Powerful Sales Copy: Writing Angst & How to Beat It


“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything.” – David Ogilvy

Copywriting is the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.

Copywriting doesn’t have to be perfect.

Copywriter/ Seminar Speaker John Forde who has worked a writer for 16 years, has said he still makes grammar and punctuation mistakes. However at least some of his “mistakes,” he makes are on purpose.

If you want to a write powerful sales copy; then you should start making them too. Mistakes, that is.

How so? Consider …

1. The Mercurial M-Dash

You know the em dash?

copywriting - emphasize a point

It’s the long hyphen-looking thing that helps set apart and even frame a key thought in the middle of a sentence. (See what I just did there?)

Copywriters use them all the time maybe too often —to really emphasize a point they don’t want the reader to zip past. (Would you look at that? I did it again.)

2. The Parenthetical Pull of Parentheses

Good writers frown on overusing, even abuse, of parenthetical remarks (you know the type). And really, parentheses are not used much in sales copy either.

For instance, after a headline or sentence where you need a kind of “wink, nudge” note to the reader, it doesn’t hurt to throw a comment inside parentheses. Done right, you can use this device to highlight the conversational even conspiratorial tone Sales Copy sometimes needs to take.

3. Culling Interest with Quotation Marks

We’re not supposed to use quotation marks unless we’re actually quoting someone who said something. Like, for instance, Frank Lloyd Wright. As he (Once said, “I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.” Sharp fella.

Still, quotation marks have a strange power over readers. Even when they’re not surrounding a “real” quote, they have a way of pulling readers in. Copywriters sometimes use that phenomenon by putting headlines and subheads in quotes. Or even words they just want to “emphasize.”

This is where you should make that little, cynical “I’m putting quotation marks here” sign with your fingers—just like Austin Powers character Dr. Evil.


4. The Evocative Ellipsis

The ellipsis, you’ve seen it, haven’t you? It’s that … how do I explain this? Series of little … you know … dots that copywriters use so often in their copy.

The ellipsis is supposed to indicate missing text in a phrase. Especially where that text can be implied without being stated.

But we use it … and abuse it … in so many more ways. Why?

Because it helps approximate the halting way many people speak. We let ideas trail off … As we dance around a notion … We Come back to the beginning. We use these things, to help us do so more fluidly and gently than you might if you were a whip-cracking grammarian.

potato-chipsTry it.

Ellipses are like potato chips. Once you start using them, you’ll find it hard to stop.

5. The Ambitious Apostrophe

Contractions aren’t just for the delivery room anymore, my friend. Where a formal writer might frown at casual, contracted terms like “I’d,” “isn’t,” and even “isn’t” also go a long way toward making your sales copy more casual and conversational.

Naturally, you don’t want to use these recklessly. They’re to be used like garnish on a piece of prose, to spice it up to make it interesting. It gives a little something to give all those over-zealous copy editors something to sweat about.

Bonus Tip:
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Happy writing!

Talk Soon,

Nicky and Dave

2 replies
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