When it comes to Persuasive Writing, Let Me Show You How to Break the Rules
As promised, here are a few rule-breakers:
Write in the second person. Standard writing rules dictate that you write in the third person, meaning that you write a sentence like this: “Customers wanting a discount should print out the coupon attached in the email.” However, advertising copy should sound more like a personal conversation, which means that talking directly to readers is more effective: “If you want a discount, return the coupon you'll find at the end of the email.”
Use “directive” language. That means “tell people what to do.” This is seldom part of ordinary writing, but is essential for one-on-one email copy. For example, in your subject line you might write, “Look inside” or “Open immediately” on how to get the latest upgrade to Widget Writer #6 software before the general public. A long subject line is helpful when it’s in the best interest of the recipient. Otherwise, keep them short and concise.
At the start of your email copy, you could encourage people by writing, “If you’re one of the first to order Widget Writer #6 today, you’ll receive Widget Writer Grammar Proofer” as our free gift to you. Add an order form to your email and write, “Email this form today for your free gift.” People need to be told what to do clearly and directly.
Keep sentences short. A good school essay may benefit from complex sentence structure, but persuasive writing requires short, easy-to-read sentences. As a rule, the average sentence length should be 16 words with 32 words as the approximate upper limit. If you have long sentences, break them into two or more shorter ones.
Keep paragraphs short, too. Try to keep them to seven lines or less. Break longer paragraphs into two or more shorter ones. The idea is not to develop one idea per paragraph as you were taught in school, but instead to keep people reading by pulling them through your copy thought-by-thought. Shorter is not only easier to read, it “looks” easier to read.
Try one-sentence paragraphs. They stand out and add drama.
Begin sentences with conjunctions. Words such as “and,” “also,” “besides,” “furthermore,” “but,” “however,” and “so” are frowned upon in standard written English. “But” they help you break long sentences into shorter ones to make copy flow smoothly.
Use fragments. This adds excitement. Urgency. Keeps the pace brisk. Just don't go overboard with fragments or you’ll risk sounding affected and artsy.
Use familiar expressions. “A sure thing,” “thumbs up,” and “dude.” are all familiar and informal. Contractions such as “they're,” “you're,” “it's,” and “here's” also give your writing a relaxed tone.
Be redundant. “Free gift” is redundant, but far more powerful than just “gift.” “Call anytime 24-hours a day” says the same thing twice, but that's okay because you want to emphasize and clarify your meaning.
A common question I receive is along the line of creativity and how do I come up with my ideas? My answer is to take the time to learn more about your customers. A customer-centric marketing strategy pays dividends throughout your business by gathering some very basic information.
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