37 replies
Hey everybody,

I know a lot of IMers use curse words (and I mean specifically "light cursing, like "damn", "****", etc.) in their copy as a way to be "edgy", but I've yet to see any of the real bombs (F-word, C-word, N-word, etc.). As a caveat, I've really only seen it in niches that are almost exclusively male. Not sure how much that matters.

I know there are a lot of people out there who are fundamentally opposed to using that kind of language, and probably many more who just have the gut feeling that something like that would offend the reader rather than entice them, however...

Those of you that have tried it out, have you noticed any real difference in conversions?

Have you tried anything like that with your lists?

What was the reaction?

Best,
Adam
#copy #cursing
  • Profile picture of the author Matt Daniel
    I've seen a few very successful WSO's that use light curse words.

    I personally don't use them cause I'm a religious guy, but I think they may be effective in creating a sort of relaxed personal relationship with your potential buyer.
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  • Profile picture of the author Suthan M
    This just brought back memory of a hatemail that I got from using the word "DAMN" a few years back.

    A guy was so pissed at me for using the word "DAMN' that he banned my product and went to tell his subscribers that my product does not have his recommendation.

    Here's what happened: I made money from that.

    True story.
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    • Profile picture of the author Rankomatic
      In certain situations yes. I remember being on "The Rich Jerk" list and that was full of cussing lol. I use to get emails with the subject "What Up Bit*hes" and the likes and it really amused me. If the people who have signed up are kinda expecting that then go for it. But be prepared to offend a few lol.
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    • Profile picture of the author J Bold
      Originally Posted by Suthan M View Post

      This just brought back memory of a hatemail that I got from using the word "DAMN" a few years back.

      A guy was so pissed at me for using the word "DAMN' that he banned my product and went to tell his subscribers that my product does not have his recommendation.

      Here's what happened: I made money from that.

      True story.
      Yep, I bet it's because when somebody got all twisted into a pretzel about an extremely minor issue, people actually sided with you in their minds.

      That's because most people will use a word like that every once in a while, so who cares?

      Hopefully he lost subscribers, too, for being a dumbass.

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    • Profile picture of the author Matt Daniel
      Originally Posted by Suthan M View Post

      This just brought back memory of a hatemail that I got from using the word "DAMN" a few years back.

      A guy was so pissed at me for using the word "DAMN' that he banned my product and went to tell his subscribers that my product does not have his recommendation.

      Here's what happened: I made money from that.

      True story.
      that...is...awesome haha

      Serves the guy right
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  • Profile picture of the author Ernie Mitchell
    Don't write anything you wouldn't want your 8 year old granddaughter or 80 year old grandmother to read.

    While curse words "may" not cost you any business they won't make you any money either. Why go there.
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  • Profile picture of the author dadamson
    I haven't tried this, but I dont think a copy would tempt me into purchasing any more if it contained curse words.

    Probably wouldn't phase me either way, apart from appearing less professional.

    I wouldn't anticipate any rise in sales unless in the adult niches perhaps. - Then again I haven't split tested this.
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  • Profile picture of the author Warrior X
    <Expletive deleted>, read Frank <expletive deleted> Kern's stuff, <expletive deleted>!

    That said, there is an art to making it work.
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    • Profile picture of the author Warrior X
      Originally Posted by Ken_Caudill View Post

      Chump bait. Does he sell anything besides the dream?
      No idea. Only saying that his copy works, despite (or because of) being outrageous.
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  • Profile picture of the author Karen Barr
    I think it depends on what you're selling, or what the copy is for.
    When I'm writing an article, or sales copy, I don't swear in the same way I wouldn't swear in a professional communication like a presentation or report to a senior-level potential client or colleague.

    In everyday like I swear like a sailor and if I'm making a personal blog post then I often swear in that.
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  • Profile picture of the author rrm
    I can tell you what my reaction is - people will do what they want to do, as long as they can get the sale. People know that they will offend a small subset of readers, but for the most part, bloggers/marketers will just palm off the readers who have a problem with the "colorful metaphors," as Spock called them. Writers have a general right to write what they want. And readers have a right to read what they want. I don't think many people want it different than that.

    One thought I have is, why go there if you don't have to? Especially when so much of it is just plain gratuitous. You won't lose sales if you don't. You will lose some if you do. Like to me. But maybe that's ok. Just part of doing business.

