AWAI’s Ultimate Glossary of Copywriting Terms and Direct-Response Definitions

Use this comprehensive resource to find definitions related to print and digital direct-response copywriting as well as content marketing

If you’re looking for a definition related to the world of copywriting, content writing, direct response, direct mail, or digital marketing … you’ve come to the right place.

American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) is the world’s leading provider of copywriting training programs and events presented by the industry’s top copywriters.

We created and curated this comprehensive resource just for you.

Don’t see a term you’re looking for? Contact us and we’ll be happy to add it.



Above the Fold

The first screen a web visitor might see on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. It’s the top section of a website, visible without scrolling. It’s derived from the concept of a newspaper, to describe the information visible on the top half of the front page, above where the newspaper’s folded for distribution. (See also, “Below the Fold.”)

Example of “Above the Fold”
Here’s the above-the-fold area of this web page, on most computers. To see more, you’d scroll below the fold — the area you don’t see first.
Acknowledgement Email

An email that’s immediately sent out to acknowledge an action taken by a visitor to the site, who has provided their email address. For example, “Thank you for subscribing!”


A new name and address/email address for a mailing list, acquired via a response to a sales promotion.

Acquisition Cost

The amount it costs a company to generate a new customer. For example, if a business mails 2,000 pieces at a cost of $800 and gets a 1% return, that amounts to 20 new customers at an acquisition cost of $40 per customer. Some say that the lower the acquisition cost, the better for the business. But sometimes a higher acquisition cost gives you a better customer lifetime value.

Acquisition Program

A marketing action, like a direct-mail campaign, with the goal of generating responses from new prospects who have never before done business with a company.

Action Devices

Copy that appears throughout a promotion that urges the prospect to do something, such as click a link, call a toll-free number, or complete a form.

Example of “Action Decives”
The orange button here is an example of an action device.

Prospects who have made purchases from a company within a specific time period, within the last year (for example) — considered active buyers.

Add to Cart Button

A call-to-action prompt for the visitor to place an item in the virtual shopping cart when ordering online.


Delivery format options available when buying a mailing list. Typical addressing options include printed labels, magnetic tape, email, and file download from a website.

Advertising Medium

The format in which an ad reaches a prospect. For example, on a website or Google search results page, by email or direct mail, on television or radio, in trade journals or at trade events, and so on.


A paid advertisement designed to look like an article containing information. The name is combination of the words “advertisement” and “editorial.” The premise of the advertorial is that potential customers are more likely to read helpful information (as part of an article) than a blatant ad, therefore, they will learn more about your product or service. Advertorials can be extremely effective, however to be fair to customers, publications are requiring the words “Advertisement” or “Paid Advertisement” at the top or bottom of the advertorial artwork. (See this article describing how Advertorials are an in-demand copy project.)


In marketing, being an advocate most often means you stand up for your prospect and are committed to his well-being, even if it means going head-to-head with a powerful group or traditional theories that others are promoting.


Text in the web page’s code that describes a particular graphic or photo on the page. This helps search engines “read” photos and other images, which in turn, affects search engine rankings.


Addressee Not Known.


To find or describe benefits that generate the most interest or capture the most attention in prospects.


See “Average Unit of Sale.”


Any copywriting project or job assigned by a client to a writer.


A reduction in numbers, for example, when the response to a certain mailing or promotion results in a reduced number of interested customers over the course of time; also when previously subscribed customers opt-out of a mailing list.


See “Average Unit of Sale.”


This is what copywriters should establish when writing promotions about products or services so it doesn’t read as generic, boilerplate, or “same old, same old.” Also known as authentic voice — sounding actually like the person who is talking (through your writing).


A series of follow-up emails sent to site visitors who have already provided their email addresses as a result of a purchase or signing up for a newsletter, membership, or free report. Oftentimes, the series will contain 3, 5, or 7 emails. They are pre-written to engage the visitor and set up to automatically go out in order within a specified time frame (for instance, one email per week).

Average Sale

See “Average Unit of Sale.”

Average Unit of Sale

Also known as average sale, AS, or AUS, this is the total revenue earned by a promotion divided by the number of orders generated by that same promotion.


An idea introduced by copywriting legend Gene Schwartz that refers to the level of knowledge and understanding a prospect has for the benefits of a product or the product’s existence; also refers to the prospect’s understanding of how much he wants or needs the product. (Gene Schwartz was also known for his 30-minute writing ritual, which is featured in an AWAI article.)


Barcode (Also Bar Code)

In direct mail, a barcode, or UPC (Uniform Council Code) is a graphic embedded on a mailing label or envelope, showing lines and numbers for a specific campaign code. The barcode is scanned by special machines designed to track pre-set data for each piece being mailed. The marketer can use that data to evaluate the success of a specific direct-mail campaign.


See “Business-to-Business.”


See “Business-to-Consumer.”


Any sale that takes place after a prospect has made an initial purchase. It often involves upselling — converting a prospect to a buyer, or converting a buyer to a repeat buyer or purchaser of a higher-ticket item.

Back-End Code

Any code that categorizes a product or service sold to a prospect after he has made an initial purchase from a company.


An envelope with an extra flap people can tear off to use as the order form or response form.

Banner Ad

A graphic rectangular or square image on a web page, promoting a product or service. It’s similar to a print “Space Ad.”

Example of “Banner Ad”
There are two banner ads on this webpage: a horizontal ad at the top, and a square ad in the right margin.
Base Rate

Starting price to order names and addresses from a mailing list. If the base rate for a mailing list is $100/M, then the cost to order 3,000 names would be $300.


The process of gathering and organizing orders as they come in.


See “Bar Code.”

Behind the Firewall

Content on a website for members only — they need a login (usually a username and password) to access the content.


The thoughts and attitudes of a prospect that influence his buying decisions.

Below the Fold

Used to describe the area that is not visible on a web page without scrolling down … it is derived from the concept of a newspaper, to describe the information on the bottom half of the front page, below where the newspaper was folded for distribution. See “Above the Fold.”

Beneath the Fold

See “Below the Fold.”


Advantages that a product or service can offer to the buyer. These are deep, meaningful advantages a product or service brings to a prospect's life; the positive impact of a product or service on an individual or on a company.

Big Idea

Any single powerful, unique idea or theme on which a promotion is based. It sets the tone/direction of the entire promotion. See how it works in this AWAI article.

Bill Enclosure (aka Buckslip or Statement Stuffer)

A promotional insert included with the mailing of a bill or invoice to a customer. Considered a cost-effective form of advertising, the concept is that the company is already paying to mail the invoice or statement; therefore, the promotional material "rides for free" inside the envelope.


A loose term that designates the act of showcasing related benefits on the cover page of a promotion. Traditionally, a billboard is a large advertisement displayed on the side of a road.


A promotion bound within a catalog or magazine, such as a postcard subscription offer.

Bingo Card

Slang term for the reply card that gets included inside a publication; readers circle the appropriate response number from an advertisement or article and mail in the card in order to request a magazine or other information.


A slang expression for "business opportunity," often utilized in markets where prospects are interested or motivated by the idea of making money via a new venture or starting a business.


A graphic design element such as a line, text, or picture that extends beyond the normal margins of the page to the page's physical or trimmed edge. Bleeds can be an extremely powerful design tool but increase printing costs.

Blind Envelope

A way to disguise direct mail as regular correspondence with the intention of enticing prospects so they are more likely to open the envelope. Blind envelopes are typically sent without teaser copy, without a company name or logo, and most often include a first-class stamp.


A website featuring a repeatedly updated chronicle, journal, or collection of news and helpful tips. It often links to other web pages, and visitors can respond with their own comments. Its name is short for “web log.”

Example of “Blog”
The AWAI Writer's Blog offers a steady stream of helpful tips, from a wide range of authors, to help anyone in the copywriting profession.
Blueline Proof

The blueline is the final proof a printer sends to the client before the start of the printing.

BMC – Bulk Mail Center

A facility that offers direct-response mailers a highly-automated mail processing system for sending out mass mailings. This often results in a reduced postage paid rate for the mailing.

Body (aka Body Copy or Body Text)

The main portion of the promotion. The middle part of written copy or text; the part that comes after the lead but before the close. It’s also the web page copy that follows the headline and intro text. It carries the reader through the entire justification process — all the way to the call-to-action.

Body Copy

See “Body.”

Body Text

See “Body.”


Creating trust and rapport between a company and a prospect in order to enhance the relationship and increase the likelihood the prospect will become a customer.


See “Premium.”


A book-style format usually 6x9 in size or smaller, containing all the components of the direct-mail piece.

Bounce Back

An offer enclosed with the fulfillment of a mailing sent to fulfill a customer order. Catalog mailers do this often by including the latest issue of their catalog or other promotional materials inside the package delivering ordered products.

Bounce Rate

An online statistic indicating:

  1. In web traffic data, the percentage of website visitors who quickly leave a page rather than stay, make a purchase, or respond to a call-to-action.
  2. In email campaigns, the bounce rate refers to the percentage of emails that “bounced” back to the sender by spam filters and never made it to the intended recipients. Typical reasons are incorrect addresses or high-level spam filters that don’t allow certain types of messages or “from” addresses to come through.

The identity of a specific business or product; the whole of the feelings, thoughts, ideas, and experiences of an organization or company that represent them to a prospective customer.


The art of establishing a company's brand that is easily recognizable by a prospect. Not to be confused with just the creation of a logo, branding includes a range of messages and communication materials. It also includes the name, sign or symbols, color combinations, taglines or slogans, and the company identity.

BRC — Business Reply Card

A postcard prepaid by, and pre-addressed to, the mailer. Mailers pay an annual fee for a business reply permit. Sometimes the mailer pays the postage, but not always. The prepaid intent is to make it easier for a prospect to fill out an order, subscribe to a list or mailing, or renew a subscription.

BRE — Business Reply Envelope

An envelope prepaid by, and pre-addressed to, the mailer. Mailers pay an annual fee for a business reply permit. Sometimes the mailer pays the postage, but not always.


The point when the sales of a product or service are equal to the total cost required to create, promote, and support it. All money after that breakeven point is considered gross profit.


Term used by marketers to describe a big realization or discovery that strongly impacts the results or success of a campaign. The slang term now associated with this is having an “a-ha” moment.


A booklet that promotes a product or service. It is not uncommon for company or product brochures to be multiple pages stapled together and printed on glossy paper stock.


Various online programs, such as Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer, used as a “window” to view and find websites.


The amount of money an advertiser allocates to an advertising campaign.

Bulk Mail

Mail sent third-class for a lower cost. This is usually the approach marketers take to mailing several thousand pieces of mail at a time.


At the point of sale, this is the attempt by a business to upsell a prospect on a bigger product, or to add another product to their purchase. (“Would you like fries with that?”) Basically, the business (or salesperson) is trying to ‘bump up’ the total dollar amount of the sale, increasing profit.


