Through all the hoopla of unusual copy approaches and a multitude of tests, certain basic rules of copywriting success remain the standard. Here are 14 of those rules:

  1. Remember to keep the first sentence short. Your reader will form an instant impression of your landing page, email or direct mail by reading the first sentence, If it’s short and easy to read, chances are better that he’ll read on, but if it’s slow, long, or too complex, he might abandon it.


  1. Be selective in your salutation. First, use personalization if you can. Second, avoid at all costs using those trite, stuffy openings like “Dear Sir” or “Gentlemen.” An often overused choice among direct mailers is “Dear Friend.” It’s OK, but if you can personalize your opening, do so,. For example, “Fear Collector,” “Dear Tennis Nut,” “Dear Executive,” or “Dear World Traveler” can help you zero in on your readers and establish a better rapport.


  1. For special interest groups, you can leave out “Dear.” Try “This Private Notification is Limited to Executives Earning More than $100,000 a Year” or “Information for Experience Collectors Only.”


  1. Watch your spacing in the letter. For the sake of improved readability, single-space the letter and double-space between paragraphs. Most people find this style the easiest to read.


  1. Another important rule is to make sure that your intentions are clear. You may tease a reader on the outer envelope or subject line, but don’t make him read five pages to find out what you’re selling. Remember, at the letter’s opening you have his attention—so don’t be afraid to “fire your biggest gun” at that point.


  1. Use specifics to strengthen your copy. Don’t just write that your vitamins are superior. Tell why, and use concrete examples.


  1. Use specifics in your testimonials. For a photography book promotion, don’t use “Your book is really terrific. I enjoyed it very much.” Instead use “I tried your ideas and methods … so far I’ve had 19 photos accepted and paid for—and I’m just getting started.” Give your readers “meat,” not generalizations.


  1. Make sure what you provide is exciting to the reader. Sometimes what’s exciting and important to you isn’t interesting to the prospect. So you need to key in on his needs and concerns, not yours.


  1. Include the active voice. Isolate all phrases telling what you’ll do for the person. Then make sure to revise a passive voice to an active voice. Don’t write “The kit will be forwarded to you immediately.” Instead, simply write “I’ll send you your kit.”


  1. Remember that benefits outsell descriptions. Increasing “you-benefit” copy and minimizing mechanical descriptions mean better response. You won’t sell a car by describing the type of safety glass or the gauge of the steel. A buyer will respond if you emphasize benefits: great handling, increased gas mileage, high resale value, performance, clean lines, etc.


  1. Check to see if the components of your mailing package reinforce each other. If you have a letter, brochure, and lift letter or flyer, don’t just repeat the same copy, Make references in the letter to see the brochure for full details. The brochure could include excerpted articles or more benefits.


  1. Make sure your principal sales story is feasible. Don’t use an episode that’s not believable. A prospect respects probability, but will reject improbability.


  1. Another rule is to zero in on reader action. Your objective is to make the prospect say “Yes! I need that!”


  1. What your closing. Do not use “Yours truly” because it’s overly formal. “Sincerely” is appropriate for most business-to-business letters. And for more creative and personal touches, consider “Yours for more vigorous health.” “For the Board of Directors”
    or “Bless you, my dear friend” (for fundraising only).

Do you have any questions about your copy or would like someone to help improve your direct response advertising? Call me at (310) 212-5727 or email me at