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Copywriting - Simple Words Sell - How to Inject Action and Drama Into Your Copy

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Posted 7th June 2009 at 11:48 AM by Loren Woirhaye

I don't know about you, but in school I got by pretty well churning out reports and written tests using big words and self-important academic grammar.

For writing about ideas those stuff can be appropriate - and in the University environment readers are accustomed to such puffery. Ideas are abstract, which is why when we write about ideas in school papers the language gets complicated.

For advertising copy, chuck the write-to-impress model and get down with the common words we all use every day. If people don't understand the word you use, you will lose them.

Write short sentences. Break up long sentences into shorter ones. Sometime this is easy. Sometimes it is not, but simplicity in communication is worth reaching for.

Try to write in concrete terms. Not abstract terms. Objects and people are concrete. Rudolph Flesch discovered that comprehension of written text increased when people were the subject matter and when their names were used.

For example: "John drove to Mary's house and met Mary's parents."

The John and Mary story is boring but you know instantly what it means. Comprehension is easy because the words are common and short. Four of the words are about people, and you picture them in your mind. The verbs, ""drove" and "met" are direct an uncolorful. But watch what happens when I use one in a new sentence.

"John spurred his horse and drove the cattle towards the slaughterhouse"

Instantly vivid images spring to mind. See how that works? When you have a story to tell your choice of verbs either causes the reader to visualize the story with a flat, faceless picture when the words are un-colorful and unspecific as in the first story. The second story springs to life because of the implied motion and action in the verb "spurred" and when we read the subject of the verb, the object affected by it, a vivid picture forms in anyone who has watched more than a couple of westerns.

As an exercise try writing short, one or two-sentence stories about people, animals and things capable of movement. Try to write simply and directly, using verbs which, in the context of your stories, imply dramatic action.

Example: "John leapt into the driver's seat and raced over to Mary's house to meet her parents for the first time."

Do you see how drama and hidden motives are implied? Even though the story is still generalized and dull, the use of energetic verbs of people doing things engages your interest in ways abstract ideas do not. You may be different, but immediately on reading the story as it is I invent a back-story for John's motives, and wonder about the character of Mary's parents - because when we say he "raced over" there is evidence of a strong motive there. When John merely "drove to Mary's house" we know nothing of his mood and the whole story comes off as dull.

The author, Loren Woirhaye, is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a forthcoming book about how brick-and-mortar businesses can move online quickly and effectively, skipping a large part of the common frustration and learning-curve to online marketing by having a common-sense plan to compete and prospect online. He writes direct-response copy for clients and specializes in boosting conversions for existing websites. His website address is http://www.CopyMatch.com
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  1. New Comment
    Thanks for that food for thought. Can you give a few tips on crafting benefit-laden copy that includes an offer and guarantees in an articles, without them reading like a sale pitch.
    Posted 8th June 2009 at 04:41 PM by writeonbro writeonbro is offline
    Updated 8th June 2009 at 04:42 PM by writeonbro (misspelling)
  2. New Comment
    Marc Rodill's Avatar
    I dig this post. You're totally right.

    Found ya from your post on Karbo's ad.

    Good insight.

    This will prove to be quite helpful, ah reckon.

    Marc Rodill
    Posted 12th May 2010 at 12:23 AM by Marc Rodill Marc Rodill is offline

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