A graphic image (such as a starburst) used to draw attention to a special offer or opportunity. Used to generate excitement and catch the reader’s eye, a burst may be placed next to a photo of a premium (“Free with purchase!”) or a “regular price” (“Special Offer $19.95”).

Business-to-Business (B2B)

A promotion or advertising campaign that promotes the products and services of one business directly to another business (instead of targeting a consumer). B2B companies are suppliers (products, software, consulting) to other businesses. See AWAI’s B2B Copywriting website to learn more about this copywriting specialty.

Business-to-Consumer (B2C)

Any promotion or advertising campaign that promotes products and services from a business directly to a consumer.


Any company or individual prospect who orders and pays for a product or service.

Buying Behavior

Patterns of action by prospects, such as purchasing habits. Companies follow prospect buying patterns or habits to determine what other products or services might appeal to them, and increase the chances of the prospect buying more.



Folding a page into three sections in the shape of a C so the two ends overlap


A short section of copy designed to stand apart from the main body copy so as to draw attention to a specific point or quote. Often used to highlight a sale, free shipping, or some other important feature. If the call-out is a quote, it’s sometimes referred to as a “pull quote.”

Example of “Call Out”
On this web page, the quote is down near the bottom of the main copy. But it's also a featured call-out in the right column as indicated.

The point in which a promotion pushes (encourages) a prospect to act on an offer (e.g., make a call, place an order, sign up for mailing, click a link). Also referred to as CTA.

Card Deck

A mailing that consists of a collection of postcards, each promoting a different offer for a unique product or service.


The outer envelope of a direct-mail package.

Case Study (aka Success Story)

A Case Study is a short piece or document that describes how a company or organization solved a challenge with a product or service — and what the results of solving that challenge were. Unlike a “White Paper,” which is a longer document that defines a business or technical problem and presents a new or better solution to solve that problem, a case study is basically a short “before-and-after” success story. It often describes a subject’s problem or struggle, and then the benefit or result of using the company’s product or service. Find out how to write Case Studies.

Categorical Imperative

The tendency of the brain to compartmentalize information while shifting focus to another topic. This concept underscores the importance of avoiding a straight-arrow approach to a sales promotion. In other words, if a reader can logically guess where a sales message is going, he or she will stop reading and you'll lose the sale.

Category Page

Typically a second-level web page. Category pages present information on distinct areas of information within a website. For example, "Our Services" can be considered a category page. As can "Running Shoes" on a website selling shoes.

Cause Marketing

A partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual benefit. For instance, a company may promote that a percentage of their sales proceeds go toward helping a cause. Copywriters can play a critical role in helping companies make the most of cause marketing.


When testing part of a promotion such as the headline, different versions of the test are mailed to a set number of prospects. Each group of prospects is referred to as a cell. One cell is normally the “Control” mailing and all other cells are tested against it.

Certification Seal

A third-party service “stamp of approval,” such as HackerSafe, TRUSTe, or BBB (Better Business Bureau) — which signifies that the company is trustworthy.

Charter Offer

This is when a company offers a new product or service to a prospect for the first time. The product or service may not be brand-new, but it's the first time the prospect has had the opportunity to purchase it. The inaugural launch of a newsletter or magazine, product, club, even real estate opportunity can be referred to as a charter offer. This expression is often used to create a feeling of exclusivity and "get it first" advantages for the prospect.

Cheshire Label

A machine-affixable label that is ungummed (as opposed to self-adhesive labels which already have a sticky surface on one side). Cheshire labels are prepared on a word processor or computer, and the Cheshire label machine must cut and paste the label to affix for mailing. More commonly used in the past at mailing services for magazines, Cheshire labels are being replaced by “Inkjet.”

Example of “Cheshire Label”

A type of benefit promised by a company, usually backed up by some form of proof in order to make it seem valid and believable.

Claim Density

A term coined by Gene Schwartz that refers to the depth of the promise or claim made by a company. It is enhanced when your promise connects with your prospect’s desires, is supported by proof, has strong emotional ties, and fits well with the whole promotion.


In the freelance copywriting world, the client is a marketer who hires you for copywriting projects. One of the biggest questions a copywriter may have is, “How do I find clients?” AWAI offers a number of free presentations on this subject.

Click-Through Rate (aka CTR)

The percentage of prospects who received and opened an email and clicked-through its links to an online sales page. Also describes the percentage of readers who click through an online sales page to the order page.


The final stage of a promotion when the call-to-action is issued and the prospect is pushed for the sale. (Also see: “False Close.”)

Closing Copy

Any copy used at the end of a promotion that drives the prospect toward making their buying decision.

CMS (Content Management System)

This is a system used for developing and displaying website content. WordPress is a popular and easy-to-use CMS, but there are many others, such as Drupal and JOOMLA. Companies with hundreds or thousands of web pages or complex sales functions may also develop their own proprietary CMS.

Co-Op Mailing

A promotion or mailing where two or more offers, usually coming from separate companies, are included on the same website or within the same envelope. In such a case, both companies share the promotion costs according to a predetermined agreement.


A method used by marketers to determine which list or test cell generated an order, usually made up of a series of letters and numbers on the response devices for the order.


It’s a way to specify a lack of bond between a company and prospect. When a prospect or prospect list has no prior relationship with you or has never purchased from your company, or has no knowledge or experience of any products or services you offer. It can also refer to a list of prospects who have not been contacted in a long time; usually long enough that the company relationship no longer exists. Cold prospects are much harder to sell.

Cold List

See “Cold.”

Cold Prospect

See “Cold.”


Any printed material created to support sales by providing additional information, including pamphlets, brochures, inserts, or sales sheets… and even online: emails, landing pages, ads, advertorials, social media posts.

Commingling Mail

Commingling allows marketers to mix their mail with the mail from other organizations in order to maximize postage discounts offered by the USPS and potentially reduce delivery times. Multiple marketers, postage payment types, rates and mail piece weights are all strategically sorted together to get steep discounts on postage.

Comp (aka Mock-up)

A visual mock-up of certain concepts for a promotion (including a website or printed materials), often presented as a work-in-progress of what the final artwork is going to look like. This makes it easier for the client to understand, visualize, and approve the design and its elements.

Comparison Site

A site that allows the consumer to look up a particular product, find out where they can buy it on the Web, read reviews, and compare prices. Three popular comparison sites are,, and


Any product or company that offers either the same or similar benefits to something you offer.

Compiled List

Any list of names and addresses that can be compiled from a variety of different sources including newspapers, directories, public records, and retail sales slips, which identify groups of people with common traits.

Computer Service Bureau

A facility either internal or external to a company, which provides specific or general data processing services, such as “Merge/Purge.”


The Big Idea behind any campaign or major element in the advertising world.


Informational web content designed to help readers discover a solution, understand it, learn about the author, read success stories, see how other companies solved their issues, and more. It may be in the form of articles, blog posts, case studies, white papers, video, slide shows, and more. Content is sometimes referred to as “help, not hype,” “explainer (as in explainer video),” or “infotainment” in distinguishing it from sales copy.

Content Marketing

A strategic method of attracting prospects and building customer relationships/loyalty (“fans”) by creating and delivering valuable information that also engages the audience. For instance, a how-to video is a form of content marketing if it provides helpful information but also includes a call-to-action to sign up for a free demo, download a report, link to a product page, or sign up for a free trial. Content marketing tactics include articles, blog posts, case studies (stories), white papers, video, slide shows, and social media posts.


A mailing that’s an additional test to the same file (mailing list). You are continuing the test process to see if results hold beyond the initial test. The rollout would be as much as 10 times larger

Continuity Offer

An offer where a prospect gets billed on a monthly basis, often defined as a simple period of time (e.g., 12 months). When not defined by a time period, the offer keeps going indefinitely until the prospect cancels.

Continuity Program

Products or services bought as a series, instead of all at one time. Usually these products and services have a common theme and are shipped at regular intervals. Most companies begin with a starter item followed by similar products shipped at recurring time intervals. (For example, a book club or magazine subscription would be considered a continuity program.)


Term for the best-performing promotion used by a company at a given time. It often serves as the standard or yardstick against which future promotions are measured. For example, a direct-mail campaign would have a control cell, and then other test cells are mailed against it to see which promotion generates the best results. If a new promotion produces better results, it becomes the new control.

Conversion Rate

The percentage of site visitors who take a specific action. This action can either be purchasing a product or service, downloading software, enrolling in a membership, or signing up for a newsletter. It’s calculated by dividing the number of site visitors by the number of times those visitors take an action. It’s also a metric used for email marketing. It’s the number of people on the email list who purchased a product from an email marketing campaign.

Co-Palletization (CoPAL)

Co-palletized mail combines trays of mail of different items on the same pallet, thereby reducing mail costs due to larger quantity. Special postal regulations apply in order to get a co-palletization discount.

Copy (aka Sales Copy or Copywriting)

Any persuasive text used by marketers to entice prospects to purchase, opt-in, or engage in some other action. See “Copywriter/Copywriting.”

Copy Brief (aka Creative Brief)

The document that explains the goal of the promotion a copywriter is writing, usually outlining objectives, strategy, information on the target audience, and other points beneficial to the writing process that will aid the writer in crafting a persuasive message.

The symbol ©, which means an individual or company owns the rights to certain material and can protect that material against illegal use from unauthorized agents. The purpose is to prevent illegal use of someone’s work.


Copywriting is the process of writing advertising promotional materials. A copywriter is the professional writer responsible for the text on brochures, billboards, websites, emails, advertisements, catalogs, and many other type of marketing tactics… more than 75 or even 100 different types. This text is known as “copy.” Copy is everywhere — it’s part of a $2.3 trillion industry worldwide. Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action. That action might be to make a purchase, sign up for something such as a newsletter, or engage with a product, service, or company in some other way. That’s why a copywriter is often referred to as “a salesman in print.” See AWAI’s “What is Copywriting?” article for more information.

Example of “Copywriter/Copywriting”
AWAI’s “What is Copywriting?” page answers that question in great detail.
Copywriter Layout

A mock layout of how the copywriter sees the various elements of the web page being arranged. The writer then passes this layout along to the client and/or website designer

Copywriter's Rough

A visual that gives the client an idea of what the copywriter envisions for the final layout of the promotion or web page. It communicates the expected length of text, basic graphic suggestions and placement, and other conceptualizations of the package such as inserts and layouts.

Copywriting Brief

See “Copy Brief"


See “Copywriter/Copywriting"

Core Desire

An emotion or need that a prospect feels or wants very deeply. Most often it is something that appeals to their wants, desires, or needs. Promotions must dig for the core desires to accurately connect with prospects, using emotional “tugs” in the copy.

Cornerstone Content (aka Pillar Pages or Pillar Posts)

Pages within a website that contain evergreen, highly valuable content for a target audience, closely tied to one of the site’s major themes and linked to other highly relevant pages and posts. These cornerstone pages help the website rank well in search engines (Google, etc.) for high-level keywords, and also help provide the site with a structure that’s easier for visitors to navigate.

