Of course, you know what comes next.
There’s a trick to a good knock-knock joke, though. A good one turns the conversation around and makes you think of the phrase in a new way. It’s never anything you might expect — or at least, it shouldn’t be.
Pattern interruptions work in a similar way. So, while you may not want to use a knock-knock joke, you can still stun readers out of complacency and make them pay attention.
In this article, you’ll learn about pattern interruptions, how they work, and the different types. You’ll get tons of examples, too. By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll know how to write some much more exciting copy.
A pattern interruption is a technique derived from Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). While NLP may sound a little far-fetched, the psychology behind it and the potential for manipulation are sound.
In a nutshell, it’s a tried-and-true, effective sales trick you can use in your copy to regain your reader’s attention. It’s the perfect thing to use when they might be getting bored and drifting off.
Pattern interrupts change your audience’s mental, psychological, or emotional state. Like any approach to persuasion, it manipulates the viewer’s perception of the product or service you’re trying to sell or explain.
Learn more about NLP copywriting techniques here.
Have you ever driven on a highway by yourself at night, with no interesting scenery to break your attention? You may have felt yourself starting to drift away.
We call this highway hypnosis.
Dull, predictable copy has the same effect. Every line is predictable. You’ve read articles just like it a hundred times before. Pretty soon, you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner.
The human brain is trained to look for patterns and allow our thoughts to recede into the background. It’s like auto-pilot for your awareness.
By relegating one task to the background, you free up precious resources to perform other tasks essential to your survival.
It’s supposed to make your brain more efficient, but like most advantages, it also has a negative side. So let’s think about that car ride again.
An old song comes up on the Internet radio, and it’s one you haven’t heard in a while. You think about the last person you heard this song with. You wonder what they’re up to. Maybe you should look them up on Instagram when you get home.
A deer appears on the road.
You manage to swerve out of the way just in time.
Now you’re wide awake. This is how a pattern interruption works.
Something unexpected happens, and your unconscious driving process returns to the foreground.
You’re not thinking about your senior prom; you’re wondering how far you have to turn to avoid hitting the animal in the road without driving off the highway. You’re now fully aware of your surroundings and paying attention to them.
Obviously, when you use a pattern interrupt, it doesn’t have to be something scary like a potential car accident. Pattern interrupts can be funny, endearing, or evoke fond memories.
The goal is to interrupt the pattern your brain naturally forms whenever something is monotonous and bring your awareness back to the forefront.
It could be a gif, or a joke, or an unexpected question. Maybe it’s something more professional, like a blockquote or a graph.
Just make sure that your pattern interrupt is appropriate for your audience. You want to catch their attention, but you don’t want to derail the conversation completely.
Neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP, is like taking a step that isn’t there. Have you ever been walking along the sidewalk, not paying attention, and accidentally slipped on a banana peel?
No? Well, maybe that only happens in the movies. The point is, the banana peel wasn’t expected. It jolts the walker out of complacency.
Telemarketers and other salespeople on the phone use this frequently. Imagine someone calls you up, identifies themselves, and asks, “How are you today?”
You might wonder who this person is and why they’re so interested in knowing how you are. Maybe you start talking about yourself, or that brief moment of confusion is enough to give them the chance to squeeze in a sales pitch.
They could even say something funny, like “Don’t worry, I’m not here to sell you anything” or “I promise this will only take three minutes of your time.”
Anything to stop the respondent long enough to hold their attention and get through the rest of your pitch.
No, this doesn’t have anything to do with Adam Sandler. It’s a more advanced technique in pattern interruptions for you to employ.
The Sandler Sales Method doesn’t just shake up the reader, it flips the script. You essentially turn your thinking around and ask why they’re coming to you in the first place.
For example, in a sales situation, you’d answer their questions with an inquiry as to the purpose of the question. If this sounds evasive, it can be, but there’s a polite way to do it.
Or better yet, pretend you’re in a job interview. The employer has just asked you how much money you expect to make. You could give a range, or you could ask, “How much do YOU think I should be paid? What sounds reasonable to you?”
The Sandler Sales Method isn’t just about shaking the listener up a little bit. It’s about flipping the script entirely.
Ask for the deeper intention of the question, and then answer to that intention.
You might be writing copy and thinking of it as a one-way deal. But part of the magic of modern media is that everything can be a dialogue between reader and writer.
People write in, comment, or otherwise interact with the content you provide. You can always come back and beef up your argument. It’s a dynamic process.
