Why You Need a Compelling Key Sentence

Friday 08 February 2019 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

In the early days of my publishing career, I used to go on the road with sales reps to experience the reality of selling the books I’d been responsible for commissioning authors to write.

It was a sobering experience.

The appointments often took place in busy bookshops and were regularly interrupted by deliveries arriving or customers asking questions.

Information Overload

Gaining the full attention of distracted buyers was a real challenge.

On top of that, there were so many new books to present, it was impossible to share all of the details and enthusiasm we had for each one.

Plus, the buyers would meet several reps from different publishing houses each day so were permanently suffering from information overload.

Fast Decisions

They developed strategies for making fast decisions based on criteria such as the all-important author’s profile and track record, as well as the popularity of the topic for their customers.

Some of the most successful buyers also used their intuition, even if they didn’t call it that, and this was especially the case with first-time authors and new topics.

If they had a feeling that a book was worth “taking a risk on” they would “give it a go” in the knowledge that they could always return copies which didn’t sell.

Yet this might lead to them taking just one or two books that would be placed amongst thousands of others!

Essential Information

Systems and processes have changed dramatically since then, and today the reliance on digital data is at an all-time high.

Yet the principle of needing to communicate the essential information about a creative or business project to potentially interested parties (publishers, readers, journalists, clients, sponsors and investors) is more important than ever before.

Attention spans are continuing to contract at an alarming rate and information overload is a major issue in the workplace and in life generally.

Minimum Time

The solution for writers and experts in all disciplines is to craft what I call a compelling key sentence (or two!)

This is a summary which encapsulates the most important and relevant qualities of whatever you’re inviting others to take seriously so they understand the maximum amount of information in the minimum period of time.

It’s the equivalent of the elevator pitch that professionals use for moments when the opportunity arises to explain their latest project, or the sound bite that journalists love to capture the essence of what’s been said in an interview.

Refined Form

Crafting a compelling key sentence isn’t easy because you’re likely to be so close to your work that it’s hard to judge what to include and what to leave out.

Yet it’s absolutely worth the time and effort it takes to distil your core message into a succinct and refined form.

Then it’s a matter of learning it by heart so you can communicate it effortlessly and naturally when scheduled or spontaneous opportunities come your way.

Three Questions

There are a number of different approaches for coming up with your compelling key sentence. One good way is to reflect on the following three questions in relation to your book or business idea. What…

  • Is original or differently presented from your point of view as the writer or creator?
  • Benefits and outcomes will your audience experience, feel or know as a result?
  • Is the relevance to what’s happening currently or in the process of emerging?

Here’s an example which describes the essence of my book Conscious Writing, the primary benefits for the reader and its significance for the requirements of the market today:

Conscious Writing is a holistic and transformative approach to discovering your true voice by learning how to write from your unconditioned inner core which is naturally creative and fundamentally free of judgment and fear.

With the importance of authenticity at an all-time high, the best way to stand out from the crowd and ensure your voice is heard is to show up as the real you – on the page and in the world.

Clear Perspective

My final tip is to use second or third person rather than first person language as this will help you to step back from the detail and get a clear perspective on what’s truly important to share.

Take every chance to practise using it till you feel it’s as accurate and powerful as it can be for now, and be open to feedback from trusted friends and colleagues.

Preparation is the key, so having a compelling key sentence clear in your mind means you’ll be confident and ready to present your work with the best possible chance of success when the moment to do so arrives.

How easy do you find it to give a succinct answer to the question, “What’s your book / business project about?” Please share your comments below. Thank you!


    • Yes, it is difficult to do Jeanine. The questions, “What am I writing about and why?” are a great starting point, thanks for sharing those. Work in progress indeed, and endlessly open for further refinement!

    • As I reached the end of the post, it did occur to me that an example would be helpful Ruthie. However, in all honest, I’d run out of time because I realized that what I wrote for my book Conscious Writing several years ago could do with an update! So I’ll share a new version in the next day or so.

  • As promised, I’ve added an example for my book “Conscious Writing” into the post. I wouldn’t descrobe it as “perfect” but it does convey the key points in a nutshell and could easily be adapted for spoken as well as written scenarios.

    I hope this helps you see possibilities for crafting your own compelling key sentence(s)!

  • Thanks, Julia! I don’t know how I missed this article earlier, but it is exactly what I needed to read. I appreciate your sharing your experiences in order to assist us in our creative projects.

    • Aha! Well I’m glad you’ve come across it now Melinda and it sounds like perfect timing. Enjoy your current creative project(s)!

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