Is your negative language turning prospects away?

It's not just dogs that don't understand negative commands - neither do your prospects.

It’s not just dogs that don’t understand negative commands – neither do your prospects.

Imagine that you’re visiting a dog obedience class. And you tell one of the well-trained pooches, “don’t sit!”

What does the dog do? Chances are it will sit. Even though you’ve told it not to.

You see, dogs don’t understand negatives in front of commands. They just hear the command.

The human subconscious brain is just the same

Even though our ears hear the negative language (or our eyes read it), our brains don’t register the negative message either, just like the dog obedience class story.

For example, I were to tell you NOT to think of a bouquet of beautiful, luscious red roses, what are you visualising?

Most likely you are thinking of a bouquet of red roses, even though I explicitly told you NOT to think of them!

Your prospects and clients are much the same

Just like your brain doesn’t really register the negative language, neither do your clients and prospects. Yet it is very common to see negatives being used in business communications. Everything from websites, sales letters and emails will say things like:

“Don’t forget to take us up on this offer.”

“Don’t hesitate to contact me.”

These communications may as well be saying “forget about this offer”, and “hesitate to contact me”. Because subliminally, that’s what the readers will be picking up on.

Be bold!

Instead of negative language and wishy-washy phrases, be bold! Tell your readers what you really want them to do!

“Be sure to take us up on this offer.”

“I’d love to hear from you!”

This may seem a very minor tweak to make to your copywriting, but it’s a powerful one.

You see, this kind of positive language makes your team – and your company as a whole – sound more positive, confident and professional.

So make it your company policy to use nothing but positive language in your marketing materials and chances are you’ll get more positive results too.


Common words you need to stop misspelling

When a prospect is deciding whether to buy from you or not, and they don’t know you, they have no choice but to let their instinct – and your marketing materials – guide them.

So what they’re judging your ability on is what they see in front of them, be it a brochure or your website. Chances are they’ll subconsciously be evaluating the design, photography, and the wording… and the spelling.

Why good spelling matters

Simply put, good spelling indicates that you’re professional and pay attention to detail. Poor spelling indicates that maybe you’re not quite so professional. And while we can’t all be spelling experts, there are some common words people get wrong time and time again.

Even computerised spell checkers don’t pick up all the misspellings. So use the tips below as your quick guide to getting the spelling right.

Here’s your quick guide to overcoming these common spelling mistakes

It’s vs. Its

  • It’s: This is short for “it is” – the apostrophe indicates the contraction (shortening). For example: “It’s raining.”
  • Its: This shows possession. For example: “The dog likes to chew its bone.”

You’re vs Your

  • You’re: This is short for “you are” – again, the apostrophe indicates that there’s a contraction. For example: “You’re learning about spelling.”
  • Your: This shows possession. For example: “Your business is very professional.”

They’re vs. There vs. Their

  • They’re: This is short for “they are” with the apostrophe indicating the contraction. For example: “They’re going on vacation.”
  • There: This is used when you’re talking about a place, idea or situation. For example: “There is no milk in the fridge”, or “I went there yesterday.”
  • Their: This shows possession. For example: “Their car broke down.”

Lose vs. Loose

  • Lose: When you can’t find something, i.e. have lost something. For example: “I always lose at card games.”
  • Loose: The opposite of tight, i.e. when something is baggy. For example: “My jeans are loose on me since I lost weight.”

Stationery vs. Stationary

  • Stationery: things you write with or on. For example: “I need to add pens and envelopes to my stationery order.”
  • Stationary: not moving. For example: “The car was stationary in the traffic.”

Affect vs. Effect

  • Affect: to have an influence on something. For example: “The roadworks will affect my journey time to work.”
  • Effect: a result of something happening. For example: “The effect of the roadworks is that I was late arriving at work.”

If you struggle with spelling the words above, then bookmark this page – or print it out and keep it handy! Remember, correct spelling is vital if you want to present yourself (and your business) in a professional way.