Cosmetic Violator

Any graphic element that intentionally violates the harmony of a promotion in order to draw attention to its message (e.g., “Free delivery!” or “Limited offer!”).

Cost Per Inquiry

This is the total cost of a promotion divided by the total number of leads the promotion generated.

Cost Per Thousand

The total cost of a promotion (including copy, design, list rental, printing and mailing costs, and postage charges) divided by the number of impressions was made in the thousands (e.g., A mailing to 400,000 prospects that costs $200,000 has a CPM of $500 per thousand).

Courtesy Reply Envelope

An envelope that is bar coded and pre-addressed to be returned to the company that mailed it. It is different than a business reply envelope (BRE) because the customer must pay postage.

Cover Wrap

A thick printed paper protective outer covering stitched to the outside of a magazine.


See “Cost Per Inquiry"

CPM — Cost Per Thousand

Used to define the cost per 1,000 mailing list names purchased, sold, or mailed; M is the Roman numeral for 1,000.


See “Cost Per Thousand"


See “Courtesy Reply Envelope"

Creative Brief

See “Copy Brief"


Building or increasing the connection of trustworthiness between a prospect and a business. Statistics, track records, testimonials and endorsements, and supporting data are all used to increase the credibility, belief, and trust for the prospect.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

Sophisticated software system that helps businesses collect and communicate to prospects and customers, and analyze and manage their activity over time. The prospects and customers provide their email addresses through an offer or purchase, and then become part of the CRM. The business then uses these lists to send out specific email messages and track responses, retention, and customer activity/lifetime value.

Crop Marks

Crop marks are printing lines that define the printable area on a page. They are placed at the corners of a page or image to define the limits of useable space for the designer. The printer also provides trim lines, denotes safe area, and bleed lines if the design goes to the edge of the page. Also called Registration Marks.

Example of “Crop Marks”

The practice of suggesting related products or services to a customer who is considering buying something, such as offering a dog leash to a person buying a dog collar. This approach often increases the amount of product sold overall.

CTR ("Click-Through Rate")

A tool to measure the effectiveness of an online ad campaign. It's calculated by dividing the number of times an ad was displayed by the number of times the ad was actually clicked on. This term is also used with email marketing to track the number of email recipients who click through to a web page, video page or other link.

Customer File

The list a company keeps of all established customers (and sometimes qualified prospects).

Customer Record

A computerized file that shows customer information, including name, address, phone, buying history, credit card, gender, etc.

Customer Service Email

An email sent in response to a customer's question about a product or service that he or she has purchased.

Customer Value Optimization (CVO)

A strategy to increase customer lifetime value that involves:

  1. Attracting more new customers
  2. Increasing the size of each sale
  3. Getting customers to buy more often


Data Card

A card used by most major direct-response mailers to store information about target prospects and customers, including demographics like gender, age, income, etc.

Example of “Data Card”
Here’s a sample data card on Men’s Health subscribers

A collection, usually accessed via computer, of customer records complete with vital information about each prospect or customer.

Database Marketing

Promotions sent to existing customers whose information is already available in the company database. Also known as mailing to the “house file.”


The process of eliminating duplicates from a list used for a direct mail or email promotion. The main purpose of de-duping is to save money by avoiding unnecessary mailing expenses. Duplicate names or duplicate delivery addresses can be eliminated by a programmer or computer service provider. See “Merge-Purge.”


Also called a “Seed.” A name inserted deliberately into a list to verify how the list is being used, or to get “Swipes” (samples of promotions).


A deliverable is something the copywriter is required to send to the client. Deliverables for a direct-response copywriting project might be three emails and two ads.


Any characteristics that describe segments within the human population: age, income, sex, marital status, education, etc.


Anything your prospect wants that relates to your products or your service area of expertise. The more your copy can connect with the deeper desires of your prospect, the more likely they are to buy

Desktop Publishing

The process of using a computer and designated software to combine graphics and text in various types of documents, including e-books, newsletters, and brochures.


To cut irregular shapes in paper or paperboard using a die. Companies use die-cut printers to create the shapes, and then repeat them in several pieces to be printed or mailed. For instance, a mailer with a star-shaped die-cut requires special processing to repeat that shape in thousands of mailers.


A marketing term that refers to the act of making your product or service appear different from — and more desirable than — all others similar to it.


An advertising piece that’s smaller than a conventional size magazine but larger than a standard paperback book, approximately 5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, but can also be 5 3/8 x 8 3/8 inches and 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches. (For instance, Farmer’s Almanac and Reader’s Digest.)


Any mailing piece that has a visual presence other than being a flat envelope. (It may be known as “lumpy mail.”) It essentially entices the prospect to open out of curiosity to find out what’s inside. Often expensive to produce but usually a cost-effective way to reach out to sophisticated or hard-to-persuade audiences. Examples include a penny or a prayer flag.


The specific category of benefits where a vivid and compelling picture can be presented, enabling the prospect to picture in detail the use and key benefits of the product before he actually buys it. The goal is to make the product come alive to the prospect and spur his desires in order to increase the likelihood he will make the purchase.

Direct Mail

A marketing and promotional strategy that uses paper mail to acquire new customers and send back-end product promotions to those customers. Direct Mail can include self-mailers, postcards, envelopes, magalogs, etc.

Direct Mail Package

Any promotion sent out via direct mail. In other words, mailed through the postal service.

Direct Marketing Association (DMA)

One of the major trade associations connected to the field of direct-response marketing. Its main focus is on large companies and the ways in which they target audiences. See for more information.

Direct Marketing

Promotions created to target a specific audience selected after a careful study of buying patterns and demographic and psychographic traits. (See "Direct Response Marketing.")

Direct Response

Advertising methods that solicit an immediate action from the audience.

Direct-Response Marketing

Promotions that enable marketers to solicit an immediate, measurable response from recipients. (As opposed to “image advertising” which is only to inform or remind the prospects about the company or a product, but does not encourage a specific response at a specific time via a specific channel.)

Display Ad

Any advertisement offering a product or service for sale that is displayed in a magazine, newspaper, or online, but not a classified ad. Display ads vary tremendously in size, color, graphics, and amount of copy.

DM — Direct Mail (DM is also used for Direct Marketing)

Direct mail is any promotional advertising that travels through the post, or is delivered to mail boxes by other distributors.

DMA Pander

A database, compiled by the Direct Marketing Association, listing consumers who have requested not to be solicited by mail.


See “Direct Marketing Association”

Dominant Resident Emotions

A term coined by Master Copywriter Clayton Makepeace to describe the emotions of a prospect that dominate (i.e., the strongest emotions relevant to the product or service being sold), along with the emotions that are simply resident (i.e., long-standing, deep emotions in the prospect).

Donor List

A list of individuals who have donated money to one or more fundraising organizations.

Doubling Date

The date by which a marketer usually has received half of the total revenue a promotion will bring in. These dates are used to predict the final result of different lists and test cells in a mailing, allowing marketers to plan other promotions more quickly.


In direct marketing, it's a document (PDF, Word document, etc.) people can download off a website. It's often a free report, case study, white paper, worksheet, price list, or other type of highly useful content.


The act of making a lower-priced offer to prospects who said no to your initial offer.

DPI — Dots Per Inch

The number of dots that fit horizontally and vertically into a one-inch measure. Generally, the more dots per inch, the more detail is captured, and the sharper the resulting image.

Drip Campaign

This email campaign is designed to slowly release content over time. For instance, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3.

Dummy Name

A fake name used in mailing lists so marketers can track how the list is being used. Many marketers add a dummy name to their own files so they can observe the way in which list renters use the list. A dummy name can also be called a "Seed name."

Dupe Elimination (aka Merge/Purge)

To merge one file with another and purge out the duplicates, so that no matter how many times a name and address is on a list, or how many lists contain that name and address, it will be mailed only once.


E-newsletter (aka Email Newsletter)

A daily, weekly, or monthly online newsletter sent by marketers to their subscriber list, which contains articles, editorial content, and sales promotions or messages. This is a popular and well-read approach to continuously communicating with customers. See Newsletter. Find out how to write e-newsletters for service companies.


A term used to describe any kind of competitive advantage one marketer or company has over another.


Usually the person who writes and oversees a newspaper, magazine, or newsletter, though it may be someone who coordinates the writing and the assignments for any type of copy or publication.


The copy featured in magazines, newspapers, or online news sites that is not promotional. Usually editorial pieces are articles, news briefs, fillers, or cover stories.


See “Gates”

Email List

A collection of targeted names and email addresses from people who have shown an interest in a company or service by “opting in” (signing up) for a free newsletter or a downloadable report. Email lists for specific types of targets can often be rented and used for customer acquisition. Anyone renting a list must follow all CAN-SPAM regulations: a US law that’s only binding on mailings within the US, though it may be voluntarily followed in other countries (e.g. Canada and England) as well.

Email Marketing

The process used by a company to communicate and promote products or services to targeted prospects via email.

Emotions/Emotional Appeal/Emotional Benefit

In copywriting, emotions are the key feeling you need to connect to in your prospect. They are the single-most effective conduit to getting a prospect to buy. People buy for emotional reasons, then rationalize the purchase with features and logic. Successful promotions go beyond fear and greed to deeper emotions. The approach copywriters use within promotions to connect with prospects on a deeper level, which may include speaking to feelings of fear, greed, pride, vanity, envy, or other, deeper emotions.


Positive commentary or words of praise from an expert in a field or a professional connected in some way to a product or service. Endorsements (often paid for) are used in copy to reinforce a prospect's decision to buy.


Any business owner interested in new and profitable pursuits.


A paper mailer holding a letter or other document(s). Comes in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the intent and scope of the direct-marketing campaign. Specific examples are listed in this Glossary.

Envelope: #6-3/4

3 5/8” x 6 1/2” size envelope.

Envelope: #9

3 7/8” x 8 7/8” size envelope.

Envelope: #10

The most common size of envelopes for direct-mail packages: 4 1/8” x 9 1/2”.

Envelope 6x9

6” x 9” size envelope.

Evergreen Issue

A topic that people are always concerned about or interested in (such as training a puppy), rather than short-term interest that goes out of date (such as a specific event).


An agreement between mailers to trade an equal quantity of mailing list names. This may involve a direct swap, a list for space, or a list for something that is equal in value.


The desire of a prospect to belong to an elite group, usually an appeal in copy that flatters the prospect and elevates him or her above the masses.

Expiration Date

The date upon which a promotional offer will no longer be available.


Term used to describe a subscriber or customer who no longer actively makes purchases.


An agreement between a client and a copywriter where money is not exchanged for work but where the client agrees to give a testimonial or other form of public approval. (Not an ideal business arrangement for any copywriter.)


