Posted Saturday, January 1, 2005
Grab 'em and don't lose 'em. Every marketer knows that one. Human beings have very short attention spans, so you can't afford to waste your prospect's time - give them the good stuff and then let them go as soon as you can. Writing effective marketing material is all about writing crisply with just a handful of words.
Clean writing isn't an accident, but is instead the result of the careful application of certain principles and tools. Try these five techniques for crafting leaner, meaner, more effective business copy:
Avoid modifiers. Modifiers change the meaning of other words; the most common of these are adverbs and adjectives (words that describe verbs and nouns, respectively). They're used when the writer feels that the noun or verb needs a little something extra: "the shining sun", "run quickly", etc. Get rid of as many modifiers as you can and choose nouns and verbs that stand on their own.
No lazy words. Every word should be doing real work, conveying necessary information and supporting other parts of the piece. Think of your sentences as support beams and rafters in a building, and analyze the piece word-by-word: are there any nails sticking out of boards? Anything that's there purely for show? Anything that doesn't strengthen your writing weakens it. Strip your copy down to its most essential parts, and throw out the words that are sleeping on the job.
Reduce it to a single sentence. Do you really know what you want to say? You might be surprised - try phrasing your entire piece into one simple sentence. Can you do it, or are you insisting that your message is too in-depth? Taking your point down to a single statement can give your copy new focus and clarity.
One thought per sentence. Sentences and paragraphs are different things. Avoid long, complex sentences built up of multiple thoughts. Keep your sentences to one thought each, keep them short and simple, and use your paragraphs for the complex ideas.
When in doubt, cut it out. Every writer has written the perfect sentence that just doesn't play along well with others. Hemingway was right - kill your darlings. If you can't figure out how to ease that bit of poetry in with the rest of your marketing piece, cut it completely and don't look back. Be merciless. You'll be surprised how often that's the best solution.
About the Author
Robert Warren (www.rswarren.com) is a freelance copywriter in the Orlando, Florida area, specializing in providing for the marketing and communications needs of the independent professional private practice.