What makes a good headline?

If the job of a headline is to get people to stop and take attention of your marketing message, how exactly do you do that? How do you get a headline to cut through all the other advertising messages and “noise” and busy-ness?

In short, how can you grab your readers’ attention and engage them in just a few words?

How to engage your readers

The key to getting your readers’ attention is to engage them. That means, getting them to pause for long enough so that they’ll want to read more.

There are a number of ways in which you can write headlines which engage readers, and you can use these techniques either in isolation, or by combining them.

We’ll look at these techniques by applying some examples: the “before” is the kind of introductory text you’ll often read online or in an advertisement. The “after” gives an example of a more effective headline.

1. Ask questions to engage your readers

A very popular and very effective way to engage readers is to ask a question in your headline.

Example – website designer:
Before: We design e-commerce websites
After: Do you wish your website generated more sales?

Example – fruit and vegetable store:
Before: Apples $3.50 a kilo
After: Do you need to increase your 5-a-day fruit intake?

2.  Use customer-focused words

Make it about the reader: make sure you use the words “you” and “your” as much as possible – and try to avoid “we”, “us” and “our” as much as you can. Certainly avoid using the latter at the beginning of the sentence.

Example – plumber:
Before: We fix leaks.
After: You don’t need to put up with that drippy tap!

Example – fence manufacturer:
Before: We specialise in the manufacture of high quality fences.
After:  Are you looking for a stylish way to secure your property?

(In this last example, notice how the question-asking technique has also been used.)

3. Offer a solution to a problem

Offering a solution to a problem that your reader is having is another common headline-writing technique. That’s why you see so many headlines beginning with “how to…” or “why…”. Here are some examples:

Example – landscape gardener:
Before: Shrub pruning
After: How to enjoy more fruit this summer with this easy shrub pruning technique.

Example – gym:
Before:  Supervised weight lifting sessions.
After: Why lifting weights will slim you down.

This also means that you’re talking about benefits rather than features, e.g. enjoying more fruit or slimming down… the things the consumer really wants! Pruning or weight lifting is just the means to the end: we don’t necessarily want to spend our time pruning or lifting weights, but we do want more fruit in our garden, or to be slimmer.

4. Using emotional trigger words

There are certain words that are said to grab people’s attention because they generate an emotional response.

Examples of trigger words include: achieve, amazing, bargain, beautiful, easy, exclusive, formula, free, imagine, important, luxury, power, results, revolutionary, savvy, selected, shocking, urgent, valuable… there are dozens more of these. Just look up “emotional trigger words” in your favourite search engine.

Example – hairdresser:
Before: Hair straightening service
After: With this revolutionary hair-straightening technique, you can enjoy 25 valuable minutes longer in bed each day!

Example – business coach:
Before: Dealing with debtors
After: Is your cash flow suffering because you’re not using this important financial management technique?

Health warning: use emotional trigger words in moderation. If you over-use them, you could come off as sounding phoney, insincere and too good to be true. Here’s the business coach example again, with too many emotional trigger words:

Imagine the amazing results you could be achieving with this valuable, revolutionary formula!

… Yuck! That example is so over-hyped, it would be hard to believe what’s being said next. By all means use emotional trigger words, but go easy on them.


These are just some of the ways you can use headlines to engage your readers: there are other techniques as well, but these are a good starting point as they are quite easy to implement. (Plus, they work really well!)

Do make sure you try these techniques next time you write a headline.

One final word on headlines: they shouldn’t be too long. If you can’t easily say a headline in one breath, you need to re-visit it and shorten it. Why? Long headlines are confusing and cluttered… and after all, the whole purpose of the headline is to cut through the noise and busy-ness (rather than adding to it).


Why are headlines important?

Headlines attract attention

It’s true! Headlines attraction attention… Are your marketing headlines working as hard as they should be?

