Make Your Copy Active and Contemporary, Herschell Gordon Lewis Advises
In a session held during the DMA07 Conference last week in Chicago, copywriting expert Herschell Gordon Lewis encouraged attendees to focus on more active, more modern-day word and phrase choices in writing catalog and direct marketing copy. In a session that carried an anti-“this is the way we’ve always done this” mantra, he punched out the following points.
First, he reeled off several passive words he urged copywriters to replace with more active, and sometimes more contemporary, words:
* commence (replace with begin or start);
* utilize (use);
* receive (get);
* large (big);
* circular (round);
* donate (give);
* fortunate (lucky);
* however (but); and
* humorous (funny).
Lewis touched on some passive and/or outdated phrases marketers should avoid. For instance, he strongly advised catalogers who mail to prospects to say, “This is the catalog you asked for,” rather than “This is the catalog you requested.” The open rate, he said, will go up with such a simple word change.
He also pointed out instances when writing out numbers makes more sense than using digits. For example, he noted that in the case of saying “20-year guarantee” or “twenty-year guarantee,” digits may work better for more downscale marketers, while the more elegantly written-out “twenty” would be more effective for upscale marketers.
“We’re a fluid society,” Lewis said. “It’s easier to renounce the obvious.” He pointed to other key changes in verbiage that work better in 2007 than they necessarily had in the past (or at all). The less preferable words or phrases are followed by better phrases in parenthesis:
* you pay much less (others pay much more);
* trousers (pants);
* tighten your tummy (get rid of that gut);
* we’ll even pay the shipping costs (we’ll pay the shipping costs); and
* (or) we’ll pay the shipping costs (free shipping).
But Lewis cautioned that many of these rules always should be subjected to the intricacies of your catalog or marketing piece, reminding attendees, “You’re the professional, you decide.”