5 bilingual copywriting traps and how to avoid them

January 17, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 13 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

bilingual copywritingIt’s hard enough to write good copy in one language. Writing copy that works in two languages is at least twice as hard.

I’ll be honest … I have little facility in other languages.

I spoke a little German when I lived in Europe and stumbled through Spanish class in high school, but whatever communication skills I have exist only in English.

Whenever I’ve faced a situation where my copy had to be used in other languages, I’ve always turned the job over to specialists who could do it right.

Here are some of the most common mistakes you should avoid if you’re ever in a bilingual copywriting situation for the first time.

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Do your headlines pass the critical 4-Task Test?

December 20, 2010 by Dean Rieck · Comments Off
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

writing headlinesThe headline is the heavy hitter in any piece of copywriting.

It’s the salesperson’s opening line, the foot in the door, the first and most lasting impression. A headline wields the power to attract, repel, or slip by readers unnoticed.

The question you must always ask yourself when writing a headline is, does my headline pass the 4-Task Test?

To write effective headlines, you must understand how words affect people and generate action. Specifically, most effective headlines perform four critical tasks: they attract attention, select an audience, deliver a complete message, and draw the reader into the body copy.

Don’t look at these four tasks as a sequence of events. A headline performs them all simultaneously and immediately.

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Sharpen your writing skills with the stopwatch challenge

November 22, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

copywriting stopwatch challengeMost people who gravitate toward copywriting love words. Dishing up lots of them is relatively easy. The real challenge is editing to achieve a tighter and more lively style.

So if your writing has become bloated and sluggish, perhaps what you need is a little challenge to trim the fat and energize your selling copy.

The exercise I have in mind is based on radio advertising and will challenge you to write a complete, action-inducing sales pitch that can be spoken aloud in 60 seconds.

I have a background in writing radio advertising. And I got the idea for this challenge while writing radio ads for several products. It occurred to me that while this form of writing uses few words, it takes incredible discipline to make those words sell.

This is especially true when you realize that the words are fleeting. Unlike print advertising, your target audience cannot go back and review the copy. They have to hear it, understand it, and respond to it after just 60 seconds.

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A 9-step copywriter’s guide for taking effective notes

November 18, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 5 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

notes for copywritingMany people think of copywriting as a creative act. It’s true that all forms of writing fall into the general area of creativity.

However copywriting is creativity with a purpose. It’s all about crafting the right message, getting a profitable result, and meeting tight deadlines.

I’ve found that the key to efficient and effective copywriting is organization and preparation. And it all starts with taking good notes and organizing those notes into useful chunks.

Here are some tips on how to take good notes.

Collect all the information you need before you start writing. You can use my copywriting checklist to get you started. Having information at your fingertips will save you time and make your writing more specific and relevant.

Write your notes in a notebook. Yes, you could type them. But writing out notes in longhand forces you to slow down and focus your mind so that you can become familiar with the information. This is something I learned in a former life as a teacher. The physical act of writing helps you learn faster, with more retention and comprehension.

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Storytelling and the greatest sales letter of all time

November 11, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 7 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

stories in copywritingPeople love stories.

We like to tell them. We like to hear them. This is the way our brains are designed to take in information.

It’s why back in grade school, you could solve math problems more easily when it was explained to you as a story instead of just an equation.

Smart copywriters have long known that storytelling in sales letters can dramatically boost interest, comprehension, and response.

Telling a story in a letter can be tricky, though. It must be crafted well and used appropriately. But when it works, it can work big.

Perhaps the best example of storytelling in a sales letter is the famous Wall Street Journal letter written by Martin Conroy. It worked like magic and remained the Journal’s control for decades. It’s charming, though not original.

Like many great works of advertising, the idea was borrowed, or as we say in the business “swiped.” The original story letter idea came from the pen of advertising legend Bruce Barton back in 1919.

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7 defensive copywriting strategies to close the sale

October 11, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 5 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

defensive copywriting I’ve always said that copywriters are actually sales people. They just happen to use the written word to close sales.

In his first post for Pro Copy Tips, Donnie Bryant talks about copywriting in the same way. And he suggests how to look at copywriting in the same way we look at driving.

That will make perfect sense when you’ve finished reading.


In my hometown, everyone had to take a defensive driving class in order to get their driver’s license.