It’s estimated that the average American is exposed to somewhere between 247 and 3,000 advertising messages a day (depending on which research resource you believe), and the numbers are no doubt similar in other Western countries.

That’s an awful lot of advertising messages! So if you want your message to get noticed, it has to cut through all that noise. And that’s what the job of the headline is.

A good headline cuts through the noise so your message stands out

An everyday example of headlines doing this is in newspapers and magazines: their ability to make sales is largely dependent on their headlines.

But I’m not in the newspaper business…

Even though you’re not in the newspaper business, headlines are absolutely vital. They’re not just for journalists: they are equally important for business owners and marketing professionals.

Here are examples of how headlines are used every day in all types of businesses:

  • Email newsletters: the subject line plays a big role in the recipient’s decision as to whether to read your message or not. The subject line is nothing less than a headline.
  • Websites: website visitors decide within a few short seconds as to whether they’ll read on, or go back to the search engine results. A powerful headline will compel them to read on, instead of hitting the “back” button.
  • Print and online advertisements: the best advertisements are the ones that are compelling… and that’s nearly always done with a headline.
  • Social media updates: yes, even many social media updates benefit from headlines – especially if you want readers to click through to your blog, or take some other kind of action.
  • Flyers and brochures: consumers are exposed to so many printed materials, that yours really need to grab their attention right away. Again, headlines play an important role in this.

As you can see, headlines play a major role in the effectiveness of your marketing, both offline and online.

But I’m not using headlines in all these instances…

If you’re not using headlines in all of the scenarios listed above, you should be! There’s absolutely no point in putting all your time in to writing the body content, if you’re not going to write a strong, attention-grabbing headline! Maybe you haven’t even considered that these attention-grabbing things are actually “headlines”.

Next step: Now that you understand how important headlines are, make sure you write great ones. And be sure to review your existing online and print materials, to make sure that the headlines are as strong as possible.

Just like reporters and journalists spend a good amount of time crafting their headlines to sell their newspapers, you need to craft your headlines carefully too, to cut through all that advertising noise. Here’s what makes a great headline → 


3 cunning ways to use numbers in your copywriting

Numbers in your copywriting can help influence your readers and communicate your message your clearly. Here's how to do it.

Numbers in your copywriting can help influence your readers and communicate your message your clearly.

Did you know that there are rules for writing numbers?

The traditional rules say that you should spell out whole numbers up to nine, and use numerals for numbers greater than 10.

That’s all well and good, but mostly we use words in business to convey a message, or to spur the reader to take a particular action. So  numbers are as much of a tool in your copywriting as words, so it’s important you use them wisely.

Here are 3 ways in which you can use numbers to your advantage in your writing:

1. Use a number to add emphasis

Consider these sentences:

“You’ll receive 4 bonus goodies as a thank you.”

“You’ll receive four bonus goodies as a thank you.”

In which sentence does the number stand out most? In the first one, where you’ve used the numeral. So if you want to add emphasis the number, use a numeral. (Or conversely, if you want to make the number less obvious, spell it out.)

2. Consider psychological price points

What’s the difference between $99.95 and $100? It may just be 5 cents, but psychologically it’s a whole different price bracket. $100 dollars sounds significantly more expensive than $99.95.

So look at your pricing: could you be using psychological price points to your advantage so they drive more sales?

3. Use specific numbers to boost credibility and believability

Consider the following sentences:

“There were 150 people present at the wedding.”

“There were 147 people present at the wedding.”

Which sounds more accurate and believable? The last one, with the odd number.

People generally have a tendency to round numbers. But that makes them a bit generic and unbelievable. If you use an odd number you sound very precise – and therefore very credible.

Note: this doesn’t apply to numbers ending with 5; that still sounds like it’s been rounded (even if it hasn’t). Numbers ending in 1, 3 and 7 are probably the most effective.

Don’t be afraid to break the traditional rules of copywriting from time-to-time. Remember, sales copy is there to sell, so use numbers as well as words to achieve that goal.