    No matter what you offer or how you write it up, somebody somewhere will pick it apart like some old school marm. I know you can't please everybody, so why try?

    For my part, I won't needlessly offend. At least I try not to. That's where I come from. That's my bottom line. But I won't dictate it for anybody else.

    I know, I know... it's edgy, normal, provocative, commonplace, whatever, to stick in the crass words. Everybody does it, right? And of course we have to emulate the mega-successful IM guru or show how hip, current and uninhibited we are.

    Yeah, I know... I am a prude and way too old fashioned. Sales copy just mimics the culture at large. I just try to stay in a place that won't offend my own conscience.

    Ron
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    • Profile picture of the author AdwordsMogul
      Originally Posted by Ernie Mitchell View Post

      Don't write anything you wouldn't want your 8 year old granddaughter or 80 year old grandmother to read.

      While curse words "may" not cost you any business they won't make you any money either. Why go there.

      Says who?

      Besides, why not? You can't live your life as an adult to conform to other people.

      You do have a point, but it's not an absolute one.

      Originally Posted by Karen Barr View Post

      I think it depends on what you're selling, or what the copy is for.
      When I'm writing an article, or sales copy, I don't swear in the same way I wouldn't swear in a professional communication like a presentation or report to a senior-level potential client or colleague.

      In everyday like I swear like a sailor and if I'm making a personal blog post then I often swear in that.
      Much respect for your honesty. Let's face it - cursing is not the best thing to do, but we don't need to by hypocrites about it.

      Those who don't do it, fantasize about it.

      Originally Posted by rrm View Post

      I can tell you what my reaction is - people will do what they want to do, as long as they can get the sale. People know that they will offend a small subset of readers, but for the most part, bloggers/marketers will just palm off the readers who have a problem with the "colorful metaphors," as Spock called them. Writers have a general right to write what they want. And readers have a right to read what they want. I don't think many people want it different than that.

      One thought I have is, why go there if you don't have to? Especially when so much of it is just plain gratuitous. You won't lose sales if you don't. You will lose some if you do. Like to me. But maybe that's ok. Just part of doing business.

      No matter what you offer or how you write it up, somebody somewhere will pick it apart like some old school marm. I know you can't please everybody, so why try?

      For my part, I won't needlessly offend. At least I try not to. That's where I come from. That's my bottom line. But I won't dictate it for anybody else.

      I know, I know... it's edgy, normal, provocative, commonplace, whatever, to stick in the crass words. Everybody does it, right? And of course we have to emulate the mega-successful IM guru or show how hip, current and uninhibited we are.

      Yeah, I know... I am a prude and way too old fashioned. Sales copy just mimics the culture at large. I just try to stay in a place that won't offend my own conscience.

      Ron
      You sound authentic - and that's what's important. If it doesn't work with your beliefs/target market etc. then you're right not to do it.
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  • Profile picture of the author MatthewNeer
    I personally love that stuff. Makes me laugh every time.

    I've even heard Kern drop the F-bomb hella times in all kinds of sales messages.

    I say, do it if thats you. If you're a potty mouth, let that comes across in your sales message. It will be natural and funny.

    Ya digg?
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  • Profile picture of the author Anup Mahajan
    Personally I don't like curse words in sales copy, but I have seen some very successful marketers use them from time to time. So they are effective as a means of grabbing attention and getting sales. Maybe you can do a split test and see how it affects your sales...

    Anup
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    • Profile picture of the author Jon Patrick
      Originally Posted by Ernie Mitchell

      Don't write anything you wouldn't want your 8 year old granddaughter or 80 year old grandmother to read.
      I agree. Unlike you're in certain specific niches, you never know the sensitivities of your readers. Why write in a manner that's going to turn a certain percentage of them away?
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  • Profile picture of the author Arthur Barn
    I never tried curse words in any of my sites of by selling a product. Personally, cursed word/s sometimes annoying. I see to it that use the right and proper words in selling products or creating articles. Being a seller, blogger or whatever, it is our responsibility for our action. There are teenagers, kids who always check online.
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  • Profile picture of the author Adam Richards
    Hey everybody!

    Thanks for all the great replies. This certainly seems like a topic people have a opinion on

    It seems to me like a lot of the responses I've been getting have been based on the intuitive belief that cursing will affect your conversions in one way or the other (generally negatively), and that certainly makes sense as the foundation for a copywriting strategy.

