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Copywriting techniques--words to use and words to avoid. (DM Notebook).

Let's take as our text for today, "Don't be too subtle in sales letters." As one of my early mentors in the business put it, "Never assume the prospect understands or will infer anything."

* Avoid the temptation to create a sales letter that conveys what a truckload of "news and information" this publication will offer. Don't expect prospects to infer the benefits that having this information will bring them- tell them directly.

* Be careful about scaring prospects to death with all the terrible things that are about to happen in their business or industry. "Is Social Security Doomed?" is a great "scare" headline, but the copy needs to show prospects at least the road to a solution that will save their bacon.

* In "news-oriented" publications, the future is usually rather murky Your sales copy should not be. Control your "editor within" (or allowing editors to edit marketing copy). Avoid qualifiers like "might" and "if," which satisfy them but rob your selling copy of its persuasive power.

* Make your benefit copy as particular as possible. Don't write, "4 Copy Techniques to Improve Your Renewal Series." Instead: "Learn How Fred Goss of Wombat Publishing Increased Overall Renewals 4.8 Percent with 4 Exciting Different Renewal Copy Techniques."

* Whenever possible, sell the premium. I try to avoid past editorial highlights in the selling copy (unless you broke the "New Coke" story), because what you are telling prospects about is great stuff they won't be receiving. However, an editorial premium gives you the legitimate reason to work in those mouthwatering titles you have selected for inclusion.

Avoid these words

Dan Brown, partner at UCG, offers these suggestions:

* Replace "teachy" words like "explain," and "read" with adventurous verbs such as "discover," "find out" and "explore" and phrases like "see for yourself." A simple "Watch this" before a benefit statement can be powerful.

* Avoid the future tense. Tell the story in the present. It's shorter and more exciting.

* Avoid gerunds. Words that end in "ing" don't convey action because they are no longer verbs. They are verbs turned into nouns.

* Don't kill a word with overuse. Plans and strategies can become cookbooks and blueprints. Be sensitive to the word-of-the-day syndrome. Bill Clinton used enough variations of "I feel your pain" that it became fodder for the late-night TV comics.

Popular phrases enter the language from everywhere--politics, popular songs, advertising. My rule of thumb has been that even if you believe you have come up with the mother of all turns of phrase, it may be "the bee's knees" as it goes into your PC, it's all too likely to be "23 skidoo" by the time it gets edited, printed, mailed, and into the hands of your prospects.

Finally, KSK Communications in Virginia avoids these three words: "unique," "quality," and "value"--which by now have become entirely devalued.
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Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 31, 2002
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