Tons of business professionals get hundreds of e-mails a day. Even some personal e-mail accounts get that much action.
So, if you want your email to be opened and read, the smart thing to do is to use pattern interruptions. They help you stand out against that wall of text so that viewers will click and read the letter itself.
This explains why Bath and Bodyworks uses emojis in their subject headers. That works well for a fun, whimsical store that sells lotions, soaps, and candles. Other light-hearted brands can use this idea.
You can also create an open loop by starting with a question. The bolder, the better. It could be something they’ve always wondered (and they’re dying to know the answer to), or it could be nonsensical.
Maybe it’s a common myth that everyone takes for granted. We’ve all heard about the “fight or flight” instinct that animals feel when they sense danger.
But what about the other option? “Freeze.” The deer that you almost hit in our earlier example would have frozen "like a deer caught in the headlights," so to speak.
How do we fight this urge to freeze? They can open your e-mail to find out.
You can even try keyboard characters that don’t get used as often. This breaks the visual pattern of the page. When was the last time you saw a plus sign in an e-mail subject line? What about an ampersand?
Consider using shorter headlines—just a word or two. You can use a template to insert the reader’s name, but that’s been overused over the years.
If nothing else, using a headline like “Why haven’t you clicked me lately?” will almost guarantee to pique their interest and give you another shot at getting their attention.
You might be eager to try this cool new “swish” technique now that you’ve read about it. However, be careful. If you use a pattern interruption poorly, it will make your argument weaker, not stronger.
Maybe you want to put a dancing banana gif in the middle of your copy. It’s cute, and it will get attention. But consider your audience.
If you’re writing in the B2B context, you really shouldn’t get too outrageous. It’s good to break up patterns, but not to the extent that it subtracts from your message.
Stick to block quotes, stories, illustrations, and charts to break the monotony and recapture the audience’s attention when it’s a more serious or formal setting. You don’t want to sing “it’s peanut butter jelly time” at a funeral.
Shouting at your audience will definitely get your attention, but is it effective? Hurling insults won’t win you any favors. Don’t try to shame people into buying your product or service.
Don’t say things to make them feel bad, and expect them to listen to your point of view and take the actions you’re suggesting to them.
Saying something like “I’m like the crypt keeper!” in your anti-aging serum might draw attention to the problem at hand, but it’s pretty brutal. No one wants to feel insulted or bullied into buying a product.
We all know someone who adds pepper to everything. Maybe it’s your dad, grandpa, or someone else in your family. They have to do that because they’ve put pepper on everything for so long. It’s become the new norm, the baseline their tastebuds expect. They may as well have never started using pepper at all.
Like any seasoning, overusing a flavor enhancer like a pattern interruption will spoil the recipe. If someone’s shouting random things or flashing too many images, eventually, the viewer checks out and stops paying attention completely.
So, try to space them about every 600 words or so. Don’t mess up the substance of your copy by shifting their attention too often. You’re not just there to scream “Boo!” and give them a jump start. Even a scary movie can have too many of those.
Remember, it’s not just about creating a “swish” effect. You want to reframe the subject and make them think of it in a different way. Posting a random picture of a banana may be delicious, but in most cases, it isn’t going to help you get what you want out of the interaction.
Avoid these copywriting mistakes that will sabotage your conversion rates.
You’re probably thinking, “Okay, you’ve told me what NOT to do. What should I do instead?”
Pattern interruptions could be simple transitional sentences to help slide your copy to the next paragraph. We call this a “bucket brigade” or “grease-slide copy.”
As you probably know, good copywriting combines creative writing skills with a basic knowledge of psychology. This technique captures the readers’ interest and keeps them engaged.
If someone asks you a question, don’t you immediately want to know the answer? The ancient Greeks called this technique “hypophora” or “carrying under.”
Use hypophora to remind the reader of a pain point they’ve been struggling with and provide a solution.
Let’s use an old example. “Are you tired of dishpan hands?” The rest of the copy explains how you can prevent them.
Just remember to use empathy and inclusive language. It’s not the 70s. It’s not only housewives who do the dishes.
Use a clear CTA and powerful verbs to underline your argument.
Try these questions:
Later, you might want to close the loop with an answer. Some phrases you could use to slide things along are:
Remember, pattern interruptions are there to break up long passages and “wake up” the reader before they get too complacent.
Getting inside their head works wonders. Showing empathy captures your author’s attention.
