Show & Tell and the Law of Writing Gravity

Cindy Cyr here with a very simple “writing push-up.” It will help you grab your reader by the lapels and make him fully engaged from the first sentence in your copy …

Do you remember Show-and-Tell from when you were a kid? In Pat Pattison’s book, Writing Better Lyrics, he tells a story about how he asked his kindergarten teacher, Sister Mary Elizabeth, if he could bring his new puppy, Rusty, to school for show-and-tell.

Sister Mary Elizabeth told young Pat that pets weren’t allowed. However, he could bring in something of Rusty’s to show and then talk about him. But at school the next day, Pat realized he had left the collar on the table at home.

He asked if he could do show-and-tell anyway.

But she said, “No, no. You can’t tell unless you show first.”

Writing Push-up #5: Show before you tell

You make your copy more interesting and hook your prospect instantly when you show before you tell. Pattison says, “Showing makes the telling more powerful because your senses and your mind are both engaged.”

To demonstrate how this works, let’s look at two versions of a letter to a prospective copywriting client about writing for their fitness business:

I’m interested in writing for your company. I’ve been trained by AWAI, the premier resource for training copywriters. Their courses helped me develop the skills for creating the effective direct mail and web copy you need for your marketing efforts. I also have two years of experience writing in the fitness industry and enjoy personal fitness activities.

Now look at an example that shows first …

In one week’s time, you could double or even triple the number of prospects returning to your fitness sales page using a proven lead-recovery strategy that helps recoup website leads and convert them into sales.

You’ll plug up that leaky hole on your website that market researchers say causes businesses to lose 98 to 99 out of every 100 visitors to your website.

Not only will they return to your website, but this strategy also helps allay their fears and overcomes their objections, so that when your prospects return, they are in the right frame of mind, eager to buy your product or service.

Which do you think a potential client would find more compelling?

I think you’ll agree that the second does a better job of piquing a prospect’s interest in your services.

Pattison says to think of it as hanging colored dye at the top of the section that “shows.” If you put the dye at the top, the color drips down, making the rest of your copy more interesting. But color can only drip down, not up. Show first using specifics, and it’ll help you avoid writing neutral, cliché, and boring copy.

Your “writing push-up” for today is to go through your self-promotion and make sure you are showing before you tell about your services. Be sure to share how it went in the comments below.

You can also add this simple tip to your copy checklist when reviewing your work.

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Published: September 30, 2011

4 Responses to “Show & Tell and the Law of Writing Gravity”

  1. Cindy - a truly excellent series. I've saved all your "push-ups" & printed them out so I can work on them - they have to be among the top practical tips for writers that I have seen.

    Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas!



  2. wow,WOW, W-O-W, Cindy. You already HAD your own file on the left side of my MacBook. Frozen, paralyzed and you are THE ONE who is now motivating me. Going to start the 10 minutes a day writing tomorrow. Lots of material to wade through. I am the one for whom completing this course is NOT an option, because..."I will never know what might have been". I'll be the one shaking your hand and thanking you at Bootcamp as I peruse the lay of the land at my first one, next week! Thank you for being so willing to share from us "newbies"!

    Gypsy Rover

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