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Understanding of the Reader Is the Foundation of Copywriting Effectiveness

by Marcia Yudkin

When words in a sales letter, publicity headline or other marketing piece must persuade, planning for the mindset of the reader is fundamental.

Today's reader is skeptical, distracted and easily bored. You probably realize this, but you may miss many of the implications of this fact for how you must put words together to get and keep attention and move the reader to action.

Here's how to work with rather than against the mindset of the reader in persuasive writing.

* Always write with the specific audience firmly in mind. The main cause of stilted writing is marketers putting words together to create a pie-in-the-sky document rather than to speak to a certain group of people.

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* Use the pronoun "you" as your primary one rather than "we" or "they." This not only creates livelier wording, it more quickly triggers an emotional connection with you in the reader.

* Avoid dense wording with negatives that have to be read slowly and carefully to be understood. Any time you use two or more "not" type words in one sentence, you force someone trying to read quickly into time-consuming mental somersaults.

* Customer questions that appear stupid or out of left field may alert you to points you neglected to include. For example, you wrote "Hampshire County" repeatedly without saying whether you meant the county by that name in West Virginia or Massachusetts.

* Be explicit in what exactly you are writing about. Are you selling a book, an audio CD, a multi-media learning program or something else? Is this a downloadable program, a mobile phone application or a web-based service? It's astonishing how often writers neglect to nail down the basic facts.

* Clarify your terminology instead of assuming the reader understands your jargon. A first-time home buyer is likely to get stuck on phrases you take for granted, like "HUD statement," "LTV," "Title 9" and "Underwriting." Including unobtrusive definitions keeps readers from feeling lost or baffled, while not insulting those in the know.

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* Check the readability of your text, aiming at eighth to ninth grade level. In the 1930s and 1940s, Rudolph Flesch and Robert Gunning worked with the Associated Press and United Press to make news writing more readable. When the average reading level of newspapers dropped from the twelfth to the ninth grade, readership rose 45 percent. The same improvement in results occurs today with marketing writing on the web or on paper.

None of these tips dumb down your message. They merely grease the delivery path so what you wanted to communicate more easily gets across.

   

 

 
   
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