Looking for a way to catch the attention of your audience and focus their full concentration on your message? Instead of telling them what you want to hear, ask them a question that matters to them.

You may have heard that asking questions in headlines and opening statements is a bad idea. For example, I once had a boss who became furious anytime I presented an ad or brochure with a question in the headline. His reasoning is that the reader might give the wrong answer and lose interest.

But a reader who gives the wrong answer – essentially answering your question with a “no” – probably isn’t going to pay attention to your message, no matter how you present it. That’s because it doesn’t interest them, or they don’t find it meaningful. If you’re selling knitting supplies, most men probably aren’t going to stop and play close attention. But they probably aren’t your customers. (Sexist, perhaps, but accurate.)

Asking a question creates something called engagement with the reader. That’s because it’s human nature to answer questions. Do you like red or blue better? Long before you stopped and wondered if I had gone off track or lost my mind by asking you that question, you mentally answered it. Do you prefer chicken or fish? Once again, you’ve answered it.

Asking questions begins conversations with your readers, and draws them in. But be careful. If you ask too many questions, you’ll sound more like an annoyingly inquisitive four-year-old, and less like someone who has a genuine interest in what matters to the reader. Think you should give it a try?