Sometimes also called a (“Pre-head”)

In copy, this is a short, introductory headline that appears in smaller type and is featured above the main headline.

Example of “Eyebrow”
Here is an example of an eyebrow for a health promotion.


False Close

The point in a promotion where a prospect assumes the writer is about to ask for money, but where the writer instead takes an unexpected turn and covers a different topic, usually either introducing another benefit or telling a relevant story. (Also see “Close.”)


A term legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz used to describe the way bulleted copy is used to intrigue the prospect so forcefully that he "Can't help but buy."


Any specific trait or attribute held by your product or service; this would include specifications, sizes, etc.


Used to explain the way a prospect feels on an emotional level, not simply at a given moment.

File Maintenance

Also called List Maintenance. Changing, adding, or deleting data in a file to keep it up-to-date.

Finder File

A copy of the mail file containing a unique identifier number or code. By data-entering the unique identifier, the customer's name and address can be accessed. The code is printed on the order form and used to track the customer's order transactions.

First-Class Mail

A top classification of mail by the United States Post Office. This mail gets delivered to the prospects faster but costs more than bulk mail.

Flat Benefit

This is what happens when a benefit is off-target and does not excite a prospect, resulting in little or no emotion.

FOE — Forwarding Order Expired

The order to forward mail to a new address expired.

Follow-up Emails (aka “Autoresponders”)

Emails sent out to site visitors who have already provided their email addresses, as a result of a purchase or signing up for a newsletter, membership, demo, free report, etc. (Also see “Autoresponders.”)

General, "boilerplate" text that appears at the bottom of every page on a website. Ideally, it contains the company name, address, telephone number and customer service email address. It often includes a copyright and the web development company name, as well as an association membership seal, such as the Better Business Bureau, when applicable. Some footers also contain main navigation links for the site.

Form 3602

The Statement of Mailing that a lettershop must provide to the Post Office with delivery of a bulk mailing. This form identifies the mail class, sortation, postage rate, number of pieces to be mailed, and total amount of postage due. It serves as certification that mail has been received at the Post Office, verified by a stamp made on the form at the Post Office when the mail is dropped off.


The shape, size, and general makeup of a printed promotion. Options include: letter, magalog, bookalog, jumbo envelope, postcard, brochure, etc. Since the format can strongly impact the results of the mailing, important consideration is given when it is being written and designed.

Four-Color Process (4C)

The use of cyan (blue), magenta, yellow, and black ink combined in such a way that produces full-color artwork and photographs for a promotion. Also known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black).

Free Report

See “Premium”

Free Standing Insert

A stand-alone flyer inserted into newspapers and shoppers. Free standing inserts are not attached to the paper so they can fall out and capture attention.

Freelancer/Freelance Copywriter

A writer, artist, or photographer who is self-employed and not on staff with any company. They are independent contractors who provide services under a “work for hire” contract or “freelance” basis and the individual is paid per project. Today, freelance copywriters are in high demand as companies scramble for attention online and in print. Learn more about how to become a freelance copywriter.

Front-End Promotion

Another term for customer acquisition. Activities performed to produce responses to a direct-marketing program and the measurement of those activities. Another term for customer acquisition. Front-end products tend to be lower priced with the goal of cultivating customers rather than generating profit. The opposite of “Back-End.”

FSI — Free Standing Insert

An unattached promotion found in a newspaper or magazine.

Fuji or Epson Proof

A computer-generated digital proof from a Fuji or Epson printer, as compared to a press proof printed using ink


Process of supplying goods after an order has been received. Process of reacting to a customer's request, covering everything that has to happen from the time the customer places an order until they are completely satisfied.

Functional Benefit

A benefit that’s presented in terms of what it will do for the prospect. It answers the “What’s in it for me?” question for the reader.



In B2B marketing, these are the employees who screen mail before it reaches the key decision-makers. In order to land a sale, it's essential to get mail past these gatekeepers and to the high-level executives for whom it's intended.


Separate, odd-sized bits of paper, such as “Lift Notes,” that are placed in an envelope with a sales promotion. Each paper serves as another way to persuade the prospect to buy. Different articles and sidebars of a marketing piece or magalog can be called “gates” or “gateways” into a promotion, meaning that some prospects will start by reading those instead of the beginning of the letter or promotion as it was designed. All gates are important because you never know which one will catch a prospect’s eye and bring him/her into a promotion.


In print direct marketing promotions, a gauntlet is a review process using a series of qualifying steps a marketing idea must pass before it gets approval to run. In email promotions, a gauntlet may be a series of emails sent to prospects or customers.


In terms of mailings, this is the way a mailing list may be divided along regional, state, or country lines. Divisions may also be based on county, city, metro area, or zip codes. Some marketers select to only mail to specific areas, or they may sort the mailing list by geographic parameters before splitting it to test various cells. (Therefore, making sure the test results are based on the promotion, and not differences based on geographic factors.)

Golden Thread

The manner in which a copywriter connects core desires to the sales pitch throughout a promotion. Usually, it's in the form of a promise or central theme that runs through the entire promotion and keeps the reader from losing interest by reminding him or her of the benefits offered by the product or service.

Golden Triangle (aka “F shape”)

The portion of the web page that most readers immediately scan upon arrival. User tests prove that readers start at the top of the page, reading left to right, and then work their way down diagonally. Therefore, the triangle is widest in the top left section of the page and decreases in width as the reader's eyes move down the left side of the page.

Example of “Golden Triangle”
In this heat map, red and yellow represent more views while blue and green represent fewer. You can see how the pattern vaguely resembles a capital letter F. This pattern is typical of most websites.
Google AdWords

Since Google is the top search engine, companies place paid search ads on Google to attract prospects and customers. They use the Google AdWords system to set up and place ads.

Google Alerts

A free service offered by Google to get "alerts" when there's new content related to a specific topic or keyphrase. Companies can set up alerts to follow industry news or even their own business.

Google Analytics

A free service offered by Google that allows marketers to analyze detailed and valuable statistics about the activity of visitors to their websites.

A free service offered by Google that allows marketers to view and analyze which specific keywords or key phrases are actually being searched for by the public at any given time.

Unlike a simple word link, a graphic link on a web page is a hyperlink configured as a graphic feature or an icon (such as a Buy Now button).


Literally, copy in the Greek language, used as a placeholder while putting together design mockups (for a direct-mail piece or a website) before the actual copy is ready.


Any promise made to refund a customer's money in the event he or she is unsatisfied with a purchase.


Hard Insert

Insert promotional material by hand into mailing pieces.

Hard Offer

Any offer where money is required upfront (as is the case for most offers). The opposite of a soft offer.


General, “boilerplate” text and/or images and logos that appear at the top of every page on a website.


The very first line of any promotion; the initial copy read by a prospect meant to lure him or her into reading the promotion. Some say that headlines are 80% responsible for copy success. (If the headline doesn't compel the prospect to read further, you've lost the potential sale.)

Hero Shot

A striking photo or image of either the product or the benefit of a service. It's usually placed prominently on a website, landing page, direct-mail piece, etc., to show people what it is they're buying.

Example of “Hero Shot”
This cover of a promotion by Carline Anglade-Cole features two heros: the doctor and the product.

The opening page of a website, which has the primary purpose of welcoming visitors, establishing that they're in the right place, differentiating the site/service from all others in the category, and providing highly useful information and links to other pages on the site. Learn all about web copywriting on this AWAI page.


Used to grab the attention of a prospect, making him or her want to keep reading, watching, or listening.

Hot List

A selection of a company's hottest customers or prospects; in other words, most likely to buy again and again.


A segment of a mailing list that represents the most recent buyers of a product or service. This specific list is usually no older than three months at most. These buyers who have recently purchased are the most likely to buy again and often have a history of purchasing goods through direct marketing.

House File

Any mailing list or email list cultivated and owned by a company with records of all customers (active and inactive buyers) and qualified prospects who've inquired about the company's product or service. Versus renting a list from a list broker.

House File Marketing

See “Database Marketing”

HTML (“Hyper Text Markup Language”)

A “behind-the-scenes” markup language for web pages. It’s the code used to structure the copy, present images, and create hypertext links between pages.


Nick Usborne's phrase for emails and e-newsletters that just lightly apply HTML elements and graphics, while 90% of the document remains in standard text form.

Human Nature

Common, predictable patterns of human behavior that can be assessed and targeted through a promotion.

A word, phrase, or image found in an HTML-formatted web page and coded to include a link. When clicked, it jumps to a new page or another section within the current page.


Inactive Buyers

Individuals who have not placed an order or responded to an offer during a specified time period.

A link from another web page which connects to one of your web pages. Google and other search engines use these links to determine the relevance and rankings of web pages, making them very valuable.

Inbound Marketing

A strategy and process of attracting prospects to products and services online through different approaches: paid search ads, social media marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), YouTube videos, and other content-related “attention getters.” The content brings attention to a product or service so prospects are intrigued and want to learn more (or even make a purchase).

Inbound Telemarketing

The act of taking incoming calls from customers or prospects, for example on an 800 phone number as a result of a promotion.


A substitute for a postage stamp or metered postage that appears as a preprinted marking on the upper right hand corner of a mail piece. It usually says "U.S. Postage Paid." The indicia indicate the permit number and mail class and is also normally preprinted on business reply envelopes.


When a copywriter breaks up the logical order of the copy in a sales letter so the prospect can't make assumptions as to what will be said next. This forces the prospect to continually read the promotion.


A direct-response ad delivered through the television, typically running 30 minutes long and designed to look like a television program rather than an ad. An infomercial is a combination of in-depth information and a commercial for a specific product, and encourages purchase during a specific time frame.

Information Architect

The person who organizes all the information on a website and creates a navigation system to help visitors quickly obtain that information.

Information Marketing

The process of selling any information-based product that often comes in the form of an e-book, DVD, or special report.

Information Page

A page on a website that is focused solely on delivering useful, helpful information, as opposed to selling the product or service. Well-designed information pages also contain links or other “next step” actions that may lead readers to an opt-in, social media “Like” or “Share,” or a direct sale.


A type of printing that jets ink onto paper to produce text and graphics. Inkjet printing is a cheaper alternative to laser printing. Inkjet labeling is printed directly on to the envelope or mail piece (such as a postcard or magazine).

Example of “Inkjet”

A graphic element (photo, chart, other image) that’s included on the same line as text — as part of the same paragraph, for example. It’s also a phrase to describe paper that’s still on the printing press.

Input File

The data file of initial information.


A prospect who requests more information about a product or service as a result of a promotion, usually through direct mail (online, this person is called an “opt-in”).


A separate promotional piece inserted into a package, envelope, magazine, catalog, or other medium sent to a customer.


Machine that attaches labels, addresses envelopes, inserts printed pieces into any style envelope, as well as sticking postage on mail pieces.