Specific numbers and percentages break up your text and support your argument. Visually, the numbers stand out from the usual content and grab your attention.
For fun, let’s consider some examples.
This goes without saying, but just a reminder: back these claims with research. Don’t state something without proving it somehow. Instead, examine your buyer personas and determine which figures are the most relevant to your intended viewers.
In this article, you'll learn about powerful psychological triggers you should use in your copy.
In direct correspondence, you can plug in personal details such as the customer’s name. Small touches like this get their attention and make them feel like you’re talking just to them.
It’s like when you’re writing a cover letter for a job application — you don’t want to just use a generic letter. You want to have the name of the job, the company, and the specific qualifications to the position.
Doing research and using the right buyer personas make the audience feel that you understand and appreciate the pain points they’ve encountered. It forges a connection that readers find irresistible.
Social media allows you to access an almost limitless amount of information about your customer. Cookies make it easy to track.
But use discretion — don’t use lines like “How was little Tommy’s soccer practice yesterday?” to appeal to your customer.
Getting TOO specific may put them off and make them feel uncomfortable.
Not only does a pattern interrupt break the flow of an article, video, or podcast, it increases the “dwell time” a search engine records for your page.
To better understand what this means, let’s recap some information you already know: Google tracks how long a user stays on a site that they reached through their search function.
They use this information, in part, to determine the rankings for their much-coveted SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages.)
Don’t confuse this with a bounce rate. A bounce rate keeps track of how many people leave or “bounce” from a page they’ve accessed in any old way. Dwell time applies only to SERPs.
The click-through rate is how many people click on the search result. What happens next is the dwell time. It’s important to make that distinction when tracking your statistics.
Learn these strategies to make your copy more persuasive.
NLP, or Neuro-linguistic programming, deals with periodic “interruptions” to a pattern. The idea is that you can wake your audience up and make them pay more attention to the rest of your words. Don’t allow their minds to become lazy. Shake them out of their rut.
About every 600 words or so, break it up into easier-to-digest pieces. You don’t want to spoil the effect by using too much of a good thing, or they’ll end up taking it for granted again.
You can produce pattern interrupts in many ways:
And many more. Don’t forget to use pattern interruptions that are appropriate for the piece. You want to get readers’ attention, not turn them off.
Be granular whenever possible. Use your well-researched buyer personas to choose pattern interruptions that appeal to the right audience.
Turn a topic or question on its head. If you wanted to use the Sandler Sales method, try thinking of whatever question the reader might have at any point.
It might be something as simple as “But wait, why should I care?” or “What’s in it for me?”
What does the reader want? They’re looking for value. You’re there to explain the benefits, but how much impact does your product really have?
Will following your financial program make you a millionaire by the time you’re thirty? Or will it allow you to take that dream vacation you’ve always wanted?
While you want to get inside their heads if possible, you want to make sure that you’re not making your audience feel bad. Don’t scold or shame the reader into doing what you want them to do
PAS (Problem, Agitation, Solution) says to expand upon the problem to make the solution that much more satisfying. So can talk about unpleasant things, but you need to make sure your copy ends on an upbeat note.
You’re not there to darken their day. You’re there to entertain, educate, and inform them to get those conversions or CTAs.
Dry, dull copy doesn’t get read. Or it gets read, but people drift off and don’t pay attention to the piece’s content and message.
Pattern interruptions shift the tone for a moment to regain their attention. These interruptions signal the brain to stop reading by rote and process new information.
When in doubt, turn it around on the audience. Make them think of something unexpected. It could be a joke, or question, or even a picture.
When you use this psychological technique, you can keep people reading longer and converting more often.
P.S. Marketers and B2B business leaders...
If you're looking to improve the performance of your sales pages, emails, or ads... I may be able to move the needle in a big way.
Using my proven “Neuro-Response” copywriting method, I've generated over $2.7 billion in revenue for over 224 of the largest B2B companies in America.
This behavioral-science inspired system taps into lesser-known hidden psychological triggers that target multiple decision-making regions of your prospects’ brains...
In a way that elevates their desire, makes them primed to be more receptive to sales messaging, and gets them to move forward.
Averaging across over 1,124+ projects, my copywriting drives a 55% increase in on-page conversion rates, an 84% increase in quality sales-qualified leads, and a 27% decrease in customer acquisition costs compared to existing controls.
If any of this sounds interesting to you...
Click HERE to learn more and find out if I’m the right fit to help.