want the answer to. For example:

"Does This Startup Hold the Key to Lasting Happiness And A Life Of Simplicity?"

After a strong headline, the opening sentence is the next moment to grab attention. Raise a new question or unresolved idea here that readers will feel compelled to keep reading to fully understand. Like this:

"In 2019, one scrappy startup generated over $10 million in revenue without a single employee."

2. Make A Bold Claim Without Immediate Evidence

Make a bold claim at the start of a section that raises curiosity about how you support it.

For example:

  • "The most successful people in the world wake up before 6 AM - here's why..."
  • “If you can tell a story, you can change the world.”
  • “This isn’t what most MBAs teach, but the most profitable businesses are boring.”

3. Use Visual Cues Like Colons And Lists

Use visual formatting to create open loops:

  • Colons
  • Asterisks
  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists

For example:

"Here are the 3 elements of copy that actually drives conversions:

  • Element 1: _______
  • Element 2: _______
  • Element 3: _______

See how your eye is drawn down the page to read each point?

4. Connect Sections With Bridge Phrases

Use open loops in transitions between sections or ideas to maintain momentum.

For instance:

"Now that we've covered X, let's turn our attention to Y - something you might not expect that changed everything for me."

"While X is important, there's another key factor I haven't mentioned yet. Hint: it took me years to figure this one out."

End one section with a cliffhanger or unanswered question that the next section will resolve.

5. Repeat Key Words And Phrases

Repeating a key word or phrase from the end of one section at the start of the next creates continuity that pulls the reader along. For example, ending one paragraph with "the key to productivity" and starting the next with that same phrase links them logically.

It’s easier than you think.

85 Different Open Loop Mechanisms You Can Start Using Today

Do a little googling and you’ll find terms like: Open Loop, Slippery Slide, Seeds of Curiosity, and Bucket Brigade to describe this concept.

Don’t let any of these fancy words get in the way of understanding how this works. An Open Loop is simply words and phrases that when presented to a reader make them move to the next word, line, sentence, or paragraph. Think of the last piece of writing that captured your attention. Scan the below list and see if you notice any of the following 85 mechanisms working in the content. There’s a good chance a lot of the phrases and words are present.

Take a look:

Ask a question.

  1. So what’s the point?
  2. What’s the bottom line?
  3. Want to know the best part?
  4. What does this mean for you?
  5. Can I be completely honest with you?

Get in the readers’ head.

  1. Let me guess.
  2. You might be wondering.
  3. It’s easier than you think.
  4. I know what you’re thinking.
  5. But why should you trust me?

Empathize with the reader.

  1. I’ve been there too.
  2. Maybe you’re like me.
  3. I know what that feels like.

Use a starter phrase.

  1. So
  2. And
  3. Once
  4. Truth is
  5. Turns out
  6. Think about it

Answer a question.

  1. Here’s a clue.
  2. Yes, you’re right. Here’s why.
  3. No, that’s wrong. Here’s why.
  4. The correct answer might surprise you.

Simplify a difficult concept.

  1. Stay with me. This gets interesting.
  2. Let me explain.
  3. Here’s what that means in layman’s terms.
  4. Here’s an example.
  5. Here’s another way to think about it.
  6. Picture it this way.

Use logic.

  1. Because
  2. Now that
  3. This means
  4. Here's why
  5. As a result of

Hold back information.

  1. I’ll explain how to do this in a minute.
  2. Read on to find out what I discovered.
  3. You’ll never believe what happened next.
  4. I’m going to share a secret with you.
  5. More about that later.
  6. Don’t worry. There’s a solution.

Build suspense.

  1. Then it hit me.
  2. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
  3. You won’t believe what he told me.
  4. I was soon to find out.
  5. That’s when everything spiraled out of control.
  6. But something was wrong.
  7. It gets better.
  8. That’s when I
  9. We were supposed to
  10. I was about to
  11. Or so we thought
  12. Everything was about to...until suddenly
  13. And then I realized
  14. But what if

Warn about danger.

  1. But first, beware.
  2. It just gets worse.
  3. But there’s a catch.
  4. A word of caution.

Signal a transition.

  1. So
  2. Initially
  3. And yet
  4. Moreover
  5. What’s more

Use a bridge phrase.

  1. But
  2. And Yet
  3. So read on
  4. Let me explain
  5. Which brings me to the next point

Use a mirror phrase.

  1. Either... or...
  2. Just as... so to...
  3. Not only... but also...
  4. In that case... but in this case...
  5. To understand X, we must first know Y

Even more triggers to stimulate curiosity.

  1. Now..
  2. Meanwhile
  3. Here’s why this a big deal...
  4. Here’s I know how this to be true
  5. The point is
  6. What’s that got to do with you
  7. So read on.
  8. But I didn’t stop there.
  9. Let me explain.
  10. Now here comes the good part.
  11. It’s the same as
  12. It’s like

Now that you know what Open Loops are and you’ve seen what language creates them, you can start to use them in your writing.

But before you do, here’s one last thing you need to do.

Remember: Close Any Loop You Open

You need both open and closed loops.

The key is finding the right balance between the two. Start with an open loop in the headline or first sentence. Make a compelling promise or raise a fascinating question. Then quickly resolve that initial curiosity within the first few paragraphs or section so readers feel satisfied enough to keep going.

Continue to use open loops throughout the body copy to maintain interest.

  • Ask (and answer) questions
  • Highlight knowledge gaps
  • Tease upcoming content

Close each open loop within 1-3 paragraphs.

Don't leave readers hanging too long or they may disengage out of frustration. Include a final closed loop in the last sentence or section to provide a sense of completion and leave readers feeling their curiosity was ultimately satisfied.

The goal is to stimulate just enough ongoing curiosity to pull readers through while regularly providing little bursts of satisfaction.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Enjoyed this edition? Click here to share it on Twitter!

You might also like...