Tweaking (Not Twerking) for Response
Effective copy/content is more than stringing words together and cutting-and-pasting from other sources. Good copy/content that does its job — engaging readers and motivating them to take action — is the product of good writing and good editing (aka tweaking).
Writing and editing for response is part art, part science, and a whole lot of bending the rules I taught as an instructor of compulsory English composition, delivered to college freshmen at 7:30 in the morning. It's also about bending — maybe even ignoring — rules found in the AP Style Book. (Gasp.)
Whether you're a writer, editor, creative director or content manager, here are 15 tweaking tips to increase clicks, calls and visits to your store or website.
1. Move your call to action to the head of the line. Don't make people scroll down to see it or bury it in the second to last paragraph of a letter. When you're writing for response, CTAs belong where they can be seen easily.
2. Short and succinct is good when you're writing for response. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages daily, which means they rarely read ANY of them. Write for the scanner.
Before: You can now save 25%
After: Save 25% now
3. Hot spots are eye magnets. Move your most powerful words and benefits into hot spots (e.g., the beginning of a sentence, subject line, headline, etc.) where they'll be seen first.
Before: Share this free game with your friends!
After: FREE game - share it with your friends!
4. Lead with the benefit, then let the feature follow as supporting detail.
Before: Our 100% money back guarantee (feature) means you risk nothing (benefit).
After: You risk nothing with our 100% money back guarantee.
5. When it's appropriate, use bullets to summarize and draw the reader's eye to key selling points.
Windproof and water-resistant, this jacket is made with incredibly lightweight and compressible insulation, and is ideal as an insulating or outer layer. Great for travel.
- lightweight and compressible insulation
- use as an insulating or outer layer
- windproof and water-resistant
6. Sentence fragments and one-word sentences often communicate more effectively than long, drawn out sentences filled with phrases, clauses, and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs that are more about flaunting the writer's grasp of the English language than creating reader interest, understanding and response. It's better to get to the point. Quickly. Agreed?
7. Create reader momentum that leads to action. Start sentences with verbs. Active verbs.
Before: You can call us today and get instance assistance
After: Call us. Get help instantly.
8. Numerals capture the eye more quickly than numbers written as words. Plus, they use fewer characters.
Before: One hundred thousand and one
9. Avoid starting sentences with the word there. It's passive, it's vague, and it's boring.
Before: There are some writers who seem to enjoy writing long sentences.
After: Some writers enjoy writing long sentences.
10. Avoid repeating the same word in a document by using FIND and REPLACE, then tweaking.
11. Read what you've written out loud. It's often easier to hear than see needed tweaks.
12. Give what you've written a rest before editing. Go for a walk. Take a shower. Sleep on it. Fellow writers agree: It's better to write one day and edit the next.
13. Circle every punctuation mark. Then look for ways to make what you've written easier to understand using punctuation such as colons (:), ellipses (...), em dashes and hyphens (- and -).
14. Print, then review. Seeing what you've written as ink on paper is helpful for both editing and proofreading.
15. Contractions can be controversial, but they're also conversational. Which means they'll make your copy/content look and sound more approachable. Contractions also use fewer characters, which makes them attractive for Twitter, text messages and subject lines. If you want your copy/content to sound more formal, proper, sometimes stilted, do not use contractions. If you want your writing to have a friendly, conversational voice, use 'em appropriately. And use 'em correctly. For example, do you know when to use they're vs. their, it's vs. its, and you're vs. your?
Check out the handy infographic to the left from the writers at Divine Write, titled "Contractions: When Can I Use Them?" It ranks contractions into least formal to most formal, then provides example situations when a particular contraction would be used.
One final comment: Editing and proofreading are separate tasks. When you're worrying about the spelling of a French phrase or placement of a comma, you're not focusing on the task of developing and connecting ideas that connect with your reader. Edit first and leave the proofing for last.
Pat Friesen is the author of the best-selling Direct Marketing IQ report, "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook." She writes for direct mail, email, blogs, catalogs, the Web and other direct response media. She's also a sought-after copy coach, workshop presenter and columnist for Target Marketing magazine. Contact Pat at (913) 341-1211 and Pat@PatFriesen.com.