2 More Tips on Finding a Winning Tone

A few weeks ago in The Golden Thread I told you about the two absolutely most important strategies for finding the winning tone for your promotions: Care about your prospect and believe in your product.

Here are two more of the 11 strategies I use to make my tone natural … and convincing.

Use short, simple sentences

One of the biggest problems new writers have is breaking the habit of "writing" to their prospects. When you "write" to someone, there’s a tendency to use fancy words and construct long sentences that concentrate too much on being grammatically correct.

You need to write the way people speak to one another.

No one – except perhaps intellectual academics and pretentious people (not that I’m suggesting the two are the same) – speak in paragraph-long sentences. The average "spoken" sentence is about 7-12 words – as long as you can keep a breath of air in your lungs.

A good, conversational tone is the best "voice" you can adopt as a copywriter. It puts the reader at ease. He’s not intimidated or bogged down in the words. It shows you’re a regular person … someone he can relate to … someone he can trust.

It tends to quicken the pace of your letter, thus making the letter easier to read.

Plus, what could be easier for you than writing short, simple sentences! It’s really just a matter of breaking the "writing" habit.

Here’s a letter from a promo that came across my desk for an investment advisory service. One sentence reads:

"This simple yet highly effective strategy enables even highly cautious investors to take advantage of momentum stocks that can grow 262%, 439%, even 992% in a matter of months, and to do so while buffering any inherent risks by keeping most of your money protected in U.S. Government securities."

Okay, not a terrible sentence. But there’s a lot going on there.

Here’s how I’d write it:

"It’s a strategy that’s ideal for cautious investors. It lets you take advantage of momentum stocks that can grow 262%, 439%, even 992% in a matter of months. And here’s the kicker. You make these gains while the bulk of your money sits safely in protected U.S. Government securities."

Breaking up this sentence not only makes it easier to read, it does a better job of driving home three very important points: 1) the investment’s great for cautious investors, 2) you can still make big gains, and 3) you don’t have to risk all of your money to get them.

Also, it’s much more conversational. The "leanness" of the sentences is much closer to the way someone might express these ideas to you in person.

Be aware of tempo

Have you ever been reading something – and then a page or two in you realize your mind is wandering and you can’t remember what you’ve just read?

Chances are, what you were reading didn’t have the tempo or the pace to keep your attention. This happens when a lot of similar sentences are strung together … sentences of similar length and tempo.

An example:

"Ed Jones is a trader with 15 years of experience, including 10 on the floor of the Chicago Futures Exchange. His knowledge of commodity futures is unsurpassed in the industry, and his track record is one that speaks for itself. Just in the last 15 months, he’s rattled off 25 winners, including three that produced gains of over 500%. Now he wants to share his knowledge with you, through a new trading service he’s making available to a small group of investors."

My hunch is that if you were to read a whole letter with this tempo, you’d drift off.

Make an effort to mix up your sentence lengths. Throw in some conversational transitions (more on these in a future article) and figures of speech. Follow a longer sentence with a short one. Make your copy "punchy."

This is how people speak. They’ll make a statement and follow it up with a qualifier: "We went to that new restaurant out on Route 4 last night. It was great. I had the veal chops – and they were so tender. Great wine selection too. You guys should go …"

You can carry the same idea over into copy. For instance …

"This is an opportunity that can turn a small $5,000 investment into $20,000 over the next 18 months. It could happen sooner. Just one little spike in oil prices and you could go to bed that night a whole lot richer. Best of all, it’s not the only way to get rich from this inevitable trend. There are dozens more. And I’ll be telling you about a handful of them in a moment or two …"

[Ed. Note: More of Paul’s 11 strategies for finding your winning tone in upcoming issues of The Golden Thread.]

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Published: August 8, 2005

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