With just 26 letters in
the English alphabet, it sometimes seems
impossible that language can meet all the
selling challenges we set for it. The magic
of persuasion lies in the art of choosing
and arranging words. Subtle nuances of words
can spell the difference between a reader
losing interest or feeling an overwhelming
desire to go on.
Here are five expert tips on using words to
win attention, build credibility, trigger
interest and eliminate doubts so people buy
or register as a possible customer. Many of
these points I learned at the feet of top
editors at New York publishing houses, major
magazines and public radio. Although they
were teaching me how to shape words for the
utmost clarity of factual information, the
suspensefulness of a narrative line or the
impact of commentary, the techniques apply
just as well to using words to sell.
Learn to Write
Six-week self-study course teaches
you to wow people into buying through
the power of well-chosen words.
Includes challenging and varied
assignments to practice on, with answers
from the instructor and participants.
Replace incomprehensible jargon with
reader-friendly, motivating content.
1. The word "but" deserves
caution because it signals an obstacle or
hitch and may subtly signal disparagement.
Compare, for example, the increased power
when we change "It's first come, first
served, but we'll try to help you meet your
deadline" to "It's first come, first served,
and we'll do our
best to help you meet your deadline."
2. Avoid the word "no," which functions like
a stop sign, when trying to elicit action.
See how that little two-letter word throws
the message out of whack in this line on a
billboard: "We'll call you back. No,
really." When we simply remove the "no," the
impact of the message strengthens. Likewise,
thereís an overall lift in impact when you
change "No other local bank offers 24 hour
answers about your loan" to "Unlike other
local banks, you get 24 hour answers about
your loan from us."
Learn From the
Masters of No-Hype Copywriting
In 2013 and 2014, Marcia Yudkin
convened the most articulate and
experienced practitioners of no-hype
copywriting for an exchange of ideas
on writing copy that persuades
without excessive showmanship or
stretching the truth.
Presenters included Peter Bowerman,
Nick Usborne, Shel Horowitz, Karon
Thackston and others.
recordings from this telesummit.
3. The present tense for
verbs conveys more power and confidence than
past or future tense. You can hear and feel
the improvement from the usual "After our
ten-point tuneup, your car will run like a
dream" to "After our ten-point tuneup, your
car runs like a dream."
4. Adverbs weaken statements, even though
theyíre added as strengtheners. Avoid
intensifiers like "really," "very" or
"extremely." Get rid of "literally" any time
your sentence doesnít pass the test of
literalness: "We literally exploded in
laughter." Did you explode, according to the
dictionary definition of that word? No. Then
out it should go.
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5. Donít use violent
metaphors like "killer web sites" unless
youíre targeting an audience that thrives on
machismo. Itís common to use violent,
aggressive imagery as an all-purpose
intensifier, but this makes for sloppy
writing that makes many audiences pull back
instead of smile. For instance, a sales
coach promises "Deadly Efficient Selling."
The word "deadly" suggests a process similar
to a sniper picking off a victim with
one shot and no wasted effort. Well, who is
the victim, in that case? The customer?
Surely most businesses do not want dead
Give every word choice a ruthless lookover
during the editing process so you create the
most persuasive argument with your
arrangement of your 26 basic components!
Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.