    But, my intuition (and I'm sure a lot of people would agree with me here) is not always right. When I first got into IM, for example, I had a hard time believing that the traditional sales letter format would get any sales at all - it looks like crap, and it just reeks of scam. As it turns out, my intuitive belief was dead wrong, and the more that kind of thing happens, the less inclined I am to take my intuitions at face value.

    I'd more be interested to know if anyone had empirically tested cursing in copy. Has anyone spit tested this? What niche was it for? What was the result?

    Thanks,
    Adam
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    • Profile picture of the author Yogini
      I don't really like to see lots of curse words. Often when this occurs, the person also has a certain attitude or demeanor that is annoying. But, I am ok with a few words written that have * or other symbols in them or the way something is done with humor such as the bleeping on Jon Stewart's show.

      Debbie
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    • Profile picture of the author JennySweets
      Originally Posted by Adam Richards View Post

      Hey everybody!


      When I first got into IM, for example, I had a hard time believing that the traditional sales letter format would get any sales at all - it looks like crap, and it just reeks of scam. As it turns out, my intuitive belief was dead wrong, and the more that kind of thing happens, the less inclined I am to take my intuitions at face value.

      Adam
      *busts out a chuckle* ME TOO. I still think it all looks like crap, I can't even READ most of it I just can to the highlights and wonder.. how the H-e-double-hockeys-sticks (hahaha) does that work?

      Which is a problem for me.. writing sales copy like that.. it's such crap. But if it sells.. I'm gonna have to learn to spin out 10 yards of crap I guess.

      is crap a curse word? hehehe
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  • Profile picture of the author peetred
    I don't think I would buy from any copy that used curse words unless it was someone I already knew, and could forgive them. That's just not my style.
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  • Profile picture of the author jchengery
    Hello everyone,

    I haven't split-tested this either, but I think the greatest effect for swear words would only be on very rare occasions. If swear words are used too much, as with any words that are overused, they will lose their effect.

    Personally, I probably wouldn't use them much, mostly because I don't swear very often (truthfully). If I did use them in copy, I probably wouldn't go very extreme (like the F-bomb, etc.) - maybe an occasional "damn" or something along those lines.

    I know that many talk about being yourself in your email messages, autoresponder messages, etc. If swear words are a "main" part of your vocabulary, incorporating them from time to time might be okay, especially if you warn your readers ahead of time (especially at the beginning of your message, like "adult content ahead" or "colorful language ahead" - "do not continue reading if you are easily offended by that sort of language," etc.)

    You'll likely still offend some people, but the majority will probably not mind, and may even laugh or take notice, especially if you don't use it that often in your copy.

    Therefore, even if you do use that language regularly offline, I'd suggest using it sparingly online so that it keeps its "shock" or "attention" effect; otherwise, your readers will probably just gloss over them and they won't be distinguishable from any other words on the page or in the email, etc.

    Take care and have a great day!

    Joe Chengery III
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  • Profile picture of the author JennySweets
    I'm not - oh how to put it.. let's just say I'm no stranger to the occasional profanity myself, it doesn't generally phase me unless my kids are around.

    It still takes me aback a lot of the time when I read or hear expletives in the material I'm going through.

    From some marketers, it made me laugh the first time, and once they got away with it it seemed like they gave in to their natural desires and are "normal" , letting the SH's and Dmns fly as needed. (thinking one certain marketer with video delivery of content but )

    I even heard an F word *GASP*!

    I just know never to listen to that guy without headphones. and he still gets a chuckle out of me every time- just not from the potty mouth.

    What does surprise me are the times I am turned off by the language.

    Part of it is when I don't know a marketer too well. Or if they are putting up the effort at professional sales copy, or delivery of content, and they slip into a curse bomb. Sometimes it seems like it's thrown in there, out of place, just to cover all of the "personality bases". Sometimes it's just unnecessary.

    If I'm reading something I've bought, and the TONE is professional, then suddenly I'm reading profanity- it's out of place and DOES - for some WEIRD reason, I don't know why- bother me.

    I don't know. I'd say, as the reader / listener.. sometimes it can be offputting and sometimes it can make me laugh. Why one person can do it and not bother me, yet another does and I just want to close out and not look back, I don't really understand.

