Sensible business people do not write their own sales letters, websites or brochures. They employ copywriters. If you are looking for one, you may like to know how to distinguish the good ones from the rest. Let me offer you a couple of tips.

There are broadly two kinds of copywriters: those who can write and those who can write and sell. (I am discounting those who think they can write but can’t.) What matters, in most cases, is the response you get.

However, if you are choosing a copywriter from scratch, you need to know how to judge him or her in advance.

A good copywriter understands how the reader receives, reacts and responds, and writes to meet those expectations. Look for these two indicators of a copywriter’s understanding of salesmanship in text:

1. Copy that leads with the company name. It’s usually a no-no, because it signals self interest. There are exceptions.
2. Long paragraphs. They are a turn-off. No exceptions.

Quite a few sales letters and even TV ads these days make the mistake of leading with the company name, e.g. “At XYZ Company we believe …” A variation on this is, “Do you need to protect your family? ABC Insurance will …”

Far better to expand on the solution and bring in the company name further down the page. The exception would be when the company itself is synonymous with the solution, as in roadside assistance, e.g. “Will you discover the value of AA membership only by accident?”

Long paragraphs create resistance. They look too dense. In these days of attention deficit, people can’t be bothered with dense masses of text in the quick-read environment of sales letters or web pages. The copywriter needs to encourage the eye to flow down the page.

I would recommend paragraphs of five lines or less.

I have just been looking at an example of text in which the number of lines in the paragraphs is 6, 6, 6, 7, 6,6, 5 and 5. It doesn’t work.

One more thing. Check the opening paragraph. It must contain something to grab and hold your attention in just 12 words.

If you’d like to know more, send an email with Copywriting in the subject line to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com, or call 0845 165 9240.