Installment Buyer

A person who has ordered goods or services, but pays for them in periodic, pre-arranged installments.

Installment Offer

An offer where a prospect has the option to pay for a product or service in small increments on a schedule rather than paying the full cost all at once.

Institutional Advertising (aka Image Advertising)

Marketing messages with the intent to build brand awareness or image for a company rather than elicit a response. There is no means included to track institutional or image advertising, and therefore, it is difficult to prove effectiveness.

Integrated Marketing

Any combination of two or more forms of marketing used to sell a product or service. Some refer to this as a marketing mix.


In the digital marketing world, successful copy is written to meet the intent of a person searching online. For instance, if a person types, “tie a tie” into Google search, the perceived intent is to find a solution to the question, “How do I tie a necktie?”

Inter-List Duplicate

Duplication of name and address records between two or more lists.

Intra-List Duplicate

Duplication of name and address records within one list.

Intro Text

The few short paragraphs on a web page that immediately follow the headline, generally appealing to the emotional side of the reader as an initial payoff to the headline's promise. Also known as the Lead.

ISP (“Internet Service Provider”)

A company that provides its subscribers an entry point to the internet. Many cable TV companies are ISPs.


Johnson Box

Used originally in direct mail, it’s a “box” of copy that’s set apart at the top of an email or sales letter and contains short, key elements of the marketer’s message and the offer.

Example of “Johnson Box”
The portion outlined at the top of this sales letter is a Johnson Box.
Joint Venture

A partnership between entrepreneurs or companies, giving both of them access to each other's products or services. It's usually for a limited duration or for a specific accomplishment/product.


Key Code

Any grouping of numbers, letters, colors, or other marks used to track and measure effectiveness for certain types of media, lists, direct-mail packages, ads, and catalog mailings. Key codes help differentiate both the offer and date sent, as well as the specific customer who is responding. Also called a Subcampaign Code.

Example of “Key Code”
Claude Hopkins invented the concept of keyed advertising. In this Hopkins ad for toothpaste, the key code was made a part of the address. This is a common method; with responses to different ads being routed to different PO Boxes.
Keyword and Key Phrase

Words and phrases that people type into Google and other search engines when looking for answers or solutions to specific needs or interests. These words and phrases are also strategically placed into the copy of a web page to attract search engines that are matching searchers with relevant websites. This is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO)… and copywriters with this skill are in high demand. See “Search Engine Optimization” or explore our AWAI page on SEO copywriting.

Keyword Density

Used to be a measure of how often a keyword is used on a specific web page. It has become an outdated measurement.

Keyword Research Tools

Sites like and gather information from certain search engines (usually Google), and then present a list of keywords and key phrases that are used by people searching online. The tools also provide data for each keyword, such as average monthly searches (or demand) and competition (number of sites that contain the same keyword or compete in paid search ads). Copywriters can use the keywords to come up with web page topics/content that’s relevant to the client’s business.


A journalistic term that describes a line of copy used to create context or to “kick” up interest for an article. The equivalent to a summary in web writing.


Landing Page

A tightly focused web page with a particular audience in mind, designed to sell a specific product or service… or promote a specific offer such as a free report. The prospect “lands” on this sales letter page from a specific source such as a banner ad, an email, or a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ad. The landing page can also capture information.


An art design in which the width is greater than the height. (See also, “Portrait.”)


A type of electrophotographic printing using a laser beam to scan the surface of the drum creating a latent image that attracts toner, then transfers the toner image to paper.


Literally, copy in the Latin language, used as a placeholder while putting together design mockups (as in a website) before the actual copy is ready. Greek is the more common form of placeholder copy.

Lead Generation (aka Lead-Gen)

The act of collecting a list of prospective clients who will be likely to buy at some point; a common term used in marketing, especially in B2B (Business-to-Business). Lead-gen is done online and by mail to generate leads for further sales contacts rather than trying to get immediate sales. And, the leads may be contacted (follow up) via email, sales calls, mailed information packet, or other means.

Letter Format

The most common direct-mail format, this is a letter printed on 8 1/2” x 11” paper and inserted into a regular #10 envelope.

Letter of Agreement (aka Project Contract)

A legal contract between a copywriter and a client designed to protect both and to outline payment, delivery schedule, product concept, and legal issues such as non-compete agreements.

Lettershop (aka Mailhouse or Mail House)

A company that performs the tasks of preparing a mailing, including collating, inserting the materials into envelopes, addressing, imprinting or inkjetting, and sorting the mail to meet the specifications of the Post Office. Most lettershops also handle the data processing necessary to personalize the direct-mail promotion with name, address, zip code, and key codes for tracking purposes.

Lifetime Value

The total revenue a customer will generate for a company over the "lifetime" of their relationship.


A term used to describe any increase in response to a mailing, often achieved by adjusting the copy or mailing a new version of an older message.

Lift Letter (aka Lift Note)

An extra, separate component of a mailing or online campaign, in which a specific point of the offer is reinforced.

Lift Memo

Similar to a lift note but produced in the style of a memo.

Lift Note

A small note, often in letter form, added to a main sales letter in an effort to emphasize a particular point about a product or service and increase response to the promotion. Lift notes are generally smaller-sized pieces of paper inserted inside the envelope of the direct-mail promotion. The expression "lift note" is also used on the Web for a short note added to enhance the main sales message being sent out via email.

Limited Time Offer

Any offer made that includes a strict and immediate time deadline or expiration of a sale; often used to add urgency to an offer and increase response.


The group of prospects selected for a specific mail or email promotion. It is the most crucial part of any direct-response promotional effort. The list is often highly targeted in order to elicit the highest response. Matching the right list with the right offer is one of the best ways to guarantee the success of a promotion. For a writer, knowing the “list” of who will be receiving the promotion is critical, in order to target what the recipient wants or needs to hear.

List Broker

A company or specialist who rents mailing lists for direct mail and email, making all the arrangements necessary to bring list buyers and list owners together. List broker services may include research, list selection, evaluation, and recommendation.

List Maintenance

Also called File Maintenance. Changing, adding, or deleting data in a file to keep it up-to-date.

List Manager

A person who oversees the use of a list(s) by others. The list manager, if not also the list owner, serves the owner by promoting and marketing a list, record keeping and list cleaning, along with the collection of list usage fees.

List Owner

A person or company who has built a list by compiling names that have something in common, or who has purchased a list from someone else.

List Rental

An arrangement in which a marketer acquires the right to mail or email to a list of names, but on a one-time basis at a pre-set cost per thousand names.

List Select

A way to segregate smaller groups within a larger list; groups may be based on sex, age, income, education, or geographic region.

List Test

Part of a mailing list that is selected, usually randomly, to try and evaluate the effectiveness of an entire list (in other words, it's used to test the quality of response from the entire list).


See “Letter of Agreement.”

Long Copy

Direct-response promotions that run between 12 and 24 pages, sometimes more, whether they're mailed or on web pages.



See “Maximum Allowable Cost-per-sale.”


A piece of direct mail that looks more like a magazine than a sales letter. Usually contained within a colorful, glossy magazine-style format, it has lift notes, testimonials, endorsements, and information on premiums, as well as the direct-mail letter. Magalogs are often designed as self-mailers.

Example of “Magalog”
Here is the front cover of a 32-page Magalog written by Carline Anglade-Cole. It has a title, price, date of publication and most of the other elements one might expect to see on a subscription magazine.
Mail Date

The date a mailing goes to the Post Office to be processed for delivery.

Mail House (aka Mailing House)

See “Lettershop.”

Mail Order

The transaction of selling through mail. Mail orders (purchases) can be placed by mail, fax, internet, or telephone. Once the order is officially received, the merchandise can go directly to the buyer.

Mail Order Buyer

Any prospect who orders and pays for a product through postal mail.

Mail Preference Scheme

A service that allows consumers to add or remove their names from mailing lists.

Mailhouse (aka Lettershop)

A company that performs the mechanical details involved with mailing including addressing, imprinting, collating, etc.

Manipulative Sales Page

A web page that tends to rush and pressure the reader into taking an action, instead of earning the reader's genuine trust and agreement.


The gross profit on sales derived by subtracting the cost of goods sold from gross revenue.


The group of prospects you specifically target for your product or service. Knowing your market and determining what offers will generate the best response is an important key to a company's success. Your target market is that very focused segment of the market that is most likely to be receptive to your product or service.

Marketing Intuition

This refers to an instinctive connection with the way a prospect will respond to a sales approach. It comes from experience in the field and is important as a way to reduce time wasted with ineffective campaigns. It's the feeling something will succeed or fail with your prospects.


Ad agencies and digital marketing firms often include vendor and/or media markup as part of their business model. Therefore, if you're a copywriter who's hired by an ad agency or digital marketing firm, the fee you're paid is lower than the fee charged to the end client. Quite often, the markup is 15%. An agency representative will want to make sure your fee allows them to include the markup to the client, so you may be asked to negotiate your fee.

Mass Market

A large percentage of the general public. When a product is so widely appealing to the mainstream population, marketers are able to sell it to a vast percentage of people, as opposed to a niche market created because of gender, age, income, interests, occupation, etc.


A file that is of a permanent nature, or one that contains sub-files.


To make the typing of addresses, salutations, or inserts into letters agree with other imprinted copy.

Matte Finish

A dull finish on a paper; no glossy sheen.

Mature Market

A market that has sophisticated prospects and lots of competition; mature markets are generally more difficult to stand out in and sell products in. It may also mean a mature sales cycle, meaning the customers have been with the company a long time… and so the copy is different when sending promotions to them.


This designates how evolved a market is. The maturity of a market must be understood before a product can be launched successfully into it.

Maximum Allowable Cost-per-sale

The maximum amount a company will spend to get a new customer.


To merge one file with another and purge out the duplicates, so that no matter how many times a name and address is on a list, or how many lists contain that name and address, it will be mailed only once. Merge/Purge can also be called De-Duplication or Dupe Elimination.

Meta Description (aka “Meta tag”)

Text placed in the HTML code of each web page to convey a short description of the page's subject matter. Quite often, search engines (such as Google) will display this exact copy "snippet" in the two lines sitting just beneath the title of the SERP (search engine results page) listing. It should include your primary keyword or phrase within an appealing sentence, for that page to increase your search engine rankings and click-throughs. See Search Engine Optimization.

Example of “Meta Description”
A meta description is shown here. It's the gray sentence Google displays in its search results.
Micro Conversion

The initial, smaller conversion steps that eventually lead to the main conversion step you want your client or prospect to take.


In copy terms, this denotes the amount of intensity and connection found in your body copy, also a way to describe copy that is mesmerizing and hard to put down. Copy with momentum will be successful with prospects.


The same names found on multiple lists, usually identified in a merge-purge process and assigned a value of 1 to 9 times.

Multiple Buyers

An individual who has made two or more purchases from the same company, but at different times. Multiple buyers are important because they're more likely to respond to direct marketing offers than other buyers are.


