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Star-Chain-Hook: A Simple (and Persuasive) Content Writing Formula

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Star-Chain-Hook is a simple but easy-to-use content writing formula.

Its brevity makes this delightful little formula ideal for email and other short-form content. 

Like other writing formulas, this one provides a handy outline or template for you to follow. But Star-Chain-Hook is unique among persuasive formulas because it focuses on a series of positive, upbeat facts and logic to get the reader to act. 

Star-Chain-Hook: It’s a Word Picture

The Star-Chain-Hook: a simple and persuasive #ContentWriting formula with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #FreelanceWriting #WritingTips

Star-Chain-Hook was created way back at the beginning of the twentieth century by Dr. Frank Dignan of the University of Chicago Press. 

It has stood the test of time, in part, because the formula follows “The Rule of Three.” Three the smallest number by which humans can organize information in our minds. And of course, Star-Chain-Hook has three parts.

That means Star-Chain-Hook is easy for writers to process and put into practice.

But further, each of these three elements is a metaphor that we can picture in our minds as we write. 

1. Star

A star is a movie headliner or a large ball of burning gas in the heavens . Either way, a star captures attention. Think of the “star” of your content as your Big Idea. It’s the main point of your piece. Your Big Idea seizes interest or is positive, upbeat, or intriguing. The key is to present your Big Idea – your star – right at the top of your piece. And focus on just one Big Idea (one star) rather than a whole galaxy. 

Example of a Big Idea: “Golden retrievers are among the most intelligent, easy-to-train canines.”

2. Chain

A chain is series of convincing facts, benefits, sources, reasons, and proof that give credibility to the Big Idea. As you move from your opening Big Idea, (“star”), present a series of interesting facts to create a persuasive argument in a sequence. Each link needs to be strong enough to lead the reader to the next one, ultimately to the final Ask (Hook).

Example of a Chain: “Golden retrievers are able to learn a command in less than five repetitions. In fact, goldens can begin to retrieve objects when they are less than eight weeks old. Even your adult golden can learn commands when you know how to prompt them.”

3. Hook

The hook is the call to action. If you’ve drilled down to one Big Idea at the top of your piece and then created a credible chain of persuasive facts, then you will only need a short hook to convince the reader to take action. And a clear hook (one that offers an additional piece of credibility) can reel in a reader, even if there’s a weak link or two in the chain.

Example of a Hook: “Click here to see how to help your golden retriever learn three basic commands. And let me know if you have any questions.”

Notice what the formula does not include: negative scare tactics. Star-Chain-Hook focuses on giving the reader a systematic, helpful facts to persuade her to take action.

An Example of Star-Chain-Hook

I’ve had good luck with this landing page, which follows the Star-Chain-Hook format.

Example of Star-Chain-Hook content writing formula with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #FreelanceWriting #Copywriting #WritingTips

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