Part 3 – How to craft promotional copy writing that works – Rules & Tips

Subject – Promotional Copy Writing
Written – 28 Jul 2014

Updated – September 2018
Copyright – Al Best

Part 3  of Writing Promotional Copy

A few rules, tips & tricks

YOU – NOT ME

Everyone likes to talk about himself or herself yet no one likes to hear someone droning on and on about themselves.

We have all met that person who talks on and on about their job, their family, their holiday, their car, their cat, etc. It’s all me, me, me and what happens? You switch off and stop listening. In writing it’s the same. You must focus on the customer rather than yourself.

Whenever you write a sentence that contains ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’, etc. look at how you can turn it around to use ‘you’ or ‘your’ instead. It can be done in many but not all cases.

A children’s party organiser might write, “we can provide a choice of party games”. This should be changed to something like; “your child has a choice of party games”. Changing the focus will better engage the reader because you are talking about their child and what their child gets rather than about what you do.

JARGON

Jargon is best avoided unless you know your readers understand it. In this case it shows you to be knowledgeable on the subject of your writing.

In other cases, where a reader does not understand the terminology you are using, you are in danger of failing to get your full message across. Worse than that, you could alienate the client. Quite often a customer will not ask you to explain what you mean for fear of looking stupid. That creates a real problem.

ACRONYMS & INITIALISMS

Following hot on the heels of Jargon is the Acronym and the Initialism. An acronym is a word normally made up from the first letter of each word in a phrase. Sometimes an acronym will use more than just one letter as in RADAR which comes from RAdio Detection And Ranging. An initialism is where you speak the initial letters individually such as CIA, DVD or MOT.

Acronyms and Initialisms have different meanings to different people and sometimes cause confusion. RPG can be a Role Playing Game to one person and a Rocket Propelled Grenade to another.

Never assume your reader understands the meaning of an acronyms or initialism and in the first instance always write the full phase followed by the abbreviation in brackets. For example – Musicians’ Union (MU). Subsequently you can use just MU.

USE AN ACTIVE RATHER THAN A PASSIVE VOICE

Using the active voice is normally snappier and less wordy than using a passive voice. Therefore it makes your writing more succinct and punches your message home more clearly.

Grammatically, in the active voice, the subject acts on the object. “I play drums” is an example of the active voice. ‘I’ is the subject, ‘play’ is the action (verb) and ‘drums’ is the object. The subject is active because it plays (or performs an action on) the object (drums).

When written in the passive voice more words are needed and the target of the action, the drums, becomes the subject. Passively the phrase would be, “The drums are played by me.” The subject is now the drums. The subject is passive because it takes no action in this sentence.

Converting all your passive voice sentences into the active voice makes your writing tighter.

SHOULD & COULD

Try to avoid using the words ‘could’ and ‘should’ to shield unpredictable outcomes. They ring bells and may be enough to put off the potential customer.

Here’s an example: “Singer X has a very wide repertoire of songs that should please everyone. Her songs are carefully selected and could have everyone up and dancing”. That’s dithery. Obviously Singer X is covering herself because she knows it’s not possible to please everyone and there’s no guarantee she will get everyone dancing.

Much better would be “Singer X designs her show to appeal to the widest possible audience and handpicks her songs to get people dancing.” It’s shorter, it doesn’t make dodgy claims, it’s a statement of fact and it gets rid of the “maybe she can, maybe she can’t” elements introduced by Should and Could.

CAN

Over the years I’ve read hundreds of promotional letters and brochures and one of the most common mistakes is with the flawed use of the word ‘can’. It has a similar effect as described for ‘could’.

These examples are taken from actual publicity (I’ve changed the names),

Mr Clown can entertain your children with a variety of games, magic and activities” Makes it sound as if he can but he might not. It should be “Mr Clown entertains your children with a variety of …”

You can choose the design for your face painting and we will make it happen” Again the work ‘can’ is superfluous and just adds indistinctness.

PRESENT TENSE

It’s said that using the present tense in writing improves the immediacy and intelligibility of the message. It’s therefore better to write in the present tense and to avoid the past and the future tenses.

Don’t say, “We have played at many weddings”, instead say, “We play at many weddings”. This changes it from something old that you used to do, into something vibrant that you are doing now.

To bring future tenses back to the present is quite often done by getting rid of the word “will”. Thus, “We will bring Monte Carlo to your venue” becomes “We bring Monte Carlo to your venue”. This sounds a lot more positive.

PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECT OF SCARCITY

For some reason if something is scarce we want it more and when something is hard to obtain we give it more value.

We’ve all seen this at work

  • Sale ends Monday
  • Buy it now before it’s too late
  • Only two left
  • Weekend tickes are selling fast and we may run out

You can use this to your advantage in your writing but don’t overdo it. Let it be known you get booked up very quickly or that availability on certain days of the week is scarce. Encourage potential customers to respond quickly to ensure they have a chance of buying your product.

NEGATIVES

Positive statements are easier to understand than negative ones. They give you a clear message on what to do or on what will happen.

A negative statement tells you what is not happening but sometimes leaves you in the dark about what is happening.

A negative statement might be, “audiences have less interest in shows without live music”. There’s a certain amount of ambiguity with this and it begs the question, what do audiences like then? A positive form of this leaves no doubt, “audiences are more interested in shows with live music”.

There are cases where the word ‘not’ is used. For instance “it’s not uncommon for…” could be made positive by writing “it’s common for…”. Something like “the crowd is not unhappy” is much better written as “the crowd is happy”.

REPETITION

You can repeat yourself to hammer home or stress the important parts of your message but try to use different words when you do so. Having a thesaurus to hand is a good idea.

PROOF READ, RE-READ THEN COME BACK TOMORROW AND READ IT AGAIN.

Once you have created the first draft of your text, read through it then try to strip out as many words as you can without destroying the message. When you do this you will be astounded at how many superfluous words can be removed. As an example, you could replace “in the event that” with the two letter word “if”. You could also replace “in close proximity to” with “near”.

This exercise serves to make your writing more concise.

If you have the time, it is quite important to put your piece to one side and come back to it a day or two later. Then, when you re-read it, you do so with fresher eyes and you will probably see lots of room for editing and improving the piece.

It is a good idea to get a second person to proof read your piece before it goes public. When you are the author, it’s all too easy to let your brain override what your eyes are seeing. This is because you know what you meant to write and your brain will sometime register it as correctly written when there is, in fact, a mistake.

Continue Reading

Continue to next chapter – LAYOUT & READABILITY >>>

Go to other chapters:
Part 1 – The Intoduction
Part 2 – Content Creation
Part 3 – Rules, Tips & Tricks
Part 4 – Layout & Readability
Part 5 – More Odds & Ends and a Recap

This article is copyright of Al Best @ folkrootslist.co.uk
You are more than welcome to use extracts from it it as long you include a link back and credit Al Best and Folk Roots List https://www.folkrootslist.co.uk/