MUST-READ for Copywriters and Marcom People: Fast and Easy Way to Make Your Copy Easier to Read

April 19, 2015

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It doesn’t matter if you’re a sales copywriter or a Marcom person, one of the most important things to do is to check your writing for readability.

You may have spent countless hours fine-tuning and editing your work but does it necessarily mean your readers can understand you?

So before you send your press release or sales brochure for print, make sure you understand this rule-of-thumb: the more readable your text is, the higher the chance you’ll get a response.

Before you go, “What?! Does that mean I have to proof-read my document again?” Here’s the GOOD NEWS: Checking for readability is as easy as a click of the button. It only takes a minute and involves very little work on your part.

Here’s what you should do:

Copy and paste your text into Microsoft Office Word 2010. If you’re not using Microsoft Word, you can use an online readability tool such as http://www.readability-score.com

In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click on Review.

Next, click on Spelling and Grammar:

Spelling and Grammar

In the window that pops up, click on Options:

PopupTick the little check-box that says Show Readability Statistics, then click on OK:

Show readability statsWhenever you run a spell-check on your document, you’ll get a summary of the readability statistics:

readability stats

Right up to this point, you’ll see several sets of figures. Don’t let them frustrate you. I hate numbers myself! But what we’re really interested in are the bottom 3 sets of scores

1. Passive Sentences is the percentage of your text using passive voice. The lower the percentage, the better.

Here’s why you should minimize the use of passive voice in your writing

2. Flesch Reading Ease is a highly accurate formula developed by world leading readability expert Dr. Rudolph Flesch. As the name suggests, the formula is based on the number of long words you use, and tells you how easy a text is to read. The higher the score, the better.

3. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level relates to US Grade School reading ages. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an 8th grader can understand the document.

Now this doesn’t mean your reader has to be an 8th grader!

Bear in mind that your reader, who is very likely a busy person, has very little time (and patience!) in reading your copy. Asian readers, especially, hate to read something that is difficult to understand, or as they often say, “bombastic”.  It is very unlikely that he or she will give it full attention if they have to check the dictionary each time they encounter a difficult word (e.g. “tenacious”, “exacerbate”, “scintillating”, “collegial”).

You get the idea.

So always make your text easy for busy (and impatient) people to understand what you’re trying to say – without them having to check the dictionary.

If your Flesch Reading Ease score is low (e.g. 50 or below), it’s mostly due to sentence length. Proof-read your document again and pick out any long sentences. Could you reduce them? Or split them in two, even three? Check for any unnecessarily long words and use an online thesaurus such as http://www.wordreference.com for a simpler meaning of that word.

For example, could you say “co-operative” instead of “collegial”, or “lucky”, instead of “auspicious”?

Remember, the more easy your copy is to read, the higher the chance you’ll get a response!


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Copywriting Technique that Hooks Readers into Your Sales Copy: Use Positive Language

December 7, 2010

Here’s a sample of just one of the many advanced writing techniques from the QuickStart Copywriter ebook.

Everyone loves good news, whether it is an email informing you about a pay raise, or a special someone telling you that he or she loves you.

The same applies in sales writing. People typically find it more enjoyable to read something that sounds positive than negative. Using positive language makes your sales writing sound pleasing to the ears and it increases the likelihood of your readers reading it to the end.

So instead of:

Don’t forget

Say:

Remember

Instead of:

Don’t delay

Say:

Hurry

Instead of:

There’s never been a better time to…

Say:

Now’s the best time to…


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Use Provocation As a New Source of Ideas for Your Ad Campaign

May 12, 2010

Recall an ad that you last saw. It could be an ad about that new beauty salon in town or the latest hair treatment solution for men above 60.

Chances are, the ideas would all start to look the same.

The good news is, there is a powerful advertising technique that allows you to discover new sources of ideas and draw attention in a stimulating way to your next ad campaign. This is where provocation can make a whole world of difference between an impactful campaign and a mediocre one.

