I try to speak to my prospects as they’re used to being spoken to. Yes, that means I often dangle my participles and other parts (of speech). So what? I’m trying to communicate here – not trying to pass an English exam.
To mock the sticklers who were constantly correcting his prepared speeches, Winston Churchill once declared, “A dangling participle is something up with which I will not put.” Pretty much says it all …
All jargon is NOT evil!
Many coaches say you should avoid technical terms and industry jargon altogether. Baloney.
The selective use of jargon comes in handy lots of times when I’m writing – like …
1. When the jargon’s meaning is familiar to the reader – especially investors and medical patients – I’m respecting his intelligence; speaking a language he understands and is comfortable with.
2. When the jargon is being spoken – sparingly – by an expert, it demonstrates the expert’s, well … expertise. We expect doctors to be proficient in the use of medical jargon and brokers to use investment terminology. If the term is obscure though, I’ll include a quick explanation and then move on.
Figures of speech are wonderful!
Early on, I was told to avoid clichés, sayings, analogies, aphorisms, proverbs, adages and so on. But why? If you had a face-to-face conversation with your prospect wouldn’t you hear tons of these figures of speech?
Doesn’t the use of these favorite sayings instantly say, “Hey – I’m not a salesman; I’m just like you!”? Don’t they get your prospect smiling? And don’t most of them instantly communicate something that it would otherwise take us a sentence or more?
If a picture is worth one thousand words, a good figure of speech should be worth at least one hundred. So go ahead: Experiment. If a figure of speech helps you communicate faster or drive a point home harder – and if you’re absolutely sure that its meaning will be instantly grasped by your prospect – go for it!
Of course, writing copy that’s just one cliché after another might be a slippery slope. Your client may even say that your promo is a basket case. That would be a close shave! You might end up feeling as dumb as a bag of hammers.
But on the other hand, choosing the right spots to communicate quickly with an idiom could turn out to be your bread and butter. Who knows? Maybe you’ll wind up richer than Midas!
Put the 75 most powerful words and phrases
in the English language to work for you.
Use these freely (no charge) when crafting headlines, subheads, and throughout your copy:
First Time Ever
How to …
How I …
Nothing To Lose
Send No Money
The Truth About …
And of course, the all-time award-winner …
Another thing: Some words and phrases are wimps. The limp-wristed, namby-pambies of the writing universe. “Can” … “could” … “should” … “might” … “may” … “ought to” … “seeks to” … “has the potential to” … “In my opinion” … and all the rest of these sissies should be banned from your copy whenever necessary.
Tell your prospect what your product will do. If the legal beagle or compliance officer complains, make a phone call and haggle.
YOU WRITE: “These investments are guaranteed to soar when interest rates rise.”
COMPLIANCE VERSION: “These investments could possibly have the potential to soar when interest rates rise – maybe.”
COMPROMISE: “These investments have the power to soar when interest rates rise.”
Squinting makes the individual letters and words indecipherable and I’m left with just the pattern the paragraphs make on the page.
As I study the page, I’m asking myself, “At first glance, does this feel easy-to-read and inviting? Or is it covered with long, dense paragraphs that will only discourage my reader?”
Then I …
• Jump in and break long paragraphs into shorter ones – even one-line paragraphs when I can …
• Identify spots where the thing is crying out for a break – a sidebar or indented paragraph, for example – and then work them in …
• Look for opportunities to turn a long block of copy into a string of pearls (like these).
I look for a series of benefits, steps in a procedure or other copy points that I can precede with bullets, numbers, letters, etc.
You can present horrifying alternatives …
• Ages your body: Fluoride has been shown to damage your chromosomes and block the enzymes needed to repair your DNA.
• Poisons your brain: Laboratory subjects given tiny doses of fluoride for a year showed an increased uptake of aluminum in the brain, and the formation of beta amyloid deposits which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
And five Chinese studies have documented a lowering of IQ in children exposed to fluoride!
… Or, billboard benefits, as with these fascinations from a recent promotion for Your Money Report:
• The #1 Secret of Landlords Who Get RICH: Doing this one thing can mean the difference between fat profits and a devastating loss! Page xx
• Flipping For A Fortune? WATCH OUT! Ingenious strategy lets you make a bundle without ever owning a single property. BUT, it could also get you sued – or worse! Essential advice: Page xx
• Beware of These “Landlord Landmines!” 3 easy ways to sidestep costly landlord/tenant traps. Page xx
… Or, create a label. This series, “7 Guilty Secrets Drug Companies Do NOT Want You To Know” was also touted on the cover of the piece as a reason to read the piece:
FACT #1: Drug Companies Kill Tens of Thousands Each Year: Many of today’s most-often prescribed medications are not only useless, but extremely dangerous – crippling and killing as many Americans each year as died in the 18 years of the Vietnam war.
FACT #2: They Do It Knowingly – For Money: The ultra-rich U.S. drug industry – the single most profitable businesses in America – is guilty of using bogus research, distorted reporting, and bald-faced lies to push deadly and ineffective drugs onto unsuspecting doctors and patients.
Go for precision and power
A lot of experts say you should use short words. Write as if the prospect is an eighth-grader.
Some anal-retentive rule addicts have even gone so far as to instruct students to add up all the letters in each paragraph and divide by the number of words, and make sure that the average word is no more than five letters long!
Here’s what I do …
• If a long word means precisely the same thing and carries the same emotional coloring as a shorter word, I’ll go with the shorter word.
I can’t stand to read or even talk to people who use longer words when shorter ones will do just fine: Who say “facilitate” when all they mean is “help” or “ease” … “compensate” when they mean “pay” … “Individual” when they mean a “guy” or a “gal” or “person” … or “sufficient” when they mean “enough!”
Nine times out of ten, I’ve found that people who write or talk like that are trying to hide something. Like massive insecurities. Or the fact that they have no idea what they’re talking about.
To quote William Zinsser’s advice in his classic, On Writing Well:
“Beware, then, of the long word that is no better than the short word: ‘numerous’ (many), ‘facilitate’ (ease), ‘individual’ (man or woman), ‘remainder’ (rest), ‘initial’ (first), ‘implement’ (do), ‘sufficient’ (enough), ‘attempt’ (try), ‘referred to as’ (called), and hundreds more.”
• But if a longer word – or even an entire phrase – more precisely conveys my meaning or more effectively invokes the emotion I’m going for, the longer word it is!
Short sentences rule!
This is a particular weakness of mine – I tend to string too many thoughts together … use hyphens and ellipses and other devices to connect them; and only wind up turning sentences into entire paragraphs in which the prospect eventually gets lost or has to read twice. (Damn – did it again!)
I don’t worry too much about it on my first drafts. That’s when I’m just trying to get everything out on paper. I try to fix my run-ons when I’m editing, later on.
As I edit my copy, I try to keep this advice in mind from the classic book on writing, The Elements of Style:
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
About CLAYTON MAKEPEACE
– A 43-year veteran of direct response industry, Clayton’s hard-hitting sales copy has enabled him to do wonderful things.
– Before Clayton, Security Rare Coin had monthly sales of $300,000. One year later, monthly sales hit $16 million.
– Before Clayton, Blanchard Rare Coin and Bullion had annual sales of $20 million. After Clayton, sales surged to over $120 million.
– Clayton sold two million subscriptions to Phillips Publishing’s Health & Healing newsletter.
– He generated more than $30 million in sales for Health Resources’ “Oral Chelation” supplement.
– He built three investment newsletters – The Money Advocate, Personal Health Bulletin, and Safe Money Report – into the largest of their kind in the world.