One Reason Your Copy Might Suck

by max5ty
28 replies
If you've ever read a sales letter, and your mind started to fog over, this could be the reason -

- too many words with too many SYLLABLES.

I read a piece today with so many long words, it was hard to keep my focus - thought I'd post this...

It's a known fact, those who've studied how the reader's mind works, have found the shorter the words, the simpler it is to read.

Any word over 2 SYLLABLES makes the reader pause in their mind to read the whole word...it gets tiresome, and the reader's mind (which is lazy) gets tired of working to read the piece.

Instead of having your reader's mind take a time out at the long words, keep them on a non-stop path to your final goal of getting them to commit -

- any pause lets them start to build doubt in their mind - or begin to make a list of things to do...eat...pay bills...

Since you should write as if you're talking to someone - and since most don't use long words, don't write them either.

Go through your copy and cut as many words as you can with more than 2 SYLLABLES.

There are times when it can't be avoided, but less is best.

You'll be shocked at how many long words you have that slow the reader's mind down.
#boring #copy #reason
  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Oops, guess it would help if I kept my "your" and "you're" right.

    Sometimes I should slow down - my mind is fogging over
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4347888].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MrCopy
    Great advice,

    I always test my copy in Word to make sure it's less than an 8th grade reading level.

    Another thing that can help is to write short simple sentences. Good copywriters can do this without sounding like Tarzan.
    Signature

    Learn real self defense online at jujutsu.org

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4347920].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author max5ty
      Originally Posted by MrCopy View Post

      Great advice,

      I always test my copy in Word to make sure it's less than an 8th grade reading level.
      Hey, that's something new...

      ...never heard of using Word that way, how does that work?
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4347993].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        Originally Posted by max5ty View Post

        Hey, that's something new...

        ...never heard of using Word that way, how does that work?
        In the "Spelling and Grammar" tab on the Options dialog, check "Show Readability Statistics". Then each time you do a spell check (F7), at the end you'll get a dialog showing the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

        Ideally, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level should be between 6.0 - 8.0.

        There's also some other helpful stats displayed.

        Alex
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348213].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author Stephen Dean
          Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

          In "Spelling and Grammar" tab on the Options dialog, check "Show Readability Statistics". Then each time you do a spell check (F7), at the end you'll get a dialog showing the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

          Ideally, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level should be between 6.0 - 8.0.

          There's also some other helpful stats displayed.

          Alex
          Wish that worked for Google Docs, or does it?
          Signature
          Free Coaching WSO: How to finish all your 2013 "Goals" in JANUARY with my proven productivity secrets - taken from 9 years working as a freelance copywriter. Click Here

          Occupation: Best Copywriter Ever.
          Clients:
          Matt Bacak, Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and more.
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348239].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author max5ty
          Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

          In the Options dialog, check "Show Readability Statistics". Then each time you do a spell check (F7), at the end you'll get a dialog showing the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

          Ideally, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level should be between 6.0 - 8.0.

          There's also some other helpful stats displayed.

          Alex
          Thanks Alex, that's something that will be helpful.

          I'll give it a whirl.
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348243].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author darkonetoo
      Originally Posted by MrCopy View Post


      Another thing that can help is to write short simple sentences. Good copywriters can do this without sounding like Tarzan.
      A well trimmed sentence is powerful.

      Especially with sales writing, why would we intentionally clutter our reader's mind with wasted thoughts.

      I quote my favorite writer:
      The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. Thomas Jefferson

      DarkOneToo
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4923625].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MoneyMonkey
    Hmm,
    Well this is kind of on the right track but I think long complex words actually have a place in sales copy and you shouldn't underestmate their place. Depending on your topic and product as well you need to pitch to people at the correct level. If you're marketing to businesses then keeping a sales pitch to two syllables is going to sink your pitch - "demograhics" anyone?
    Secondly a long word can make your readers stop and think about you product or services and this means that you can actually use carefully plced polysyllbic words to make your reader focus on key points - rather than causing doubt this should actually create a stronger will to buy.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348040].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Stephen Dean
      Originally Posted by MoneyMonkey View Post

