Message & Media: 12 Copy Improvements
8. Make your copy look inviting to read. This isn't a design issue; it's about stringing words together so they get read. Studies show that shorter words, sentences and paragraphs increase readability. While study recommendations vary, here's what I've adopted as my own set of guidelines for readability: 75 percent to 80 percent of words should be five characters or less—which means that most are one syllable. Sentences should rarely be longer than 1.5 lines long. Scanners look for end punctuation as rest stops for the eye. Paragraphs should be six lines or less. And, yes, I am a writer who uses sentence fragments and one-sentence paragraphs to start and stop reader momentum. Don't tell my high school English teacher.
9. Stop scanners in their tracks. Place your most important benefit or your call to action in a hot spot. Hot spots are where the scanner's eye goes first, so don't waste them. They provide a golden opportunity to transform a scanner into a reader who then becomes a responder. Hot spots include the subject line in an email, the first sentence of a letter, a headline, a subhead, a photo caption and a P.S. in a letter.
10. Make "YOU" your hero. Writers new to direct response often focus on we-the-company rather than you-the-customer. Here's a simple test. Tally how many times you use the word "you" vs. "I" or "we" in whatever you've just written. In customer-centric copy you'll find the word "you" about twice as often as "I" or "we." It's a simple fix to reorient a sentence such as, "We are the industry leader in office automation" to "Now you can recover 2-3 hours a day using proven office automation practices from an industry leader."