When brainstorming thought-provoking ideas with your team, think about all the negative things about your product. Do your consumers have doubts, frustration or anger that they want to release? What are some of the unthinkable things that people would say about your product? The goal of this exercise is to drum up emotions which would help engage your team into a heated debate using provocation as a basis for new ideas.

Here’s a checklist of questions that will give you and your team the right foundation to stir up some controversy and thus paving the way for new, innovative ideas:

  1. What would be shocking, surprising or humorous in association with your product or ad campaign?
  2. How could you make your ideas controversial (Could it be breaking a taboo? Or addressing a social issue)?
  3. What would a child think or feel about the ideas in your ad?
  4. What unthinkable things would you not do with your product?
  5. Who might be offended or horrified by your ideas? How would people react?
  6. How would your product cause damage, and to what extent?
  7. If you could break a rule in the words you use, what would you say (E.g. Shit! Darn! Son-of-a-Gun! etc.)?

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Best Performing Ad Layouts: Vertical Ads

April 26, 2010

Did you know that “tall and skinny” vertical ads pull better response than horizontal ones?

There’s a reason for this and that’s because newspapers normally publish their articles in a vertical format. Readers who have become used to this format will be naturally attracted to ads that are oriented vertically.

Therefore, when you design your ad, always ensure that it is twice as high as it is wide. If you plan to run the ad in the papers, specifically request for this. Newspaper space is measured in column centimeters, which is the space that is 1 column wide (across) and 1 centimeter long (top to bottom). So if you plan to run an ad that’s 2 columns wide, the height should be least 5 centimeters. For an ad that is 3 columns wide, its height should ideally be 7 centimeters.


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Goal Setting Tips for Creative Advertising #2: 5 Easy Ways to Formulate a Goal

April 8, 2010

One of the biggest mistakes that most creative teams make is formulating the wrong goals. This leads to time and effort being wasted on ideas that are boring, complicated or in the worst case, misunderstood. If you are going to create overwhelmingly positive results in your advertising campaign, you must formulate the right goal. Here are 5 ways to help you Your goal should always:

  1. Be a single-minded proposition that can be easily understood within a few seconds. Bear in mind that a single-minded proposition has no “ands” (How can we demonstrate in an email teaser that “Club ABC” is the trendiest nightspot in town?)
  2. Be in the form of a question
  3. Be short and concise
  4. Be simple enough for anyone to understand.
  5. Avoid the use of complicated words or incomprehensible jargon.

To learn more about goal-setting in creative advertising, click here.


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Pack More Punch Into Your Copy. Use Active Voice Instead of Passive Voice!

January 21, 2010

In the English language, voice is used to refer whether the subject of the sentence is doing something, or receiving the action. An active voice tells you that the subject is acting, doing something. In writing, it makes your copy more alive, more engaging and more personal.

Look at this sentence: “John drives a red Ferrari.”

This is the active voice. Here, the subject is the driver, John,who is doing something to the car and there’s some action. You can feel the impact that active voice infuses into the sentence, making it more lively and more active.

Now imagine how it’ll sound like in passive voice : “The red Ferrari was driven by John.”

Feel the difference?

Firstly, the impact is gone because the subject has been moved from doing the action to receiving the action, thus making the sentence sound unemotional and boring. Secondly, the sentence length increases by another 40% for no extra meaning.

So instead of saying, “The goods have been received by customer service” (passive), say “Customer service has received the goods” (active). Instead of saying, “I am looking forward to meet you”, say “I look forward to meet you” as it sounds more personal.

While passive voice can make your writing long-winded, dull and confusing, there are some occasions when it would be more appropriate.

Some examples:

  • When you want to give extra emphasis to something noteworthy – “Lawry’s Steakhouse has been rated as one of the world’s top restaurants.” Here, the focus is on Lawry’s Steakhouse.
  • When you want to downplay the severity of an issue where tact is concerned – “Apology letters have been issued to our clients regarding the product mix-up.” Here, the focus has been taken away from the mistake – the product mix-up.

In conclusion, I encourage you to use your judgment when you write and you will only get better with experience. If you feel that your sentence sounds nicer in passive voice, then use it. But just be sure to vary using the active voice and passive voice wherever appropriate.


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