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 an exception.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 claim.
  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 explode!

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!

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas