How to write copy that sells like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year ––


This is a top secret run down on copywriting.

It’s called...

How to write copy that sells like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.

Sorry for the lengthy title.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Read this first.


I don’t know you. But, I do know you’re a busy entrepreneur, marketer or snow cone vendor chomping at the bit to write better stronger sales copy, fast.

So, knowing this, I’m tossing all the fancy formalities in the waste bin.

Let’s cut right to the chase.

This run down (or guide of sorts), How to write copy that sells like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year, will teach you how to write words that sell like hell.

It’s filled to the brim with an insane amount of copywriting and marketing lessons I’ve learned slinging ink for brands across the world. I don’t love chest pumping but I understand I have to, from time to time, to establish some credibility.

So, excuse me for a moment as I tell you why you should listen to what I have to say...

Alright, that will be the last of me bragging about myself. And, again, I apologize. But, if you’re anything like me, you’re skeptical. So, I guess what I’m saying is that... I know what I’m saying.

Anyway, the lessons you’re about to find down below never take more than 5-minutes to sift through and most are more in the range of 1-minute, 2-minutes and 3-minutes.

The lessons are short, punchy and concise for a reason –– because good copy that sells is short, punchy and concise.

In addition to the course’s brevity, you will also notice there are no videos. Again, this is intentional. We aren’t learning to make videos. We are learning to write copy. And, the best way to learn how to write copy is through reading.

This guide took me a nice chunk of time to create and design because I wanted it to be more than just a guide. I wanted it to be a living breathing resource you can revisit when you have questions about writing copy for your brand.

You're smart. You're savvy. You can figure out the rest.

Now, without further ado, let's learn to sell like hell with the written word...

Pssst... if at any point during this course, you say fuck it and decide you want to give me some cheddar to slink some ink for you… you can do that here.

- fin -

What the hell is copywriting, anyway?

Before we learn anything, we must first understand what copywriting is and what copywriting isn’t.

A quick Google search will direct you to handfuls of copywriting definitions, most of which are long-winded (which is ironic because long-windedness is a big copywriting no-no).

But there are some diamonds in the rough. One of my favorite copywriting definitions comes from Bruce Bendinger, a great copywriter and creative director who described the practice as…  

“... a job. A skilled craft. Verbal Carpentry. Words on paper. Scripts to time. And one more thing. Salesmanship.”

What’s lovely about this definition is that Bruce uses great copywriting tactics as he is describing what copywriting is (more on that later).

However, while I’m obviously obsessed with the craft of copywriting and Bruce’s romanticizing of the craft through this definition, I’ll be the first to admit it’s a bit abstract.

All you really need to remember from the above definition is the final word Bendinger uses –– Salesmanship.

Copywriting, at its most concentrated form, is written salesmanship or the act of selling something with words.

It's really that simple.

Write that down.

Repeat it out loud a few times.

Hell, maybe even get it tattooed to your forearm.

Copywriting is the act of selling something with words.

Now that we have a definition to work with, let’s discuss why most of what we read on the web today, that’s intended to be copywriting, isn’t actually copywriting at all.

When it comes to writing copy, marketers, entrepreneurs and snow cone vendors all make the same fatal flaw –– they mistake copywriting for regular writing.

As a result, they sell diddly-squat and bore their could-be customers to absolute tears in the process.

Copywriting, unlike regular everyday writing, is getting the reader to not just think about something but to actually do something. Or, better yet, buy something.

This doing versus thinking is the fundamental difference between writing and copywriting.

Sure. This might sound rudimentary. It’s not. If it were, fewer brands would be writing complete shit that people don’t want to read (nor buy after reading).

When we understand the whole reason we are writing copy is to get someone to do something or buy something, something magical happens –– we write words that people actually want to read and as a result, we sell more stuff.

So, to recap, copywriting is the act of selling something with words. And, copywriting is different than other forms of writing because it is written to get the reader to do something or buy something.

Got it? Good. Now, let’s learn how to write copy.

- Fin -

Hook ‘em –– how to craft a killer headline.

David Ogilvy, arguably one of the greatest advertisers of all time said the following about headlines…  

“On average, five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Bottom line, headlines matter, and that’s why we are starting with them. If you’re spending five hours writing a piece of copy, I would argue that one of those hours should be spent on the headline alone.

I call this the 20% rule: spend 20% of your time writing copy on the actual headline itself.

If you can’t write a solid headline, you don’t have a snow cones chance in hell to get your reader to read the rest of your copy.

With that said, understand a headline can be anything. It can be a blog post title, an email subject line or even the first line you see on a sales page. Regardless, it’s one of the most important elements of copywriting.

Editors at large media companies will ask their writers to write as many as 25 headlines every time they write an article because they’ve seen their click-through rates increase by 50%, 100% and in some cases 500%.

Here are a few tactics you can reach for when writing headlines...

Flirt your ass off.

This type of headline is like the attractive girl or guy that is a great flirt. She or he walks into a bar. They smile. They pass around compliments. Everyone gets a taste but never a feel. They’re a flirt. It makes folks want them more. A headline that flirts with your audience can be a good headline. You write a headline that flirts with your audience by highlighting a problem the reader has and hinting at having a solution.


Can’t seem to make money in the stock market to save your life? Read this.

Cut right to the chase.

On the contrary, don’t be afraid to be crystal clear. The Psychology of Selling, the viral article I shared with you earlier, is an example of a headline that cuts right to the chase. It’s not super exciting. But, it tells the reader exactly what they’re going to get.


Easy foolproof strategies to increase your chances of making money in the stock market.

The quick, fast and in a hurry.

Customers and readers are constantly being bombarded with product offerings, articles and emails… the list goes on forever. Writing a headline that offers fast actionable results can be refreshing to the customer or reader.


In five-minutes we’ll teach you how to be deadly in the world of investing.

Again, spend 20% of the time you’ve allotted for an article or email or sales page writing the actual headline. Make it a goal to write twenty-five. After you’ve written twenty-five quality headlines, walk away and come back to them.

Which one stands out the most to you?

Ask the other people on your team, too. Ask them to circle their favorite(s). You’ll quickly find the winner.

Lastly, for inspiration, here are some viral article headlines that have worked for folks in the past:

  • 32 Legitimate Ways to Make Money at Home
  • 9 Landing Page Goofs That Make You Lose Business
  • The Compact Guide to Grammar for Busy People
  • How the Web Became Unreadable
  • Patagonia’s New Study Finds Fleece Jackets Are a Serious Pollutant
  • Why Content Marketing Trumps Advertising
  • How I Built an Online T-Shirt Business and Made $1,248.90 in 3 Weeks
  • How I Paid off $46,500 of Student Loans in 2 years
  • How to Eat on Less Than $1.00/meal
  • How to Write the Highest-Performing AdWords Ads, Ever

Pssst... writing headlines can be tough business and two heads are better than one, need some help? Just say the word.

- fin -

Hook ‘em (part II) –– what Medium’s 100 most viral articles can teach us about optimal headline word count.

books before phones.gif

I have a complicated relationship with Medium.

Let me explain.

Towards the beginning of my career, I worked as a ghostwriter for a CEO of a big tech startup in Silicon Valley. I brainstormed the topics, did the research, came up with the concepts and then wrote these great big 2,000-word articles that he simply pasted his name on.  

I decided to walk away after an article I wrote went viral, garnering 150,000 applause, millions of views and hundreds of comments praising this CEO for his originality, brilliant thinking and his poetic way with words.

The article is on the list down below. I’m not going to tell you which one it is. Not because I am scared of incriminating myself. I didn’t sign a contract that forced me to keep my mouth shut or anything. I’m just not very proud of this particular time in my career.  

What I will say is that I’ve been punished not for (but by) my sins. It’s been three, maybe four years, since I took off my invisibility cloak and put my ghostwriting days behind me and it still burns like a mouthful of fire ants to know the most popular piece I’ve ever written is under someone else’s name and not my own.

