A quick tip for keeping your readers on your copywriting slippery slide

November 13, 2008 •

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”
  • “Nevertheless”
  • “Of course”
  • “Needless to say”
  • “And”
  • “But”
  • “Still”
  • “Importantly”
  • “Just as importantly”
  • “Additionally”
  • “Furthermore”
  • “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?!

Please comment.

Happy copywriting!

PS. All of this applies to blog copywriting too!

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
“What’s more”: Is it really too informal? wrote on February 2nd, 2009

[...] “What’s more” and co. are great for linking sentences to each other. They make for a bump-free read, and, in Joseph Sugarman’s words, grease the slippery slide leading to conversion. I talked more about this in a previous post: A quick tip for keeping your readers on your copywriting slippery slide. [...]

Reply
comment avatar
How to avoid ‘hype’ in your sales copy: Pretend you’re face-to-face. wrote on September 15th, 2009

[...] It’s all about the persuasion slippery slide. If you can get the reader saying “yes”, even if only in their own head, they’re far more likely to say yes when you ask them to do something (your call to action). Read more about copywriting for the persuasion slippery slide. [...]

Reply
comment avatar
OtherAndrew wrote on September 16th, 2010

Nice work. Really, it's about being more conversational. We tend to use a similar structure when we're talking to people - linking our thoughts with words like 'So...' when we are trying to lead them to an action or a decision. Anyway, just wanted to say you nailed it with this post. See what I did there? ;)

Reply
comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on September 16th, 2010

Noice, Andrew. Noice.

Reply
comment avatar
Copywriting rates: Why I switched to hourly after 8 years’ fixed price wrote on November 4th, 2010

[...] to say, changing their offering, demanding hours on the phone, or making me spend hours justifying why it’s OK to start a sentence with a conjunction. Those sorts of [...]

Reply
comment avatar
Your property descriptions are boring. And no-one cares but you! wrote on July 6th, 2012

[...] sentences with conjunctions!). Do all the stuff I’ve been rattling on about for years (here, here, here and [...]

Reply
comment avatar
How to avoid ‘hype’ in your sales copywriting wrote on April 13th, 2015

[…] It’s all about the persuasion slippery slide. If you can get the reader saying “yes”, even if only in their own head, they’re far more likely to say yes when you ask them to do something (your call to action). Read more about copywriting for the persuasion slippery slide. […]

Reply
comment avatar
Is your copywriting TOO easy to read? wrote on April 20th, 2015

[…] “What’s more” and co. are great for linking sentences to each other. They make for a bump-free read, and, in Joseph Sugarman’s words, grease the slippery slide leading to conversion. I talked more about this in a previous post: A quick tip for keeping your readers on your copywriting slippery slide. […]

Reply
comment avatar
Your property descriptions are boring! wrote on April 21st, 2015

[…] sentences with conjunctions!). Do all the stuff I’ve been rattling on about for years (here, here, here and […]

Reply
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.