      Hmm,
      Well this is kind of on the right track but I think long complex words actually have a place in sales copy and you shouldn't underestmate their place. Depending on your topic and product as well you need to pitch to people at the correct level. If you're marketing to businesses then keeping a sales pitch to two syllables is going to sink your pitch - "demograhics" anyone?
      Secondly a long word can make your readers stop and think about you product or services and this means that you can actually use carefully plced polysyllbic words to make your reader focus on key points - rather than causing doubt this should actually create a stronger will to buy.
      Not so much. Ever seen a classic ad or a famous copywriter try your approach?

      Readability is readability, and the simpler the better. A doctor might wade through techno language in clinical journals because he's interested, but you have to capture her interest and keep it with an ad.

      Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.

      Cheers,
      Stephen Dean
      Signature
      Free Coaching WSO: How to finish all your 2013 "Goals" in JANUARY with my proven productivity secrets - taken from 9 years working as a freelance copywriter. Click Here

      Occupation: Best Copywriter Ever.
      Clients:
      Matt Bacak, Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and more.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348084].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author scubasteve-cr
    Write as if you're speaking to your target market. If you wouldn't say a sentence, then don't put it in your copy. Write your salescopy. Then read it aloud to somebody, or even just to yourself. If it sounds stupid, or if you're using words that you wouldn't normally use in a conversation about that topic, then you need to edit it. Your salesletter should flow very fluidly, exactly like your own conversations do in real life.

    I like to write my copy as if I'm writing a video transcript for a teleprompter. And it converts very nicely.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348126].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Originally Posted by Chris Kent View Post


    Several of yours words contained 3 syllables and I never had to re-read them. If what you are saying is true then it would be hard for anyone to read a book, let alone a sales page.
    Hmmm...that's interesting.

    I only used 2 words with 3 syllables.

    SYLLABLES
    AVOIDED

    The word syllables couldn't be avoided.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348442].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MrCopy
    Chris,

    There is a major difference between writing books, writing forum posts, and and writing copy. Almost everybody's read a sales letter, almost nobody has read Joyce's Ulysses. They are there for different purposes.

    In test after test, simple, readable copy converts. If, in conversing with your acquaintances, you desire to parlay with effulgent vocabulary - excellent. But, it just makes your copy less readable ... and experts agree.

    Look at the top books they sell in the airport - Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Harry Potter. They're not fine literature, but they grab the attention.

    Most newspapers target an 8th grade reading level, even that is high for the average person.
    Signature

    Learn real self defense online at jujutsu.org

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348551].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author max5ty
      Originally Posted by Chris Kent View Post

      No doubt. But where is the evidence that 3 syllables is an obstacle to conversion? It's a nice theory but where is the evidence?
      Some quick points:

      1. My post is saying it's BEST to use short words - I also said it CAN'T ALWAYS be avoided - I am simply offering a tip that will increase the punch of your copy.

      2. If your copy is hitting it out of the park with lots of multi-syllable words, and your clients are tickled with the results, by all means keep doing it.

      3. As for proof - I could simply say virtually every top copywriter will tell you that the shorter the word the better - but I'll use some excerpts from Godefroy and Glocheux, who are considered by many the experts on letter writing. Their ideas have been recommended by most of the pro's.

      I first heard about them from Vitale several years ago, who said it was their book that changed the way he wrote.

      Francois Richaudeau measured the difference in reading speed of
      words with an average of 5.2 letters and a text composed of words
      with an average of 7.4 letters.

      Result?

      Average reading speed for the first text was 27,400 words per hour; for the second, 21,400 words per hour.

      The law of least effort

      That's a difference of 22 per cent! And, according to the law of
      least effort, if your text is in any way hard to read, people will tend
      to throw it away altogether or at best take a quick look at it.

      If you examine the words used most often, for example the 1,300
      most common words in the English language, you'll find they
      average between five and six letters per word. Not more!

