One of the most powerful boosters of response in an email or direct mail letters is the “superscript”.
Simply put, a superscript is a placement of powerful direct response copy in the area above the salutation. It’s an incredible way to hook the reader and create a completing interest to read the entire letter.
Before I elaborate, let’s look at an example of a superscript my ad agency created for The Weather Channel:


Be the Only Business in Your Area

To Sponsor Closed-Captioning on

The Weather Channel … And

Do It for Just $1.38 per Advertisement!

 Imagine: For the price of a quarter-page newspaper ad, you can have

12 ads a day … every day for a month …

… on one of the most-watched cable channels in America!

This is a unique opportunity to boost your sales and attract new customers:

Reach a prime local audience with a $68,554 average household income (Source: 2004 MRI Double/base)

Guaranteed to run during our second-highest-rated programming.

No need to create a commercial—no other costs involved!

This is an exclusive opportunity. Only one sponsor per local cable system will be accepted.

Dear Business Owner:

     These days $1.38 won’t buy you a cup of cappuccino. . .


As you can see, a superscript teases your reader’s interest before the letter even begins. It also immediately draws the eye with large and dynamic type. It truly begs to be read.
Some of the things you can do with the superscript are:

  • Tease the premium
  • Tell a story that motivates your reader to act now
  • Describe mouthwatering offers your prospect can’t resist
  • Present a crisis or a major problem your prospect is facing and tease the solution
  • Create powerful curiosity based on self-interest

The singular goal of the superscript is to get inside the mind of your prospect and motivate them to read the letter. It’s an effective tool.
A variation on the superscript is the Johnson Box. Created by veteran copywriter Frank Johnson, it’s a superscript with a dotted box or border around it. Here’s an example of my client 1-800 Contacts:

Here’s an example from another one of my clients, Family Life:

Used correctly, superscripts and Johnson Boxes are capable of increasing the profits of a campaign by a full 25%.
However, if either the superscript or Johnson Box are used incorrectly, they can decrease response by the same 25% or more. Be careful of telling too much. Or failing to create curiosity, drama, or interest. You must make an emotional connection to your prospect.
Show your prospect that it’s in his or her self-interest to act, and you’ll find the superscript is a highly successful marketing tool.
If you need help creating a superscript or Johnson Box, call me at (310) 212-5727 or email me at
I can help you put together a direct mail that gets top-notch response.