A copywriting legend of yore – was it Ogilvy or was it Caples? – once said he could write a thousand word ad and virtually guarantee you’d read every word. How? By writing on the topic “All About (insert your name here).”
If the topic of your own promotional writing is something that everyone finds just as irresistible, then you need no help engaging readers. But if you’re like the rest of us, here are four tips to start you in the right direction:
Show some levity – no one likes reading content that’s dry, monotonous or written with all the joviality of a corrections officer whose daughter you just brought home three hours late from prom. Tossing in some light humour can convey personality and humanize your writing. And as it turns out, humans like doing business with other humans.
Address your elephant – When you talk about your product or service, what are some of the objections you hear from would-be customers? These are the things that follow your sales pitch and generally start with, “Yeah, but . . ..” Your readers will ask themselves the same questions, and unless you address them in your copy it’s unlikely you’ll convert them to buyers. As a business owner, it’s your job to recognize your weaknesses, figure out a way to overcome or compensate for them, and counter those objections as quickly as you can.
Read it out loud – I tell my writers never to write anything they can’t imagine themselves saying. Writing that comes across in a conversational tone and follows a natural cadence draws the reader in and allows him or her to focus on the content rather than stumble over syntax. Don’t try to sound like a writer; try to sound like yourself.
Break a few rules – “What are you in for?” The quintessential jailhouse query has been driving grammarians nuts for years. But if I’d written, “For what are you in?” it would have sounded odd to far more readers. Why? Because it’s not how we speak. I’m not saying you should tell Strunk & White to suck on a semicolon; I’m just saying that when the choice is between technically incorrect grammar and phrasing that’s going to stick in your reader’s throat, opt for the former. In the immortal (and possibly distorted) words of Winston Churchill, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”
Ryan Parton is a professional copywriter and the president of RP Copywriting. He’s also the executive editor of the Comox Valley Business Gazette. He can be reached at www.rpcopywriting.com or 250.702.1103.
Don’t write anything you can’t imagine yourself saying