Want to know how to write compelling copy that’s easy for your prospects and customers to read?
Clarity is extremely important in writing marketing content – be it a brochure, blog, direct mail piece or Web site. You want to create a conversation between you and your audience, but how to you do that when you’re not face-to-face?
The difference between conversation and writing is that during a conversation we give the other person time to understand what we’ve said. We pause between sentences, repeat ourselves and space our ideas apart.
The secret of writing is to leave space – create these pauses. In The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolf Flesch, he outlined these 7 helpful steps:
1. Use short, simple sentences to start out with – average sentence length in words:
8 words or less is considered very easy
11 words – easy
14 words – fairly easy
17 ” – standard (AVERAGE READER)
21 ” – fairly difficult
25 ” – difficult
29+ ” – very difficult
As Herschell Gordon Lewis said in The Art of Writing Copy, “Clarity has to come first, no matter what you’re writing or to whom.”
2. Two short sentences are easier to read than one long one. In direct marketing the rules of grammar may not always apply. (i.e. Sometimes one word sentences. Break long sentences into shorter ones.)
Keep Herschell Gordon Lewis’ advice to copywriters in mind, “Copywriters are communicators, not grammarians. What matters isn’t your knowledge of which tense is which; it’s your knowledge of how to transform the lead of drab fact into the gold of lustrous attraction.”
2a. One piece of advice I often give when reviewing content, is to use bullet points. When there’s a lengthy paragraph, rather than make your audience plow through that, break it up into easy to read bullet points. Make the content inviting to the readers eyes!
3. BE PERSONAL. USE “YOU.” You’re writing to a reader – one that’s a current customer or prospect – so talk to that reader. Avoid mentioning “the client” or “the customer.” Let your prospect know you’re talking directly to him or her, one-on-one. Use the word “you.”
The readers come first – start writing to people (not at them). Incorporate a friendly, conversational tone as if your reader were sitting right there – across the table from you.
In his book, Direct mail copy that sells!, Herschell Gordon Lewis explained, “When you write a letter that says, ‘Only you. . .’, you’ve told the recipient that to you he isn’t a unit, an anonymous number in a computer, a faceless organism with a zip code. . . You also project an attitude of friendliness.”
4. Whenever possible, talk about people – tests show that we enjoy, and are better readers when, reading about other people more than about anything else. Sentences can be written so that the logical subject is a person. Use personal pronouns (theirs, yours, you) or human interest words (woman, man, child, boy).
5. Use active verb forms that have life in them (i.e. dance, sing, add, run, etc.). These words make your sentences ‘move.’ Here are some examples from author Patricia Williams (Creating and Producing the Perfect Newsletter):
Passive: The lobby was the site of a rally led by Tiger boosters Tuesday.
Active: Tiger boosters led a rally in the lobby Tuesday.
Passive: The basement was flooded with water.
Active: Water flooded the basement.
6. Punctuation makes reading easier – it gets pauses down on paper and stresses important points. Use hyphens, dashes, and ellipses to achieve this effect.
7. “Give the reader helpful advice, or service,” said ad man David Ogilvy. “It hooks about 75% more readers than copy which deals entirely with the product.”
So, are you KISSing your readers? Have any tips you find helpful in keeping it simple sweetheart? Please share your comments below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks a million and here’s to your sweet success.
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