Open Loops – The Art of the Cliffhanger

While reaching your audience has become easier, holding their attention is harder than ever. Your copy is a small island surrounded by thousands of others trying to steal your audience. How can you convince readers to spend their free time lounging on your copywriting beach instead of hopping over to another one?

In this post, I’ll go over open loops and how you can use them to keep people hooked and reading till the very last line of your copy.

What is the Open Loops Formula?

The open loop copywriting formula seeks to engage readers and keep them interested. Unlike most other copywriting formulas, the open loops formula doesn’t follow a strict outline. Instead, it highlights a specific technique you can center your writing process around.

Open Loops: The Art of the Cliffhanger

There are some tv shows that just hook you. Somehow, watching one episode turns into binging an entire season. But how do these shows make you say “just one more episode” for ten episodes straight? 

They use open loops; the core technique of the open loops formula.

Human brains are hardwired to seek conclusion or catharsis. An open loop is an unresolved issue or some unknown information that taps into this human desire. Another good name for them would be cliffhangers.

It could be a dangerous situation a character is put in, a mysterious stranger, or a love triangle between the main characters. 

Will they survive? Who is that guy? Will they end up together? Any question the audience has without an immediate answer is an open loop.

How to Create Open Loops in Copywriting

Copywriters can create interesting characters or mysteries to keep people reading. While they may not be as high-stakes as those in Breaking Bad or Stranger Things, even minor open loops hold the audience’s attention if well executed.

Emotional copy is always the best kind of copy, but this is doubly true for copy using open loops. Readers need to care about the question or the people attached to the question for the open loop to work. 

There are a few common strategies you can use to get readers emotionally invested in your open loops:

  • Create a recurring emotional symbol. This could be an object, person, or even an idea. In every case, this symbol should change and grow throughout your copy. For instance, a car could be a symbol of endless possibilities when you first buy it and then represent good memories or past accomplishments later on.
  • Fashion a story. People love stories and attaching one to your product or service can make it more memorable. This could be a completely fictional narrative or a true account from previous clients/buyers.
  • Leave out key details. You want to prolong answering your reader’s questions as much as possible. Tease an interesting question, but answer it unsatisfactorily in small portions or only near the end.
  • Promise answers elsewhere. Links and series can create the same impulse to binge in readers. Direct them to related posts or articles of yours which tackle more of the topic. You can also split your copy into a series to create that cliffhanger feeling.

How Do Open Loops Work in Practice?

Often the best cliffhangers in copywriting are ones that draw the least attention. You may not even have noticed the open loop I used at the start of this article:

In this post, we’ll go over open loops and how you can use them to keep people interested and reading till the very last line of your copy.

How do you use open loops to keep your readers interested? Well, you had to keep reading to find out.

As another example, let’s say that you wanted to write copy to sell a budget gaming computer. You could start your loop as early as the heading or subheading:

This PC costs less than half that of high-end gaming computers. Here’s how a top Overwatch player used it to win an online national championship.

This open loop may not draw in the average person, but people who play Overwatch or other PC games will feel compelled to find out more and open the article.

If you want to push readers toward other articles or get them excited for future posts, articles, or newsletters, you could also create an open loop at the end of your copy:

If you’re anything like me, you need more answers. This is why I’ve set up interviews with some of the leading experts on Monarch butterfly migration patterns. Look out for our next newsletter where we’ll include their views and opinions on the topic.

When to Use Open Loops in Your Copy

While open loops are a powerful tool to use in your copy, you have to carefully consider when to use them.

When it comes to the types of copy you can use them with, the options are nearly limitless. The desire for conclusions is common to everyone on the planet and can be used for just about any audience. However, they will work best with copy that favors “binge behavior” such as blog posts, email newsletters/campaigns, and social media marketing.

One of the biggest concerns is where you should place the open loop in your copy. The short answer is as early as possible. However, there is merit in placing an open loop at the end of your copy to direct readers toward other posts or articles.

You should still be careful, though. If you don’t place the open loop early enough, readers may leave before it can get them engaged. If you place it too soon, they may not be invested enough to care about the question. Ideally, you should try to ask cliffhanger questions which your audience will already care about before reading your copy.


The open loops copywriting formula is an effective method for creating emotional copy with engaging cliffhangers. While it doesn’t outline every aspect of the writing process, it offers more creative freedom than other copywriting formulas. If you want to create compelling, binge-worthy copy, consider implementing open loops in your next copywriting project.

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About Grant Simpson

Grant Simpson is a professional content writer with experience in SEO and B2C content. He also works as a freelance creative writer and is a published poet under the name g.c. simpson. Outside of work, he enjoys reading good books and has a cup of coffee within reach at all hours of the day.

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