    But when the folks who DO tend to slip, start to use profanity a lot more, like it's a HOOK, that definitely turns me off.

    I don't think it has much to do with being female (though being a mom yah ok may have an influence) but I grew up with a dad who cursed like 10 sailors. So .. well shoot that could contribute to both my acceptance And my aversion.

    So there you go- very unclear answer. All I know is in my product creation I don't curse.. but I can't promise if I'm in a chat with folks.. I won't let slip now and then *chuckle*
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      If you've read enough of my 6k+ posts here, you know I'll let things slip from time to time. I'm not doing it for effect, or trying for a reaction. Sometimes a mild vulgarity is the 'right' word for what I want to express, especially given the lack of tone, volume, etc. in a text medium.

      On the other hand, I've never seen the need to deliberately include cursing in sales copy. So I've never tested it.

      Joe C., you're right about overuse diluting the effect. Even the F-bomb is losing impact. The other night, I flipped the TV on and Jay Leno ran a bit titled "WTF"...
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  • Profile picture of the author Regional Warrior
    The number of times I had to edit out the F-Bomb and other words from clients videos lol funny part is they would make you laugh " Like the Winnebago man" and I keep telling them that they should put the out takes on YT maybe one day

    Jason
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  • Profile picture of the author wordydiva
    I've read some copy with curse words that made me laugh, or got my attention through the "shock value". On the other hand, some curse words I've read in copy have made me close the window and move on... It all depends on the audience, the copy, and how the cursing is thrown into the mix.
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  • Profile picture of the author SteveDolan
    I don't use any curse words in my copy. I don't see the need or really the point. If I have to resort to curse words to connect with my audience then I'm not only failing, but I'm not sure they'd be my 'ideal' customers IMHO.

    YMMV - just my thoughts
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  • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
    Originally Posted by Adam Richards View Post

    I've yet to see any of the real bombs (F-word, C-word, N-word, etc.).
    I've used all three of those. In fact, I've used both F-words. In the same email.

    This probably does not surprise anyone who knows me very well. Or, like, at all.

    I don't drop those lightly, and I don't do them to sell. I do them to prune my list.

    See, if you are the kind of person who doesn't like those words, I don't want you on my list. I like being able to speak freely and say whatever the hell I want. I value the freedom to say racist, sexist, and vulgar things when it suits my purposes.

    And if you'll put up with those words, I know that nothing else I put in an email will phase you. If I say "that's just retarded," I know you won't throw a fit and send me nasty emails and tell all your friends I'm an insensitive jerk, because you've already unsubscribed and told me what a vulgar racist and sexist pig I am. And I probably sent you a picture of Johnny Cash flipping the bird.


    There's still a line. I like having the freedom to jump across that line and do whatever the hell I want, but I still respect the fact that there is a line there. And there are limits to when and how I'll use those words, just like any other word.

    Limits which - as with most limits - I will completely ignore when I think it would be really, really funny.
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  • Profile picture of the author jackpot9
    Sometime ago The Copy Nazi put up a WSO selling his copywriting services. Very little selling, that guy put up a big red button and wrote below "Buy My Sh*t" or something. I'm guessing it converted not bad for him.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ryan David
    It's one thing to curse on a webinar or something, but cursing in copy seems strange to me. Especially since copy is written/revised/edited. Just swearing for swearing sake? Most people just come across as annoying/angry when they swear. It's tough to swear and have people chuckle, as opposed to being offended.

    I definitely don't get why people would think someone was more "real" by swearing in copy.
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Ryan David View Post

      It's tough to swear and have people chuckle, as opposed to being offended.
      "Are you sick of Google #!%$ing your sites in the %*&# twice a month?!"

      I think you could get away with just that and a buy button.

      Except, you know, you'd have to actually put the real words.
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      • Profile picture of the author Azarna
        I would say that in general if you can avoid alienating part of your audience then it is best to do so. Is the use of that word SO necessary it is worth it?

        Of course one issue is that different countries view different words as cussing.

        I once was very upset to get told off on a forums for 'cussing'. I very, very rarely swear, and never on forums, so was baffled at first. It turns out I had said 'Who the h*ll would do that?'

        In Britain that really would not be considered swearing, it is a common saying. Sure it is a bit tacky, but it is not offensive.