But, this is the consequence you pay for ghostwriting; for being a literary whore.


Anyway, while Medium is certainly a cesspool swarming with thought-leadership pieces, productivity hacks and poorly written Cinderella stories, it does offer some tremendous lessons in regards to writing headlines.

For as God-awful as Medium is, there are 1,385,000 new articles published on the platform every single month, and only a tiny percentage of these articles reach a level you might call “viral”.

During Medium’s golden age (2013 - 2016-ish), I came across a list that curated the platform’s 100 most viral articles (we’re talking pieces that boast millions and millions of views).

While the meat and potatoes of these articles are complete shit, there are some interesting takeaways in their headlines…  

For one, there is a common belief in writing that the ideal length of a headline is 6 words.

However, the average word count in the 100 articles down below is nearly 9 words and those that fall within the top 20% have headlines of almost 10 words.

While I’d hope most of the folks reading this strive to write more thought-provoking pieces than the whale shit that rises to the top on Medium, it’s worth paying attention to what catches readers attention and this seems to be articles with slightly longer headlines in that 9-10 word count range.

(Also, please remember I’m very biased here… the headline for this guide is 19-words and has done quite well for me from a sales aspect.)

It’s also worthwhile to note the “extremes” in the headlines you will find below…

The shortest headline on the list was just simply “bitcoin” (see: #65) and the longest headline on the list was a whopping 18 words “I interviewed at five top companies in Silicon Valley in five days, and luckily got five job offers” (see: #94).

So… know the rules to break the rules, I suppose?

Before you begin to sift through the headlines below, please note that I bolded the headlines I think are exceptionally good.

These are the unicorns that pass both the “virality” and the quality test. While Cosmo might write viral headlines, few of them can be described as “quality”. I’d argue the same can be said for Medium.

Anyway, enough blabber.

