7 Secrets of Believable Writing
The Success Margin
Monday, May 16, 2005
Many subscribers ask me this important question.
“How can I make my sales copy more believable?”
This is the best question a student of copy-
writing can ever ask. Why? The answer is key to
all successful communication.
Believability and trust in all forms of
communication, especially in advertising copy,
is absolutely necessary. But the same principle
applies to speaking and all non-fiction writing.
Otherwise, no one will believe you.
And without trust, they absolutely will not buy
an idea or product from you, now or ever.
Believability is clearly crucially important.
That’s why it’s astonishing that it is almost
completely missing from the work of nearly
all writers, speakers and communicators. Most
ad agencies, copywriters and entrepreneurs suffer
enormous negative consequences, starting with
poor results. And they don’t have a clue as to
how to cure it.
Yet no one who understands this issue (and
so few do) has ever tried to teach the real
behind-the-scenes secrets. Until today.
While I’ve never revealed these seven secrets
before, I’m going to show you what steps to take
to build that indispensable element of credibility.
Here are my seven rules:
1. Tell the absolute truth! So much copy is
completely untrue. People are much smarter than
you may think. I believe even when you stretch
the truth, let alone tell an outright lie, the
prospective purchaser can sense something is very
wrong. They simply stop reading.
Here is how I look at it. Nearly all consumers
have within them what acts like an infallible
BS detector. And they won’t read or respond to
untruthful copy. Thank heavens they won’t ever
order a thing from you based on BS. This is as
it should be—the true justice of the marketplace.
2. Be authentically yourself! In many ways, the
hardest person to ever be in a real and honest
sense is yourself!
You must find a unique speaking voice/style.
And consistently use it.
Here are a few tips on developing your style.
A. Create a really interesting character--you.
Be as free and eccentric as you are at your best
moments. Don’t cover up the real you as do most
of the world. On the contrary, let out your true
self. Bring family members into your copy. If
you have a ne'er-do-well brother or football-nut
sister, or colorful mother or father, or control
freak husband or wife, or friend who is a real
character, write about them in your copy.
People love to read about colorful people.
B. Use everyday expressions and slang you
usually use when you speak or write. For
example, if you normally say “dang it” or
“shucks” or “darned tootin'” or “hell yes” or
“butt out” or “dag blast it,” use it. It’s really
you. Can you imagine an ad agency trying this?
Caveat: If you use profanity, I strongly recommend
you never use it in your copy. You will surely
offend many readers. One well-known copywriter uses
profanity liberally in his newsletters to a niche
market that happens to love his style. But this is
Tip: Avoid “ad speak.” Do not even try to
communicate using the typical style of advertising
agency hype. While it’s very common, easy to spot
and prepare, no consumer ever reads or believes
such hopeless drivel.
3. Make bold promises but make sure to prove each
4. Tell short stories within your copy. Everyone
has loved stories since language began. You can
tell a short story in as few as 3 to 5 sentences.
A good place to study story telling and discover
what is known as an anecdotal opening is in
“Reader’s Digest.” Every article begins with a
short story. And that’s a big reason “Reader’s
Digest” is the most popular magazine ever
published with over 17 million readers.
5. Use specific numbers. For example, never
say “I earned over $17,000 last month.” It
sounds like B.S. Say “My tax accountant shows
I earned $17,437 last month.”
Tip: Any copy point you ever make must not only
be true. For believability, it must seem true. Most
of the world use generalities. Specific numbers are
vital tools in your hands.
6. Specify where geographically you or other
main characters are from. It feels more real
because it is. E.g. “College Dropout From
Asbury Park Becomes a Millionaire Writer!”
7. Include the occupation of the main character
in your copy. “Part-time Physical Therapist From
Chicago Earns $1,077,833.00 in the Last 12 Months
on the Internet.”
Use as many of these 7 secrets as possible
throughout your copy. But remember, the headline
is always the most important element. As always,
begin your efforts with the all-important headline.
Your headline’s task is to stop people long
enough to read the first few sentences.
Use these tips immediately and watch your sales
Are you up to some healthy competition from around
the world? I challenge you to enter a
Success Margin headline contest for subscribers
only. Contest winner will receive a valuable
gift for the very best headline.
Contest ends on June 1st.
I look forward to reading your completely honest,
humanized and believable headlines!
© Copyright 2005 Ted Nicholas