9 copywriting “number tricks” to manipulate readers

October 21, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

copywriting number tricksI had two choices for writing the number in my headline. I could have written “Nine” or “9.” And at the beginning of the previous sentence I could have written “two” or “2.”

Why did I make the choices I did? When you finish this article, you will know.

There are rules for writing numbers. The AP Stylebook suggests you should “spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence.” It also suggests you should “spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above.”

These and other standard rules are fine for ordinary writing. But copywriting is about manipulating readers in order to persuade, motivate, and sell. So you should ignore the “rules” and use a few tricks to accomplish your objective.

Here are 9 of the most popular:

Spell out a number to de-emphasize it. Numeric figures, such as 9 or 138, create brief stops in reading. They call attention to themselves. So if you need to write a number but don’t want to call attention to it, spell it out. Write “The five books are yours free.”

Use a numeric figure to highlight a number. If a number is important to your meaning and you want your reader to notice and understand it quickly, use a numeric figure. Write “The 5 books are yours free.”

Add cents to increase perceived value. If you’re writing about a prize, you want to make the prize appear as valuable as possible. So instead of writing “You could win $100,000,” write “You could win $100,000.00.” The same goes for savings. Instead of writing “Save $40,” write “Save $40.00.” If a higher value benefits the reader, add the cents.

Omit cents to reduce perceived cost. Instead of writing “You pay only $27.00,” write “You pay only $27.” This uses the same logic as the previous tip, but in reverse: If a lower value benefits the reader, omit the cents.

Shave cents to create a price break. In marketing, “price break” refers to the concept of pricing an item at a value that is profitable but seems cheaper than it really is. So a $40 item could sell for $39.95. It’s only 5 cents difference, but people perceive the lower price to be in the $30 range rather than the $40 range.

Round numbers to add a touch of class. For upscale products or services, a price of $150 may seem more attractive than $149.95. That’s why an expensive salon or restaurant often uses round numbers: for snob appeal. Those with the money to spend $100 on a steak feel they don’t have to worry about pennies. They often want something more expensive because that is part of the experience they are purchasing.

Use odd numbers to increase believability. If it’s a price, $73.81 seems more believable than $70. If it’s a group of items, odd numbers such as 9 or 17 seems more believable than 10 or 20.

Use specific numbers to boost credibility. This is similar to the previous tip. Instead of writing “You get more than 200 investment secrets to boost your wealth,” write “You get 217 investment secrets to boost your wealth.” Generally, you want to use specific odd numbers rather than specific even numbers.

Omit shipping and tax to reduce the price. People have been trained to accept shipping costs and tax as extras. So instead of writing “The Widget 3000 is only $79 including shipping and tax,” write “The Widget 3000 is only $67 plus shipping and tax.”

There are more number tricks, of course. If you have a favorite, share it.

Related posts:

  1. 7 clever copywriting tricks to captivate your readers

>>> Subscribe to blog by RSS or E-mail

Smart Comments

7 Comments on 9 copywriting “number tricks” to manipulate readers

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lghinelli, Donatella Plastino. Donatella Plastino said: 9 consigli per scrivere i numeri negli articoli http://tinyurl.com/yzma86n #copywriting [...]

  1. Mr. i on Oct 23rd, 2009 12:53 pm
  2. Interesting! I had never thought this way about numbers. I will keep these tips in mind next time I write a post.
    .-= Mr. i’s last blog … 10 Things They Don’t Teach You About Productivity =-.

  3. Louis on Nov 3rd, 2009 12:45 am
  4. Interesting article, however, I don’t think it’s proper to refer to copywriting as a form of ‘manipulation’. I think “convince” or “persuade” would be more appropriate words to use.
    .-= Louis’s last blog … Will EOT Become the Standard for Font Embedding? =-.

  5. Dean Rieck on Nov 3rd, 2009 11:03 am
  6. Louis,
    I see your point. But whatever word you use, it’s still manipulation. When I write a letter or ad, I’m attempting to psychologically manipulate my reader to think and do something. I’m just not doing it with evil intent.

  7. sumonbdinfo9 on Jan 17th, 2011 9:13 am
  8. This is a Social Community Blogging Site. Everybody can share there mind also write own Blog and can Earn money. Also users can get many reaches Tips and Tricks, Software and WordPress Tutorial, Also PhotoShop and Graphics and More Things. http://sum-on.com.

  9. Helen Wenley on Apr 27th, 2011 8:05 pm
  10. Copy writing is a fascinating subject to me. I love learning how to make marketing work – after all, we can have the greatest product in the world and if we don’t market it with copy writing no-one will get to notice it. And of course, the reverse is true too.

    [...] with the Cappuccino Effect.  For something a bit sneakier, check out Pro Copy Tips’ Copywriting Number Tricks.  For even more information, stay with me and check out my strategies for blending numbers with [...]