Persuade with passion. Engage with the unexpected.
His face was slightly ashen, and had clearly fallen since he first entered the conference room. I felt a lump in my stomach as he reviewed the revisions to the copy he’d written just a week earlier. I was a bit sick at being part of this, but it was… inevitable.
I marveled that he still held out any hope to begin with. The work before him was little more than a carcass of the original. Of course, he’d been in this position before.
Eager to bring some excitement to a new client’s Web site, he’d spent more time than he should have crafting a story for our business. His work communicated what the visitor needed to know, and did so using the tools of the persuasive writer.
The heading invited the reader to read the first sentence, as it should. The work started with a story. It generated an emotion, if only a slight one. Details were held back so that the reader’s interest would mount.
Juicy words were chosen in favor of posing adjectives. Simile and metaphor were scattered here and there.
These are the tools that engage those parts of the brain that ask the reader to remember what they’re reading.
I’ve said it before. You can create more engaging images with paragraphs than with Photoshop.
The Tyranny of the Managing Amateur
What I delivered to this beleaguered writer was the internally edited version of his work.
It had been squeezed dry, like a lemon.
Those within the company that edited it down meant well. Sadly, they were not writers, but they had the privilege of position. The “rules” that they had heard in passing were to be the undoing of this prose:
“You only have 8 seconds to engage your reader,” and, “brevity is the soul of wit,” and “No one reads below ‘the fold.’”
Unfortunately, all of this is true. Ironically, it is only true for writing that is bereft of storytelling, diluted of color, and opaque with hyperbole.
Here are the quotes business marketers should be spouting:
“Web visitors will give you as much time as you have the talent to muster.”
“Brevity without wit is soulless.”
“You can entice anyone to scroll by entertaining or educating.”
I was young. I didn’t defend his work. I didn’t stand behind the very thing that was going to make this new Web site successful. I just didn’t know any better.
Can you recognize and defend writing that will set you apart from your competitors?
Can you identify copy that increases conversion rates? Do you have the knowledge to say “NO” to hack editors, though they may hold the key to your paycheck?
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