  1. The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You
  2. Digital Exile: How I Got Banned for Life from AirBnB
  3. Something is wrong on the internet
  4. How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization
  5. 7 Practical Tips for Cheating at Design
  6. Laziness Does Not Exist
  7. The Rock Test: A Hack for Men Who Don’t Want To Be Accused of Sexual Harassment
  8. Our redesign of Medium’s Claps…and why they may not have chosen to do it this way.
  9. How to think like a programmer — lessons in problem solving
  10. The power of doing nothing at all
  11. How I (re)built the Medium clap effect — and what I got out of the experiment.
  12. A quick beginner’s guide to drawing
  13. You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.
  14. Why Everyone Missed the Most Mind-Blowing Feature of Cryptocurrency
  15. How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Former Insider
  16. Design Better Forms
  17. How I Hacked 40 Websites in 7 minutes
  18. We fired our top talent. Best decision we ever made.
  19. 7 Things You Need To Stop Doing To Be More Productive, Backed By Science
  20. I’m 35 and I may suddenly have lost the rest of my life. I’m panicking, just a bit.
  21. You Make Or Break Your Life Between 5-7 AM
  22. The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness
  23. How quitting my corporate job for my startup dream f*cked my life up
  24. You’re Not Lazy
  25. Goodbye, Object Oriented Programming
  26. Advice From A 19 Year Old Girl & Software Developer
  27. NEO versus Ethereum: Why NEO might be 2018’s strongest cryptocurrency
  28. The 2018 Web Developer Roadmap
  29. Porn Is Not the Worst Thing on
  30. 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful
  31. Why Blockchain is Hard
  32. This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley
  33. Don’t listen to those productivity gurus: why waking up at 6am won’t make you successful
  34. Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse
  35. Yes, You Should Delete Facebook
  36. People Who Have “Too Many Interests” Are More Likely To Be Successful According To Research
  37. How I went from newbie to Software Engineer in 9 months while working full time
  38. This is How Google will Collapse
  39. Why you shouldn’t share your goals
  40. 10 cheat codes for designing User Interfaces
  41. The secret to being a top developer is building things! Here’s a list of fun apps to build!
  42. Optical Effects in User Interfaces (for True Nerds)
  43. Why I’m leaving Silicon Valley
  44. Learn Blockchains by Building One
  45. You fired your top talent. I hope you’re happy.
  47. One person’s history of Twitter, from beginning to end
  48. Today’s Problem With Masculinity Isn’t What You Think
  49. Good to great UI animation tips
  50. Get your Paytm KYC done, store up to Rs. 1 Lakh and avail other benefits
  51. The Simple Truth Behind Reading 200 Books a Year
  52. Why Most People Will Remain in Mediocrity
  53. Do These Things After 6 P.M. And Your Life Will Never Be The Same
  54. 10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings
  55. Postmortem: Every Frame a Painting
  56. HTTPS explained with carrier pigeons
  57. Don’t fall for the hype — Why Bitcoin’s $10,000 Price Doesn’t Reflect Its True Value
  58. How Netflix works: the (hugely simplified) complex stuff that happens every time you hit Play
  59. The Mistakes I Made As a Beginner Programmer
  60. If You Don’t Eliminate This Habit, You Will Never Grow
  61. How Does Spotify Know You So Well?
  62. It’s Not What You Know, It’s How You Think
  63. How I hacked Google’s bug tracking system itself for $15,600 in bounties
  64. WTF is The Blockchain?
  65. Bitcoin
  66. A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken
  67. Machine Learning is Fun!
  68. Creating Usability with Motion: The UX in Motion Manifesto
  69. The Success Bloggers Are Selling You Bullshit.
  70. A Letter to Jamie Dimon
  71. When The Racist Is Someone You Know and Love…
  72. How to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour
  73. Modern JavaScript Explained For Dinosaurs
  74. What Do 90-Somethings Regret Most?
  75. I Made the Pizza Cinnamon Rolls from Mario Batali’s Sexual Misconduct Apology Letter
  76. Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future
  77. Why Women Need Twice As Much Sex As Men
  78. I Got Rejected by Apple Music… So I Redesigned It
  79. 50 Things You [Probably] Forgot To Design
  80. A Guide to Becoming a Full-Stack Developer in 2017
  81. How I replicated an $86 million project in 57 lines of code
  82. A letter from a furious teacher
  83. The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen
  84. Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain
  85. Why Decentralization Matters
  86. Web Architecture 101
  87. How I made $200,000 when I was 16 years old
  88. An Open Letter to the FCC:
  89. The code I’m still ashamed of
  90. Allowing #MeToo To Go Viral Is The Biggest Mistake The Establishment Ever Made
  91. 5-Hour Rule: If you’re not spending 5 hours per week learning, you’re being irresponsible
  92. You Don’t Understand Bitcoin Because You Think Money Is Real
  93. How To Achieve Your 10-Year Plan In The Next 6 Months
  94. I interviewed at five top companies in Silicon Valley in five days, and luckily got five job offers
  95. Medium’s New Logo: A Review
  96. Focus On Learning and Creating Rather Than Entertainment and Distraction
  97. The Only 3 Things I Need In A Partner
  98. How To Tell If Someone Is Truly Smart Or Just Average
  99. How it feels to learn JavaScript in 2016
  100. Learning Python: From Zero to Hero

– fin –

Hook ‘em (part III) –– a lightning fast approach to writing solid headlines.


Seth Godin doesn’t find the word “hack” as repulsive as the rest of us...

The term, according to Godin, is derived from a breed of horse called The Hackney. They were developed in Norfolk of all places, back in the 14th century by the King of England.

The King didn’t want the “best of the best” of horses but instead a horse that was simply “good enough” and could be used for general riding purposes.

One that was powerful but not overly so.

One that was good-looking but not necessarily a knock-out.

One that was fairly fast but wasn’t going to necessarily chase down a cheetah.

So, they bred The Hackney and this gave birth to not only a horse but the term “hack”.

Godin argues that while the word “hack” has taken on a negative connotation, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply giving the market what they want. It’s giving the market “good enough”.

