How Web Writers Can Improve Their Copy with White Space

Pillars Four

I want you to imagine a statue. An aged bronze sculpture of a young girl, possibly eight years old, in a long dress. She stands about 50 inches, so roughly four feet tall.

Her head is cocked to the left, a pensive, sad look on her face. Both elbows are pinned to her side and her forearms stretch upward, her palms open to the sky, a bowl in each hand.

As if she is feeding the birds. [Read more…]

My Absurd Claim about Writing (3 of 3)

Piano hands

Do you prefer any particular music or silence while you write?

I find my productivity sometimes goes up when I’ve got the right music and the right cadence. Which phase I’m in determines what kind of music.

Sometimes I will just shut everything off and write in silence, but that’s unusual. I like music, and I think that in a lot of ways, I treat my writing as music.

My keyboard is not any different than the keyboard on a piano. I want to create an image in someone’s head that could be compared to the way music appears in people’s heads.

And when I think of the people who inspire me, it’s almost always musicians.

Now, I have my favorite writers, but musicians really inspire me because I think there’s something about music that I would like to be able to do, but create as a writer.

I don’t play any instruments, so I have to pretend like I play the keyboard.

Excerpt from my Writers File interview with Kelton Reid.

Absurd claims one and two.

A Simple Way to Get People to Believe Your Big Claim

Open Pickle Jar-001

Another way to get people to buy into your claim is to explain the mechanism behind it.

For example, let’s say a fitness trainer makes the claim that in just 14 minutes a day customers can add muscle to every inch of their body.

Notice what is NOT suggested: that these will be particularly big muscles. The implication is, at the very least, customers can achieve a toned body.

That’s still a big claim, but the trainer can bring it into the realm of believability by explaining how this can happen.

In this case, let’s say the fitness program involves a chair. The value proposition can be summed up like this: a 14-minute chair routine that builds muscle on every inch of your body.

Notice, too, the trainer used several of the previous tips to accomplish this.

One, the claim is very specific about the amount of time it takes and the equipment necessary. In other words, it’s heavy with details.

In addition, as part of the live presentation the trainer could demonstrate with a video. All of these factors help sweep aside skepticism.

Finally, he could add a creative guarantee, and his close rates are sure to go up.

This article originally appeared as part of this Salesforce article (which I am told by a source close to the company is their most socially popular post). 

P.S. Want a daily, but small, dose of essential web writing advice? Then check out my new podcast Rough Draft.

Image source

Is This the Proper Response to Fame?

Cathedral Corridor

Our anticipation and response to fame should mirror the anticipation and response of the ancient acolyte to a visitation from the gods.

During the new moon the acolyte enters the temple, dons the vest, lights the incense, and prepares the sacrifice. In that prescribed order. There is nothing more he can do.

And then he waits.

With each piece of content the writer performs a similar ritual. She crafts the headline, neatly lays out one sentence at a time, shapes short paragraphs, selects the appropriate image, closes with style, and publishes it. That’s all she can do.

Then she must wait.

When the gods arrive the acolyte falls flat on his face, overwhelmed by a sense of fear, respect, and awe. He can not control whether they arrive or not. He is at their mercy.

When the audience arrives the writer falls flat on her face, overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude and obligation. She can not control whether they arrive or not. She is at their mercy. And grateful for any attention at all.

And that is the proper response to fame. Do you agree? Drop a comment.

P.S. Have you seen my new podcast Rough Draft?

What the End of the World Can Teach Us about Being Specific

Great PlainImagine it’s late afternoon, Sunday. You are curled beneath an afghan, still bloated from the fried fish you inhaled for lunch. You are sleeping heavily. Until your doorbell erupts.

You shuffle to the front door and open it. An autumn thunderstorm blew through while you slept, bringing frigid air with it. You are surprised to see a young woman in a peasant top and floral pencil skirt standing at your doorstep. She’s drenched to the bone.

“My goodness, are you okay?” you say.

“Hi,” she says, “I’m fine.” She extends her hand. You take it. It is a firm grip. “I’m Madeline,” she says.

She looks over her shoulder. A tall man wearing a black button up oxford and white tie nods from the sidewalk. He’s leaning on an umbrella.

She then looks you square in the eye and says, “Are you ready for the end of the world?” [Read more…]

Gimpy Web Copy? Use This 4-Step Formula to Make It Killer

Donut Messs

Do you want a simple, sticky formula that turns your listless copy into something that rivets attention, stokes desire, and gets action?

If you said “yes,” then the 4 Ps is what you are after. Let’s start with an example.

Here’s a short ad promoting a fantasy

Wanted: Ugly Men
Listen, ugly men, with one little pill, I can make you so attractive that women will throw themselves at you every time you walk through the mall.

Want proof?

Just ask Marty Feldman or Michael Berryman. They now beat women off of them with sticks.

Call 1-800-ugly-men now if you are interested.

See any pattern in the above copy? I’m using the Ps. So, what are the 4 Ps?

  • Promise
  • Paint
  • Proof
  • Push

Let’s break this little ad down so I can show you how this formula works. [Read more…]