      Eliminate 'filter' words

      A German researcher, Professor Siegfried Vogele, conducted a
      lengthy study of this phenomenon, especially related to commercial
      correspondence. In his experiments, he used cameras with
      extremely fast shutter speeds to examine the movements of the
      human eye.

      According to Professor Vogele, words of one or two syllables
      (between five and six letters) reinforce reading, while longer words
      inhibit reading, acting as a kind of filter. Filter words eliminate a
      percentage of readers.



      They also go on to say it's best to turn a long word into several shorter words.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4355036].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author sicnarf
      Originally Posted by MrCopy View Post

      Almost everybody's read a sales letter, almost nobody has read Joyce's Ulysses.
      LOL So very true. My problem is that I'm a former news reporter so I'm used to writing about the facts. My wife on the other hand is more flowery with her writing and connects better with the customer.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4356315].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Taruru
    guess it depends on who your target is..so true though, shorter sentences are definitely preferable to long ones.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348887].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author jgkelley
    This is some helpful advice to a beginning copywriter. Thank you.

    Or,

    Thanks for the tip. I'm new at this. It should help.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4348977].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Mcoroklo
    I don't agree totally. If you only use those words, you will seem very unprofessional. Your language will be very simple and in some eyes, you would loose authority.

    There is a difference between being easy to read and unprofessional though.. And to find the mix which works.. That's the art of copywriting!
    Signature

    Stop wasting time sending letters: we can do your offline marketing and automate everything with letters.

    http://www.letteramazer.com

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4349452].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    Depends on the market and product. IM stuff should be kept simple. But if you're writing for an advanced financial product where many of the prospects have degrees they're going to expect the writer to rise to the occasion. Being too elementary in that field will hurt you.

    Always boils down to knowing your market and then knowing your product.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4349759].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MoneyMonkey
    @Stephen Dean
    I think you failed to differentiate here between an ad and sales letter. In an ad you are of course trying to keep it short and punchy in a limited space. In a sales letter you are trying to sell your product using a much higher word count. Therefore it is necessary to include a variety of techniques to sell the product including a short punch and a larger one where appropriatte. Also I didn't claim you needed to fill your prose with polysylabbic words I just claimed they have their place.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4355148].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author abugah
    I agree. The average human mind is lazy. Try introducing yourself with two names and people will tend to stick with the 'easier' one.


    I guess that is the reason most of us write copy with FK score of 13. We are lazy and don't want work hard to eliminate big words, reduce the number of words per sentence and paragraph length.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4927508].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    In theory, the "less is more" focus on syllables is very helpful advice.

    However, without being argumentative, allow me to quote Mark Twain:
    "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is a difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
    The distinction I'm making is the highest criteria for having a word be the right word should not be based upon the number of syllables in the word.

    I believe the number of syllables in a word IS important. But not as important as using the right word which accurately reflects what you are trying to communicate.

    - Rick Duris
    Signature
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4928128].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author John_S
    Yo. Dude. Buy it.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4937933].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author morganomega
      If you are marketing to average people or dumb people, short words will work best in every case. If your target demographic is professors and scientists and super brainy programmers, they are going to think you are Cal Worthington and his dog spot. Always look deeply at your target demographic and try to read your copy as THEY will read it. One size definitely does NOT fit all when it comes to ad copy.

      Still, its a great point that should be kept in mind because even nobel prize winners get annoyed if you use a huge word where a big one will do just fine or if they have to wade thru a difficult paragraph when a clear simple one would do. Over complicating things is one of the more annoying approaches to take with a nobel prize winning scientist and will also lose the average person who is easily just LOST.

      I'd say this is true for any type of writing, its rarely advisable to use a long difficult word when a short clear one will do just fine.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4943818].message }}
  • Readability is key, you rarely need a long word. 'Readability' is a major exception.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4961257].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author AC683
    Great information. It's good to keep copy simple and conversational. Big words are rarely needed. Always consider your audience. Use the words that they use. Relate to them. Thanks, great post and thread!
    Signature
    It's real, and it's available only for a FEW daring Warriors.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[4995346].message }}

Trending Topics