More than anything else, defensive driving is a mindset you’re supposed to get into before you hit the road. Its purpose is to keep you safe while traveling from Point A to Point B. There are plenty of crazies to watch out for, after all.

Let’s compare driving to selling for a moment.

Traditional sales training dictates an aggressor mentality, a take-charge, “never settle for no” attitude. This kind of salesperson is very similar to a driver suffering from road rage, if you think about it. Driving like a maniac is not wise, and neither is trying to sell with an aggressive frame of mind.

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Hype copy that sells and how to write it

October 7, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 3 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

good vs. bad hype copyNobody likes hype copy. And it doesn’t sell. Right? Well, many copywriters think that. But it’s not necessarily true.

Actually, “hype” is in the eye of the beholder. And if done right, it works.

Today, Barry Densa debuts on Pro Copy Tips with his unique, wise-ass take on writing hypey copy. (You gotta love a guy who admits he’s a wise-ass.)


Discriminating consumers love hype copy.

Hypey copy is like a fine wine. It has great legs, a fine body and a rich nose.

Hype excites the emotions, stimulates the buying glands and ultimately converts better than dull, drab, “only the facts ma’am” marcom-style copy.

Marketers and consumers who bemoan the ugliness, the crassness, and the used-car-salesman look and feel of hypey copy are all uneducated and uninformed dolts.

All of the above, whether true or not, is a form of hype copy … of the unrepentant bad kind.

How to differentiate bad hype from good hype

Hype has many guises or nuances. Unfortunately, today, hype has become an indiscriminate catch-all-phrase for any type of copy that anyone objects to, for whatever reason.

Well, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is hype.

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Copywriting blunder: Are you a “radio head” writer?

September 30, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 7 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

radio head copywritingThere are two kinds of copy.

One is meant to be read silently. The other is meant to be read out loud, like the copy you hear in a radio ad.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen copywriters confuse the two and write “radio” copy for printed materials. This is a major copywriting blunder. I call these people “radio heads.”

Here’s an example of radio head copy in a neighborhood flyer:

Savings. Selection. Low prices. Now at AMC Grocery. Come in today for spectacular savings for the holidays. Get Pepsi 12 packs for $3. Progresso soups just $7 for 8 cans. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts now just $1.99 a pound. Yes, thousands of items on sale at your local AMC Grocery!

If you read this copy aloud, as a radio announcer would, it sounds fine. But for those who read the copy silently and don’t “hear” the words in their head, it appears choppy, terse, and amateurish.

So why do some copywriters churn out copy like this? Two reasons.

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The selling power of intelligent redundancy

September 27, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 6 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

redundancy in copywritingIntelligent redundancy is an idea that will make some writers cringe and most writing teachers faint. But it’s an important tool for copywriters whose goal is to sell, persuade, or prompt action.

To show you what I’m talking about, here are some common examples of intelligent redundancy:

  • free gift
  • added bonus
  • Introducing the new
  • major breakthrough
  • actual fact
  • brief summary
  • simple and easy
  • a “real person” will answer your call
  • 100% guarantee

In standard composition, these examples represent sloppy writing. A gift is by definition free. A bonus is something added. If you’re introducing something, it must be new. Every breakthrough is major. All facts are actual.

If a summary is not brief, it’s not a summary. Something simple must be easy. A person who answers your call must be real. If you don’t guarantee 100%, it’s not a guarantee.

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Convincing the gatekeeper: writing copy for the real decision maker

August 30, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 7 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

gatekeeperCopywriting is a tougher job than most people realize, especially when you’re writing for what pros call the “complex sale.”

One type of complex sale is when you have to convince one person they need the product and another person to approve the purchase.

Here’s some advice from Sally Bagshaw on how to approach these tough projects.


Imagine this: You’ve poured your heart and soul into one of the most persuasive landing pages you’ve ever written. You’ve used emotion, you’ve added great testimonials, in fact you’ve used every single copywriting trick in the book to convince the reader that this is THE product they MUST buy NOW.

But it doesn’t work. Your page barely gets a nibble. No one is impressed.

Especially not your client.

So what went wrong? You took a great client brief, you did a lot of research into the product, heck you even use the product yourself. Shouldn’t it be easy to convince that potential customer to buy it?

Well maybe you did convince them. The only problem was that they were not the person you should have been convincing. You should have been convincing the gatekeeper.

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