NCOA — National Change of Address

The U.S. Postal Service system that consolidates and standardizes all address changes in the U.S.


Not Deliverable As Addressed

Net Reuse

The amount of usable records that can be used again, eliminating duplicate or inaccurate records.

Newsletter (e-newsletter)

A publication commonly put out by companies to build relationships with their customers. Delivered on a consistent schedule, newsletters are normally brief and filled with articles such as product announcements, client success stories, staff profiles, and more to inform prospects. They are a subtle sales tool and frequently used as a customer acquisition vehicle via mail or email. See E-newsletter.

Niche Market

A subset or slice of the mass market. A niche market is narrowly defined based on specialized area of interest. For marketers, niche examples may be consumers with new babies; people who own boats; Baby Boomers. For a copywriter, a niche is writing for a specific industry, such as Financial, Health, B2B Manufacturing, Baby Products, etc. See this free AWAI presentation on How to Pick a Profitable Writing Niche.


An undeliverable, misaddressed, or illegibly addressed piece of mail returned to sender.


This feature on a web page indicates to search engines that the page should not be indexed or used for ranking the website. Marketers may use this strategy for various purposes. One is if the page links out to an RSS feed.

NNA — Net Name Arrangement

An agreement where the list owner agrees to accept adjusted payment for less than the total names shipped to the list user; usually to pay for total names mailed after duplicates are eliminated.

Nth Name (aka Nth Select)

The method used to extract names from a larger mail file to create a smaller file. For the nth selection to be truly representative, it is important that the nth name be chosen after all other data processing such as de-duping, NCOA, and postal sorting is complete. For example, you may choose to mail every 10th name, so the programmer selects every 10th name on the sorted mailing list to create a new test mailing list.


OE — Outer Envelope

Of a direct-mail package. Also called a Carrier.

Off-the-Page (OTP)

A sale that is obtained directly from a press release, which doesn't happen often and is hard to do, but yet is possible with the skills of a good copywriter.


Everything that goes into the proposition made to a customer or prospect, including price of product or service, length of subscription, free gifts, discounts, payment terms, and guarantees.


Name and address records you do not want to use from the list.

On Speculation (On Spec)

Work done by a copywriter with no guarantee of pay, usually used only if a client likes the writer's work and chooses to use it. In that case, the writer gets paid. It's often a way for a copywriter to provide a sample showing his/her skills for a new type of project/client/industry. AWAI offers several Spec Assignments for copywriters who become members.


An item printed on a piece of paper with only one ink color, usually which is black on white paper.

One-Shot Mailing

An offer or promotion with the intention of making a sale through a single transaction.

One-Time Buyer

A buyer who does not purchase anything after his initial purchase from a company.

One-Time Use

Normally a list is rented for a one-time use only, whereby it is understood that the mailer will not use the names more than once without the prior agreement of the list owner.

Open Rate

The percentage of emails opened by target prospects after reading the subject line of that email.


When a prospect chooses to be put on an email list and receive communications, they are opting-in. Often a name and email address is requested from a prospect in exchange for free information or as part of a purchase. Getting prospects to opt-in is an essential step in marketing through email because it makes it possible to legally build a qualified email list. Sending email to anyone who has not opted-in to your list is called spamming, and is illegal.

Opt-Out (aka Unsubscribe)

A method that allows a prospect to elect NOT to receive communications (emails), and not to be added to an email list.

Optimized Content

See “Search Engine Optimization.”

Order Form (aka Response Device or Order Device)

It can either be printed or can appear online with the goal of being easy to fill out so a buyer can purchase a product or service without complication. An order form generally includes a promise-oriented headline, a sense of urgency, acceptance of the product or service, a reminder of any relevant bonuses, the cost (and savings), the manner in which the prospect can pay, and an area where the prospect can enter contact information.

Example of “Order Form”
Order forms can take on many styles and designs. Here is one with a certificate-like border.

See “off-the-page.”

An outgoing link from your website that connects to another site.

Outbound Marketing (aka Interruptive Marketing)

Classic marketing techniques that reach out to prospects (vs. Inbound Marketing, which attracts them). Outbound Marketing includes print, radio, and TV advertising, cold calling, direct mail, and other outreach techniques.

Outbound Telemarketing

Calls that are made by a marketer to prospects (in contrast to inbound telemarketing, where the prospect makes the call to the marketer). Outbound telemarketing, in combination with direct mail, can effectively lift the overall response for the promotion. Most large direct mailers use trained outbound telemarketers who follow a specific script to generate sales.

Outside Offers

Any offers included in a package or order that come from a company different than the one actually fulfilling the initial order that resulted in a package.


P.S. — Post Script

The very end of a sales letter. It usually restates the promise or provides an additional piece of information such as a testimonial, additional bonus, offer deadline, etc.


A term used to describe all of the elements of a direct-mail promotion sent to a prospect. Can either be a single-page letter, an envelope containing several components, or even a self-mailer.

Package Insert

Anything included in a mailed offer with a promotional intention; inserts to introduce products or services to a new market.

Package Test (See also “Split Test”)

When one or more elements of a promotion (such as the copy, the graphics, the components of the package, the teaser copy on the outer envelope) are tested against each other.

Page Sequence

The progressive series of web pages by which someone moves through a site to find the desired information.

Page Title and Page Title Tag

The copy that appears at the very top of a web page inside the thin blue "title bar" is the page title. This copy also repeats as the very first line of any search engine results listing. It's critical to include a Page Title Tag in the web page's code to help search engines understand what the page is about. It's best to use a keyword in the Page Title tag as well, to help with search rankings. See Search Engine Optimization.

Example of “Page Title and Page Title Tag”
On some systems, the Page Title may appear on the browser tab or elsewhere near the top of the screen.
Past Promotion

A former control or test promotion that is no longer being mailed.

Pay Up

Term used to describe the amount of money that actually comes in after a promotion launch using a soft offer to prospects, compared to what is expected to come in after everyone has paid for the products they ordered. So, if 10,000 people place an order and 8,200 pay, your pay up is 82%.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ad

A form of online advertising in search engines, where advertisers pay the placement company a fee every time their ad is clicked, and the user is taken to a specific website or landing page. You can see these types on ads on Google when you view a results page after a search.

Example of “Pay-per-click”
This Google search engine results page (SERP) has four PPC ads above the start of the search results and several more in the right margin of the page.

A marketing term to describe a detailed prospect profile representing the target audience of a website or promotion. It lists demographics, psychographics, interests, hobbies, purchasing behavior, subscriptions, etc. For example, the New Mom persona may be a young woman (22-40) who buys all-natural baby products online, and subscribes to, etc. This profile informs copywriters and designers creating content for that audience.


When a prospect’s name, address, or other personal information is inserted into the copy of a promotion via computer. Example: “Dear Jim…”


To move people to take action by appealing to their core desires. Knowing how to write with persuasion makes you a more effective copywriter.

Persuasive Sales Page

A well-paced sales page that earns the reader’s trust and genuine agreement every step of the way, without manipulation.


The description of what a prospect’s life will be like once he or she receives the product or service being offered. The goal is to get them to visualize themselves enjoying the benefits of that product or service.


Any offer that connects a free proposition with another offer.

Pillar Posts

See Cornerstone Content.

PMS/Pantone — Pantone Color Matching System

The most widely used system for specifying and blending match colors. It provides designers with swatches for specific colors, and gives printers the recipes for making the colors. Visit for more information.

Point of Purchase (POP)

In retail terms, this is in-store marketing, such as signs, flyers, samples, and other items promoting sales. It may also be used with the software that stores use to complete sales transactions. (Point of Purchase Software.)

Point of Sale (POS)

The moment when a prospect purchases a product or service; the exact moment when the sale takes place and the prospect is either filling out an order form, calling in an order, or clicking an internet order button.

Poly bag (aka Poly wrap)

Clear plastic bag used for a mailing in place of the envelope. Poly-bags are often used for magazine mailings, and can be heat-sealed or open at one end, used to deliver one or more pieces to an address.


A web page window that appears beneath the page a prospect is viewing and is visible only when the prospect closes the current window being viewed.


Any new web page window that appears suddenly on top of the web page a prospect is viewing. Some websites use a pop-up window to encourage a visitor to sign-up to receive emails.


A portal is a site (Yahoo, MSN, AOL, etc.) which contains a wide variety of information cultivated from various internet sources. The goal is to be a one-stop shop for users to find information. Attracting large numbers of viewers makes a portal more attractive to advertisers.


An art design in which the height is greater than the width. (See also, “Landscape.”)


The way in which you set up your product or service to be perceived by your prospect. You want to position the product as different/better than what your competitors offer.

Positive Acceptance Statement

Often used at the beginning of the response device, this statement recounts all the superior benefits of a product.

Postal Specs — Postal Specifications

Rules that mailings must comply with, including size, weight, and addressing. Bulk mail also has rules for sorting mail by addresses.


This common, simple form of a self-mailer is a low-cost way to reach prospects. It’s especially popular with local businesses to target certain neighborhoods . Postcards are typically printed on both sides, with address and postage on one side. Postcards are used to attract attention to and interest in a business, product or service to prompt immediate response — to generate leads, sell products, announce sales, discounts, or special events, or remind customers of appointments or upcoming due dates.

Premium (aka Bonus)

A free item offered to a potential buyer to make them use a service, buy a product, or sign up for a subscription. Premiums can be free e-books, reports, case studies, white papers, special access, bonus materials, or tangible gifts.


This is the dilemma faced by your prospect which your product or service is meant to conquer or solve.


Anything being sold to a prospect, whether it’s physically tangible or not (as in an mp3 recording).


The difference between your overall costs and revenue.


Also known as an “assignment” or a “job,” this word is used to describe something a copywriter is working on, usually for pay.


The act of specifically telling a reader what the product or service being promoted will actually do, bring, or mean after purchase. In most cases, it tells the prospect how the purchase will make them richer, smarter, happier, stronger, healthier, etc.


The act of exposing your product or service to qualified prospects.

Promotion Cost

The amount of money a direct marketer spends to reach a prospect or prospects through advertising.

Promotional Email

An email sent out with the basic purpose of selling a product or service.


The act of supporting any claims you make throughout your promotion.

Example of “Proof”
There are many forms of proof. A common one is having a reputable spokesperson, such as a doctor. This famous Gene Schwartz promo uses one of the most powerful forms of proof: it invites prospects to try a technique out for themselves right on the spot, even while they are still reading the promotion.
Proof Point

A statistic, endorsement, or physical description used as evidence to substantiate a marketing pitch.


A potential buyer for a product or service who has yet to make a purchase. This is the most important person in any copywriting/marketing effort. The key to success is to know your prospect on many levels so you can write copy that resonates and drives action. See Persona.

Prospect Universe

The sum of individuals targeted for likely sale or connection by any company.