        But the forums were American, and felt that any use of the H-word was grounds to rap my knuckles

        I also got caught out when speaking on MSN to an American friend. He made some joke at my expense, so I replied 'SOB!' - meaning sob, cry, wail, weep, you know. He was shocked 'Why so harsh? It was a joke? Sheesh'. Took a while to sort this one out,heh. I had NO idea that those letters could be an insult too! British people don't really use that insult.

        Similary, a friend was horrified at a sales page going on about 'its like a fanny pack full of money!' Fanny packs are called bumbags in England. Trust me, fanny is not a word you would use in polite society, heh.
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        • Profile picture of the author ShayB
          I look at it this way:

          No one will be offended if I DON'T use profanity in a sales letter.

          There is a possibility that if I DO, people may choose not to buy from me.

          Not only that, but my target audience is often moms.

          So no, I don't curse in my sales copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    I think this is all about knowing your audience...

    If you sell to people who you believe curse, or won't be offended by cursing, or may even relate to you better - then fine, try it.

    If you have developed or want to develop a persona like Frank Kern, for instance, then cursing might enhance it.

    I also think there are degrees of cursing. Some words are probably too hot for any audience and a curse word in writing might not have the same effect it would spoken.
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  • Profile picture of the author ChrisBentley84
    I must say I disagree with most of you on this subject. Who gives a DAMN if you swear. I've never tested this either way but I believe that if it is authentic to who you are it will work. I look forward to Frank Kern's message not because he curses but because hes authentic.

    Copywriting is something that everyone has a theory on and rules to follow but in my opinion the only rule is if it get sales than it works. I'm going to make a bold claim but it is the truth. I love alienating a large portion of my niche, whether it be a specific sub-niche I work in or by the copy I write. Some may think that's crazy but I have a sound reason for doing so. The few people that get my message and love it, get behind become rabid buyers of my products. They go out of there way to get other people to buy from me and you can't get better marketing then from happy buyers.

    At the end of the day **** it, and do what makes you enjoy doing your work people will follow you because you are being you. Now don't get me wrong I don't condone using curse words for the sake of curse words but if it's you then by all mean give it a shot.
    I mean seriously at the end of the I think that being a real person is the greatest sales tactic out there. Be authentic and trustworthy and people will buy from you time and time again.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ernie Mitchell
    I once read that airline passengers subliminally equate coffee stains on the seat back table trays to shoddy aircraft maintenance.

    Is it possible that “some” prospective customers subliminally equate expletives in sales copy to a trust deficit? Although I have no hard data to back it up, I suspect it does.

    I can see where a seasoned marketer that has built a profitable list in a given niche that has a high threshold, even an affinity for expletives could, and perhaps should disagree.

    Lest we forget that we are discussing the “commercial” arena of procuring business. This isn’t an issue of being able to act like an adult or being genuine, it’s about business. Dale Carnegie gave an excellent analogy in his book “Think And Grow Rich” when he likened fishing to giving people what they want --- not what we want them to have. In his analogy he said he was very found of strawberries and cream but he had learned that the fish don’t like strawberries and cream wherefore he given them worms. If you know your market wants worms, (expletives) then give them worms. The danger is in knowing and not cavalierly assuming what they want.

    For me, in the market I’m addressing, not using expletives is a matter of commercial class. Class is something that you either have or you don’t.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jim X
    I've wondered the same thing. I see it a lot too. I constantly see something to the effect of "I'm going to cut through the bull****." It usually comes across as them trying to shock and even connect with the people on the sales page.

    I look at it from the perspective of face-to-face encounters. If someone who I don't know or just met starts dropping the F-bomb in our conversation, it tells me something about the person. It tells me that they have no respect for whether or not I find it offensive. As a result, I do not find the expletive offensive but rather I find the lack of respect offensive. If someone I know curses, it is very different. I know them, they know me. Make sense?

    I think everyone should be themselves. If having a swearing party works for you, do it. If you have built a relationship with your customers and feel comfortable with it, go for it. As Caliban (CDarklock) mentioned, he ONLY wants people on his list that are comfortable with him droppin' bombs. That's cool. That works for him. May work for you too. It may not.

    It really comes down to what kind of image you want to put out. Cursing in sales copy put out a different image than not even if it's just one word.

    One thing I will say is if cursing is not your style, DON'T DO IT! If you do it to imitate what you think is working for other people you're going to sound really uncomfortable and awkward.

    That's my opinion.

    Jim
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