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The Do's and Don'ts of Writing for Engagement

by Pat Friesen December 13, 2012
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I recently was headed out of town to lead a workshop on "The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Successful Direct Mail Copy." As part of the prep, I dissected what I do every day and why I do it.

No surprise, the same techniques that work for writing direct mail copy also apply to developing digital content. The basics of direct response writing is channel agnostic. The key is in knowing how to apply the do's and don'ts for engaging readers and motivating them to take the next step.

(For 33 chapters of copywriting tips, check out my very recent "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ.)

Here are some for starters …

Odd numbers vs. even
. Do use odd numbers; they are more credible than even.

Numerals vs. numbers written as words.
1,000 is easier to scan than one thousand.

Benefits vs. features.
"Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Customers buy a product or service because of the benefit it provides, the problem it solves, the need it fills. Write about benefits, not features.

Be specific.
The more specific, the more compelling. For example, which is more engaging — save money OR save $473.27 annually?

Keep words, sentences and paragraphs short
for faster and easier scanning. Words: 75 percent to 80 percent are five characters or less. Sentences: 1.5 lines or less. Paragraphs: 6 lines or less.

You vs. I/We/Your Company Name
. You should outnumber I, we or your company name 2 to 1. Use the We-We Calculator to find out just how customer-focused your copy is. It's free.

Hot spots.
A hot spot is where your scanner's eye lands first. Hot spots are a writer's best friend across all channels, in both copy and content. Use them to control eye flow and highlight benefits.

P.S.
People do read the P.S.... and many read it first. Don't miss maximizing this valuable hot spot.

Don't leave your call-to-action until the end
. Your reader may never get there.

Repeat your call-to-action
. Include it in more than one place in your email, landing page, letter, brochure and response card. Put it in hot spots.

 
 
 

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