The art of describing buyer's preferences, interests, hobbies, and buying patterns.

Public Domain

Information that belongs specifically to nobody and can be used by anybody; information that is neither trademarked nor copyrighted. This includes written works, photographs, music, art, graphics, and other creative elements.

Public Relations

The act of getting the press to publish or print stories that promote a favorable image for a company and its products. As a Publicist, a copywriter can help clients write strong copy that appeals to the media, leading to attention and coverage. See AWAI’s information on becoming a Publicist.


Exaggerations made about a product or service by an advertiser.

Pull Quote

See “Call-out.”

Purchase Page

The page on a website that a customer arrives at to purchase a product or service.


The act of removing unwanted names or duplicate names from a list. See “Merge-purge” and “De-dupe.”


Qualified Leads or List

Names and addresses of companies or people who have previously shown an interest in a product or service by responding in some way to a marketing campaign. These are the crucial leads to follow-up on because they are most likely to buy.


A search on Google or other search engine, using a string of words that may or may not be spelled correctly or presented in complete sentences. Example: “tie a tie” is a query about tying a tie. The likely intent is to find out how to tie a necktie. When writing SEO (search engine optimized content), you want to answer this query or intent as a solution, ideally in a conversational tone as if you’re talking to a friend who has that question (versus simply using a sentence with a keyword in it).


RAL — Ride Along Program

A mailing to existing customers offering them additional products or services from other companies.

Rate Card

In magazine publishing, a rate card outlines all of the ad sizes, prices, deadlines, special topics, and circulation.

Rate Sheet (aka “Fee Schedule”)

A document that lists all the fees for the services you offer as a copywriter, as well as the conditions under which you’ll agree to work (e.g., accepting half of payment upfront and the other half at project completion).


The act of giving prospects logical reasons to buy a product or service, usually going beyond emotional reasons and based on logical justification of a purchase. This is accomplished by recounting facts, figures, or features that reinforce the buying decision as a good one.


A program that tries to get previous, inactive customers to start buying again, especially when they haven’t purchased from a company for a while.


The ease with which a promotion can be read; a way of describing whether the copy flows smoothly or stays interesting.

Reason-why Advertising

A term, made known by David Ogilvy, that refers to the advertising process of methodically giving the prospect all the key reasons for buying a product or service right now. See AWAI’s David Ogilvy information page.


A measurement of how long it has been since a customer or business has made a purchase (or any other tracked activity).

Recency, Frequency, and Amount

See “RFA.”


Allowing sharing, updating, or backing up data from two or more computers, so the data records are the same on both computers.


A single name and address in the database.


Given when a customer is reimbursed for the money spent on a product or service.

Registration Marks

See “Crop Marks.”


The connection a company has with its prospects, which can mean the difference between success or failure. A relationship must be cultivated and carefully maintained to establish enough rapport for prospects to want to follow through on buying decisions. With a solid relationship, prospects and customers will be more receptive to your offers.


The concept that all research and copy related to a prospect or market must be as accurate and pertinent as possible; speaks to the level of understanding a copywriter has for connecting to a prospect's thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.


A promotion focused on getting former customers to re-subscribe to a service for a set time period.


The act of collecting relevant information, proof, and other data to help a company more effectively sell its products and services. Effective research will uncover the nuggets that make your copy resonate with your prospect on a deeper level.


Sharpness of an image on film, paper, computer screen, disc, tape or other medium, usually measured in dots per inch (DPI).

Response Rate

Trackable, measurable positive responses from consumers regardless of advertising medium.

Retention Rate

The percentage of customers who continue to do business with and make purchases from a company over a specified period of time.

Return on Investment (ROI)

A measurement of the financial success of a promotion, comparing the cost (investment) vs. profit (return). The higher the ROI, the more effective the medium or campaign was at generating profit.


Also known as Recency, Frequency, and Amount. This is the common acronym used for codes that select small groups of buyers from a larger file. Marketers may choose to mail to customers who have made purchases within the last 60 days (recency), have bought a certain number of times within the year (frequency), or who have spent a specified amount of money with the company (amount).

RFQ — Request For Quote (aka RFP — Request for Proposal)

Quite common in B2B marketing, copywriters and other service providers are asked to present a proposal outlaying the services, deliverables, timeline, and fees of a given project.

Risk Reversal

A marketing device where the risk is placed solely on the shoulders of the marketer, such as a “30-day unconditional refund” if the customer is not fully satisfied with the product or service.


See “Return on Investment.”

Rolling Out a Winner

Mailing out a successful letter to increasingly larger groups.


The methodical process that follows after the testing of a campaign that has proven successful. The rollout is typically larger than the test mailing and/or goes to larger list segments or the entire list of a company.


The fee paid to direct-response copywriters based on the number of responses or sales related to the promotion written by the copywriter. Some royalties are paid based on the number of pieces mailed or emailed. Typically, royalties vary between $10/M and $50/M.

Royalty Free

Photos and artwork that can be used without compensation to the owner. For instance, Pixabay is a royalty free resource for stock images.

RSS feed (“Really Simple Syndication”)

Much like a wire service, it’s an online format used to distribute news and blog entries in a syndicated manner. This feed can be placed on a personal web browser so the user receives continual news from desired sources.


Return To Sender

Running Charge

The price a list owner charges for names run or passed, but not used by a specific mailer.

Running Text

Also known as the body copy of any promotion, online sales page, or advertisement; is the main copy that runs from the lead to the close. (It does not include sidebars, pull quotes, testimonials, or captions.)



Binding a booklet or magazine with staples in the seam where it folds.


When a prospect spends money with a company, in any form, it is considered a sale.

Sales Argument

The series of points made in any sales copy as to why a prospect should buy the product or service you are promoting vs. any other option or competition. Claims made in your sales argument need to be backed up by proof.

Sales Funnel

Highly effective, automated systems that keep new customers coming down the pipeline and offer previous buyers new products — while reducing the amount of “hands-on” time required from the marketing team. (This AWAI page explains further.)

Sales Page

A page on a website designed to sell a product or service. Unlike a landing page, which is a stand-alone selling tool, a sales page sits permanently within the body of a website.

Sales Pitch

An expression that references the sales argument made throughout a promotion but which usually appears at the end of a promotion when the prospect is directly asked for the sale.

Sample Mail Piece

A sample of the proposed package to be delivered to the mailing list. As part of the approval process, the list owner is often provided with the sample when deciding if the mailer can rent their mailing list.

Sans Serif Typeface (also simply called Sans)

A font in which letters and other characters lack the small, curled features called “serifs” at the end of each stroke of letter and are generally more uniform in letter width. Sans serif fonts include Arial, Calibri, and Verdana.

Example of “Sans Serif Typeface”
Notice how the serif typeface has little tails and small flourishes on many of the letters while the sans serif typeface does not.

In relation to copywriting, this describes the type of prospect who doesn’t read copy word-for-word but instead scans through to get an idea of the product, price, and offer. Subheads are critical at capturing the attention of a scanner.


Piece of film or glass containing a grid of lines that breaks light into dots used to create printable photographs and graphics.


A digital image showing all or part of what is seen on the screen of a computer monitor or mobile device.

Search Engine

A website (e.g., Google, MSN, Bing, or Yahoo!) that searches, gathers, and files content from websites across the internet. Visitors seeking information type keywords into the search engine query box. The search engine then lists the most relevant content pages (web pages) that match those keywords.

Search Engine Optimization (aka “SEO”)

The method of boosting the amount of traffic to a website or web page by strategically weaving keywords into content, building links back to a page, and other ethical techniques. The higher the search-engine ranking, the more likely the site will be frequented by visitors.

Search Engine Spider (aka “web crawler”)

A software program that gathers, reports, and indexes information from the World Wide Web to provide the most current data available for search engines. It’s called a spider because it crawls over the Web. All the major search engines, like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and MSN use spiders to build and update their indexes.

Second-Class Mail

A class of mail created by Congress and subsidized to support the press, meaning these postage rates are available to newspapers, magazines, and other types of periodicals.


A specific name added intentionally into a list in order to keep track of how and when the list is being used. A client can also add a “seed” name into their own mailing in order to verify delivery and accuracy of the mailing. Also known as a “dummy.” It can also be a practice by which a copywriter gets on the mailing or email list to receive promotion samples.


A promotion mailed without an envelope.

Selling Voice

The voice with which a copywriter writes that carries a specific tone and style in an effort to “speak” effectively and persuasively to a prospect. Personable, friendly, and conversational tones work best, and are always appropriate for the client’s brand.

Serif Typeface

A font where each character has a curly “serif” mark on the top and bottom of the stroke. Serif fonts include Times New Roman and Palatino.

Example of “Serif Typeface”
SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

This is the page that shows the results of any search on Google and other search engines. For instance, if you type “veterinarian near me,” the SERP will display the web pages, map, hours, reviews, etc. of local veterinary practices.


Refers to the act of selling something besides a tangible product.

Set Up

Special premiums used to get a mail-order buyer to increase the dollar amount he or she normally spends.

Sheet-Fed Forms

Using a standard cut form in computer printing as opposed to continuous forms.

Shopping Cart

An online metaphor, it’s the software program that enables shoppers to keep a list of the items they’ve selected from the “online store” before making an actual purchase.


A short text element, normally three to six paragraphs long, next to a longer text article. Sidebars provide visual interest without interrupting the flow of the main article.


A sheet with multiple printed pages folded to become a part of a book or publication.

Single Column Sales Page

A web page that employs just one column for the primary sales copy; usually used in stand-alone landing pages. It’s been proven that a single column for the primary text reads easier and converts better than multiple columns. However, there are always exceptions, so it’s worth testing.

Site Analytics (aka “Site Metrics”)

The system of analyzing and reporting the habits of website visitors. It tracks every aspect of a visitor’s journey from entry to activity around the site to exiting. Among the more popular site analytics packages are Google Analytics,,, and

Site Audit

In terms of web copy or content, this is an audit of the site’s user-friendliness and copy strength via the navigation, headlines, body copy, calls-to-action, graphics, SEO tags, and more. The goal of a Site Audit is to identify gaps and opportunities to improve the user experience and sales results of a website. It’s also a way for copywriters to get their foot in the door with clients and then expand the role by writing the improved copy. For more information, visit this AWAI page.

Site Page

Any individual page on a website, whether it’s a homepage, a sales page, an information page, etc.

Slim Jim

Catalog size measuring 6 1/8” x 3 1/2", the largest size qualifying for letter-rate postage.

SLW — Standard Left Window

A clear window on the left side of the envelope front.

Social Marketing (aka Social Media Marketing)

The art of influencing behavior as opposed to buying decisions, using a variety of techniques on networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. However, social media advertising can also lead to direct sales. (You’ll find more information on this AWAI page.)

Soft Offer

Any offer where money is not required at the time of ordering. An example of this would be the famous "Send no money now, we'll bill you later." offers that were common until the late 1980s. (See also, “Hard Offer.”)

