A quick tip for keeping your readers on your copywriting slippery slide
November 13, 2008 • Glenn Murray
In his acclaimed book, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, copywriting big-gun Joseph Sugarman likens sales copy to a slippery slide. He says the sole purpose of the headline is to get the reader to read the first line of copy, the sole purpose of the first line of copy is to get the reader to read the second, and so on, until you’ve got the reader nodding and saying “yes”. Then you introduce the call to action. The idea is that you’re not luring them into the call to action, or pushing them, you’re letting them jump in of their own accord.
Now, one of the copywriting tactics that Sugarman discusses for ‘greasing’ the slippery slide, is what he calls ‘seeds of curiosity’. He often ends his paragraphs with things like, “But there’s more” or “So read on” or “Let me explain.” These are explicit meaning-based cues that encourage the reader down the slide. But they’re not the only way to create momentum.
In fact, when you’re dealing with sophisticated audiences, explicit cues aren’t always the best approach. Sophisticated audiences can be quite sensitive to explicit greasing techniques. And they don’t always like being greased; it can make them feel like someone’s trying to sell them steak knives!
So sometimes style-based cues – not meaning-based cues – are what’s required. What do I mean by style-based cues? Well, I’ve used three of them already, in just four paragraphs. “Now” links para two back to para one, “In fact” links para three back to para two, and “So” links para four back to para three.
I could TRY to explain why these two elements work, or how they work, but I’d probably fail. I’m a copywriter, not a grammarian! An easier – and much more effective – way is for you to read the first four paragraphs WITHOUT “Now”, “In fact” and “So”. Read them out aloud. I guarantee you’ll find it a bumpier ride.
Of course, there are plenty more where they came from. Try a few of these on for size:
- “What’s more”
- “Of course”
- “Needless to say”
- “Just as importantly”
- “No matter which”
These are all tactics that successful copywriters use daily. And they’re just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Should be enough to see you through all but the longest pieces of copy!
In coming posts, I’ll be discussing additional ways to keep readers on your copywriting slippery slide. So stay tuned. In fact, why not subscribe?!
PS. All of this applies to blog copywriting too!