Improve Your Copywriting By Being Specific
I got my first copywriting job, back in the 1970s, at a terrific agency in San Francisco called Botsford Ketchum.
One of the first accounts I ever worked on was Mother's Cookies. My boss started me off by having me work on a little ad.
I went to my cube, wrote the piece, and took it to him for his comments.
He looked it over and said, "I see you wrote 'more chocolate chips in every cookie.' That's O.K., but it would be better if you had said something like 'two tablespoons of rich chocolate chips in every single cookie.' It's always better to be specific. It adds credibility."
He was absolutely right, and I've never forgotten the lesson. When your writing is filled with detail, it has a great deal more impact.
Let's take a closer look at how much more powerful headlines are when they become specific. I'll crank out a few for us to look at:
GENERAL: Mistakes Database Marketers Make
SPECIFIC: The Seven Biggest Mistakes Database Marketers Makeand How to Avoid Them!
GENERAL: Important Tips for Software Marketers
SPECIFIC: Three Tips for Software Marketers That Can Increase Revenues 25% or More!
GENERAL: How to Improve Network Security
SPECIFIC: Five Ways to Tighten Network Security Now!
See what I mean? Telling the reader exactly how many things they'll learn makes the claim less abstract and a lot more credible.
Another way to juice up your copy is to look for ways to use adjectives for extra impact. If you use adjectives correctly, you can give your writing a terrific shot in the arm. Take a look at the following sentence:
"Our software can help users find files fast."
Wouldn't it be better to liven things up a bit? How about:
"Our breakthrough software can help you find files incredibly fast!"
Or we can flip the sentence and do it this way:
"Want to find any file in under three seconds? Our breakthrough software is just what you're looking for!"
Here are two other examples of how a few adjectives can spice up your copy:
WRONG: Only DazzlePainter lets you choose from a number of colors!
RIGHT: Only DazzlePainter lets you choose from a dazzling array of over 256 brilliant colors!
WRONG: InstantWill was written by a team of practicing attorneys.
RIGHT: InstantWill was created by a celebrated team of highly respected attorneys, each a leading authority on the subject of wills, living trusts and estate planning.
You see? It's not so hard to add punch to your writing if you put in a little effort.
The take-away message this month? When you pin things down and get very concrete, very specific, your writing becomes a LOT more compelling.
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel, Microsoft and many others. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mail letters and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for software marketers, visit his Web site at http://www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.