Solo Mailing

A mailing that promotes only one product.


A way of describing the maturity level of a prospect and a market that refers to the level of exposure the prospect and market have received when it comes to certain products or services.


Original source of names and addresses for a mailing list, such as direct mail, internet, TV, or space ad.

Space Ad

A shorter kind of direct-response ad that gets placed in web pages, newspapers, magazines, and other print publications.

Spec (aka Spec Assignment)

See “On Speculation.”

Special Report (aka Free Report or Bonus Report)

Often given in conjunction with information products, special reports are compilations of valuable, free information that are written to solve a problem or in some way provide a benefit to the prospect.

Split Test (aka A/B Test)

Representative samples from the same list, used for package tests, or to test homogeneity of the list. Also known as a split run test.


The term referring to any two pages that appear side-by-side in a magalog or bookalog. The center spread is the two middle pages that face each other.

Squeeze Page

A web page with the sole purpose of collecting a person’s name and email address. It’s usually quite short — just one screen, with just enough information to entice a sign-up.

SRW — Standard Right Window

A clear window on the right side of the envelope front.

Statement Stuffer

A printed piece that carries a customer’s statement of account and gets inserted in an envelope. Also refers to any promotional inserts that are included with the statement being mailed.

Stock Art/Photographs

Art/photographs sold to advertisers to be used in their promotions.


The overall plan that guides marketing efforts toward greater success.

Subcampaign Code

Also called a Key Code. Group of letters and/or numbers used to measure the specific effectiveness of media, lists, advertisements, offers, etc.


Bolded, often centered, sentences used to separate long copy. Effective subheads contain a benefit or interesting, eye-catching point to catch the attention of anyone scanning the text. They help Google ‘read’ a web page as well.

Example of “Subhead”
Note all the subheads, shown here in red text.
Subject Line

The line in an email conveying the email’s subject or topic when it appears in the person’s inbox. Compelling subject lines are critical to getting emails opened.


Person who has paid to receive a periodical… or other ongoing subscription-type service.

Subscription Page

A page designed to get someone to sign-up for either a free or paid-for online service, such as a weekly e-newsletter.

Success Rate

See “Track Record.”

Suppress List

Records you wish to exclude from the output.


An offer promising a prize that is randomly drawn from those names of people who respond to a promotion. Often, no purchase is necessary to participate. There are often specific rules/legal requirements to follow for a sweepstakes.

Swipe File

A collection of successful, eye-catching, or interesting promotions, sales letters, and ads, put together by savvy copywriters who recognize the importance of having a library of ideas to “swipe” from. If you want to receive and collect your own “swipes,” you can get seeded on mailing and email lists. See “Seed.”



Sealing discs use to keep pages closed on booklets, folded papers, or brochures during mailing.


Refers to the specific, methodical actions a copywriter takes to improve results, which may include upselling, testing, using referrals or premiums.


A branding phrase that delivers the essence of a product or service. It often appears just under the company name or logo in the header of a web page. For example, “Just Do It” is the Nike tagline.

Target Market

The ideal prospect or customer within a market sought by an advertiser. A target prospect is designated as the ideal candidate to buy a specific product or service.

Task Oriented

This is the underlying premise of all web searches. People are actively searching to find something or do something.


An advertisement or promotion planned to stimulate curiosity about a later advertisement or promotion. A tagline on a carrier envelope, used to incite curiosity about what’s inside the envelope.

Teaser Copy

Words that appear on the outside of a direct-mail envelope or other promotion piece designed to grab a prospect’s attention or build interest enough to the point of getting them to open the envelope, email, or web page.


The art of using telephone calls in the sales and marketing process.


A new promotion that is tested against the strongest-performing promotion of a company.

Test Panel

The term used to identify each part of a sample within a split test.


Words of praise or gratitude from someone who has benefited from a product or service. No compensation is normally provided in exchange for a testimonial. Satisfied customers are ideal testimonial candidates, and testimonials must be authentic (verifiable) to avoid legal issues. See AWAI’s testimonials to see video and text examples.

Text Email

An email written in plain text without graphics or colors.

A word or phrase that is typed out and most often appears in blue and underlined. For example, Learn More. It then links to another page.


The overall vision or plan for a piece of copy that’s based on your Big Idea. It has to do with what you say, how you structure it, and how you present your solution (i.e., the product or service you’re selling).

Three-column Design

A very common web page design with the center column containing the headline and critical copy. The left column is for navigation tabs and the right column is for extras like free offers, sign-ups, graphics, testimonials, etc.

Till Forbid

An order by a customer that is to continue until the customer advises you to stop.


Any involvement device, such as a perforated order card or removable sticker (“Yes” or “Free Gift”), intended to cajole the prospect into taking an action that shows he or she wants to buy.

Toll-Free 800 Service

Any toll-free, long-distance telephone service available for customers to call and order products or subscribe to a service without incurring phone charges.


Using current information, such as current news, to position your product or service to the best advantage in light of your prospect’s interests, beliefs, fears, and desires.

Track Record

This is the record of performance of a product or service, outlined to demonstrate credibility. It’s usually presented as a summary of past or consistent successes and gives your prospect a realistic expectation of success.


The name or symbol that prospects associate with a company or product, generally legally restricted to use by the owner or manufacturer. Most often denoted as ™, which is used when a trademark has been applied for (the ® symbol is used once the name or symbol is legally registered). A service mark ℠ is similar.


The ability to print one ink over the other. Trapping is also used to describe the very slight overlapping of adjacent colors or images to prevent a gap in printing between two items that touch.


An essential part of the selling process because prospects tend to buy from people and companies they trust. It’s a way of presenting an authentic, reliable attitude to your prospects, backed by proof that justifies claims and promises.

Twitter Handle

The name used to identify a person’s account on the social media site Twitter, also the name to which replies are directed. For example, Carl Customer’s Twitter handle could be carlcustomer, so messages to him, using Twitter markup, would be sent to @carlcustomer.

Two-Color Printing

When an item is printed using only two colors (for example, black and blue).


Ultimate Outcome

Term used to describe the optimum picture and result your prospect desires.


An essential element of marketing success. A copywriter must understand their prospect, market, product, or company, in order to relate to them enough to write effective copy.

Unique Selling Proposition (aka USP)

A clear articulation of why the product or service you’re selling is different and superior to all competition — the best among all options. The USP should highlight the unique benefits and advantages of a product or service in a compelling way that engages your prospect.


The idea that a copywriter must make their promotion different enough from similar promotions to stand out in the mind of a prospect, and promote the benefits of the product or service in a way that differentiates it from the competition.

Unit of Sale

Average amount spent by a customer on a mailing list.


The total number of names which might be included in a mailing list who all adhere to a set of specifications (e.g., age, location, religious preference).


To add the most current information to a mailing list.


The act of asking your prospect to buy something else along with the original purchase you have persuaded them to buy. This happens often when a “deluxe” or “advanced” version of a product or service is offered, or a companion product or service that makes sense, such as barbecue tools sold with a barbecue grill.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

A website’s address, such as or

Example of “Url”
Here is the URL for AWAI's website.

Terms for using a mailing list, such as one-time use.

User-centric (aka “visitor centric” or “reader centric”)

Writing copy that focuses on the needs, wants, problems, or desires of the user, as opposed to the features of the product or service that’s being offered.


See “Unique Selling Proposition.”


Value (aka Value Proposition)

A key advertising principle. Value is communicated to prospects by making them feel like the benefits of a purchase far exceed the cost.

Value-based Fees

This is when a copywriter charges for the value of work given, not necessarily based on an hourly fee or even on a per-project fee. It’s a way to anticipate the Return on Investment of a company when commissioning work by a highly skilled copywriter.

Variable Data/Variable Information

Data that relates specifically to each individual person in database records. It’s also a way of customizing mass mailings by creating “fields” that personalize various components, such as “Dear #Firstname#” and “Save [50%/25%].”

Video Sales Letter (VSL)

A sales letter presented in a video online ad format. For some niche industries, such as financial newsletter publishers, the video ad/letter format is now more popular than blogs, email marketing, Facebook, and Google AdWords. In research, consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions. And, when a video is information-intensive, 66% of consumers will watch the video two or more times. (Read this AWAI page for details on VSLs.)



This term refers to how qualified or ready to buy a prospect is. Warm prospects usually already have a connection with and trust a company or a market.

Web Copywriter/Copywriting (aka Web Content Writer/Writing and Online Copywriter/Copywriting)

The web copywriter (online copywriter) is a copywriting specialist who writes sales copy for business websites and other online marketing materials. The role can encompass a wide range of digital marketing tactics, including websites, landing pages, online video scripts, email campaigns, paid search ads, and more. To many clients, this is also the person who writes materials for Content Marketing: case studies, white papers, articles, blog posts, and more. Essentially, a web copywriter can write any type of business copy that appears online (there is a learning curve involved with each type of online copy). See this AWAI page for more information on web copywriting.

White List

When the response to a promotion or other mailing cannot be tracked because it was sent without a key code.

White Paper

An authoritative report written to provide readers with a detailed understanding of a specific product, technology, or method. It describes how a specific tool, system, etc., can solve an industry-wide or common problem the prospect may be facing, and includes statistics, cost savings, and other data to prove the argument. White papers are often used as part of the sales cycle by Business-to-Business (B2B) companies. Government agencies also use white papers to explore and explain problems and issues along with possible solutions. Learn more about how to write white papers on this AWAI page.


“What’s in it for me?” The copywriting adage that reminds the writer to focus attention on the needs of the reader, as opposed to the features of the product or service being offered.

Window Envelope

An envelope with an opening through which the address can be seen; sometimes covered with plastic or glassine. The sizes and position of the window opening can be standard or custom.

Winning Promotion

Term used for successful copy, though not necessarily copy that becomes a control. At the very least, it’s used to describe a promotion that makes lots of money according to the client’s standards.

Word Text Box

A feature of Microsoft Word that allows users to “block out” in boxes the various elements on a page, so others can see the page layout as the writer envisions it.


A popular online platform used by companies of all sizes to create websites, specific landing page campaigns, and blogs.

Writer’s Block

When you need or want to write something, but you are drawing a blank and can’t figure out where to start or how to get your project going.



Folding a page into three sections in the shape of a Z so the two ends do not overlap.

Copywriting Definition Resources

Most of the copywriting and direct marketing definitions in this Glossary were created by AWAI team members and contributing experts.

In addition, some definitions were found and modified from these sources.


Don’t see a term you’re looking for? Contact us and we’ll be happy to add it.


About AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.)

This glossary was developed by AWAI as a service to copywriters, content writers, marketers, and educators. We offer online programs and live copywriter training events focused on the skills of copywriting, online content writing, freelancing, and building a thriving copywriting business. To learn more about AWAI, visit our About page.

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