Last week I gave you some essential tips for writing sales copy. I covered such topics as making comparisons, posing and solving problems, responding ahead of time, and using different ways to make your point. This week I’d like to dig deeper into what constitutes good writing and to offer some suggestions for how you can make your writing burn. That’s right, I said burn.
You might thing it an odd choice of words, but the truth is we’ve all run across really good writing and really poor writing. Writing that burns is writing that stops you dead in your tracks. It pulls you up short. It lingers in your mind long after you’ve turned the page. In short, writing that burns is writing that is memorable.
In what has oft been described as the greatest novel ever written, Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with the following line:
“All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
That, friends, is a perfect example of writing that burns. Let’s get started.
One of the reasons that line from Tolstoy is so powerful is because it portends an unfortunate end to one or more of the characters we will meet as the story unfolds. As a reader, we can foresee not only that bad things will happen, but that probably many bad things will happen, and we are therefore left wanting to continue reading. Obviously, the tone you take with your own readers will be very different from Tolstoy’s, but the point is the same: you want to leave them wanting more. By being provocative, you can get people to respond or to ask for additional information. Then, you can make your sale.
Last week, I told you to make your point in different ways. This week, I want you to try simply repeating yourself. Repetition is one of the most powerful rhetorical devices a writer can use. In Tolstoy’s opening line, the word “happy” or its variation, “unhappy,” appears three times in a single sentence. There are endless ways to employ repetition in your writing.
Wherever possible, avoid using the passive voice. It makes for weak writing. Also, try for power verbs. Consider the following sentence:
Our products are used by thousands of individuals throughout the UK.
A much more active way of writing this sentence, which makes use of power verbs, is this:
Thousands of users access our products throughout the UK.
Long, wordy sentences that drag on line after line are fine for Russian novels. But in sales copy, too many long sentences will turn your readers away long before they reach the end of one. Use short, lean sentences. The word lengths of your sentences should also vary one to the next. Try this: When you’re done writing, count the number of words in each sentence. There should be considerable variation. (In this paragraph, the word count looks like this: 14, 22, 4, 13, 2, 12, 5.)
These are just a few ways you can make your writing burn. Happy writing!
(Image by Just 2 Shutter)