In my not so humble opinion, the great bulk of today’s copywriting efforts are visual abominations; and I’ll tell you why. A few years ago, some bright and well-meaning spark suggested that readers would take more notice of the sales points in a stick of copy if those points were picked out in bold. Consequently, writers began picking out salient points in bold type. Time passed and making things bold became a kind of holy quest; so not only were salient points made bold, but also non-salient ones. I think it’s fair to say that nowadays, just about every other word in sales letters (and in many ads and websites) is printed in bold.
This is crazy. Don’t these people understand that when you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing?
In my writing career, I have never, ever used bold type for emphasising anything (except for the examples above); and my response rate has been as good as anybody’s. And possibly better. Perhaps it won’t be long before the bold-makers recognise the error of their ways – and guess what, I shall be back in fashion.
But that’s not all. There is now a widespread tendency to not only use bold type, but also italic type, coloured type, underlined type and shadow type for emphasis. This is especially true of many websites; and the copy is practically illegible.
Let’s clear the decks. If your copy is as good as you suppose it is, then it should stand on its own two feet. It should do its job without the assistance of ridiculous and unreadable visual devices like these.
Allow me to give you an example of what I’m talking about. This, I promise, is culled directly from the Internet and has received no embellishment from me.
It’s a headline promoting resale rights products.
“Discover How To Instantly Pull Massive Profits
And Bank In More Money From Simple Resale Rights Products
Available Everywhere…In As Little As 72 Hours And Even
If You're Starting From Scratch!”
I’ll say nothing about the awful syntax and grammar, though I could if I wanted to. But just look at the plethora of idiotic devices employed here: quote marks, italics, colour, underlining and an exclamation mark to boot.
My advice to anyone who is tempted to imitate this kind of visual absurdity is think twice…then think again. Far better, I feel, to offer your message in a clean and uncluttered manner. Like that, you’ll gain a bigger readership.
© Markethill Publishing 2005.
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Patrick Quinn is a copywriter, with 40 years' experience of the advertising business in London, Miami,
The Secrets of Successful Low Budget Advertising.
Word Power 1, 2 & 3.