While all of us want to write copy and headlines that can win us a Webby or an Effie or a Pencil… we can’t be Don Draper for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Sometimes, we must settle for good enough.

(Especially when a client hits us up last minute and tells us she needs copy by the end of the day or she’s royally fucked.)

Thomas Kemeny, the copywriter who wrote the book Junior, has slung ink for some of the top advertising shops in America and tackles everything from navigating office politics to writing damn good advertising.

(If you’re looking to work at an advertising agency, I’d go pick the book up immediately. But, if you’re wanting to be a freelance copywriter, I’d just go pick up a copy of my freelancing guide.)

Anyway, in Junior, Kemeny lays out a few tactics he uses when he needs a headline quick, fast and in a hurry.

In other words, he breaks down how to breed The Hackney headline...

I obviously put my own flair on his recommendations as not to plagiarize his work. But, here’s what he had to say…

Throw a spin on a well-known phrase.

So, instead of…

“It is what it is.”

You would write…

“It is what it isn’t”

Or, instead of…

“Don’t shoot the messenger.”

You would write…

“Don’t shoot the messenger, make love to her.”

Start bland. Then, spice it up.

A painfully bland headline would be…

“Our coffee is bold.”

You would spice things up a bit by writing…

“Our coffee is so bold, you’ll keep the to-go cup as a trophy.”

Opposites attract.

Kemeny warns this particular tactic or “hack” is as cheap as a $4 bill at a Thrift Store (in not those specifics words), but claims it’s effective.

I would venture to agree.

There’s a cheap attraction to harnessing the power of opposites in headlines.

Let’s say you’re marketing burgers for a burger joint…

“For big appetites (and wallets on diets).”

Or, maybe you’re marketing oil changes for a local mechanic…

“Done before lunch (without costing you dinner).”

Short. Short. Looooooooong.

Surely you’ve seen this style of headline before.

“It’s adjective. It’s some other type of colorful adjective. It’s some claim that is super compelling.”

Let’s say you’re writing one of these types of headlines for an athletic shoe company that has a killer pair of sneakers on sale.

It would read as…  

“They’re fast. They’re absurdly affordable. They’ll leave you running like you stole something.”

Goddamn, that last one was actually pretty good.

– fin –

Hook ‘em (Part IV) –– David Ogilvy’s lesser-known approach to writing “potent” headlines.

drapper t.gif

Rumor has it that Mad Men’s brooding Don Draper, who doubled as both a creative director and a lady-killer (not literally), was inspired by the late great David Ogilvy.

But, who's to say?

What I do know is that if Don Draper were alive and breathing (and not a fictional tv persona) in the 1960s, David Ogilvy and his agency would have ran circles around him.

It wasn’t that Draper was bad, per say. Ogilvy was just that good.

In Confessions of an Advertising Man, Ogilvy shared the framework he expected his agency to use when writing what he coined “potent” headlines.

(Which, by the way, before we dive in… this section is dedicated more to writing headlines specifically for advertisements, paid ads and landing pages, not so much articles.)

Ogilvy would write no less than 16 headlines for every single advertisement. Why? Because he found that simply changing out a shitty headline for a strong headline could increase sales by as much as 1,000%.

Here’s the framework he followed to write those “potent” 1,000% zingers…

1. The headline is the “ticket on the meat”.

You’ll notice cuts of meat tend to have a tiny label protruding from them. This isn’t to be cute.

It makes shoppers aware of exactly what meat they’re buying.

Ogilvy believed headlines should function in this same way; and that copywriters should be incredibly clear about what they were selling.

If you’re writing an advertisement for a rare tea that cures “erectile dysfunction”, make sure “erectile dysfunction” is somewhere in the headline.

It’s that simple.

2. Every headline should appeal to the reader’s self-interest.

Your headlines should tell the readers how your product or service can change their life.

Let’s say you’re selling lipstick. What does your lipstick do? Does it make lips appear fuller?

Then make sure that somewhere in the headline you mention “fuller lips”.

3. Always try to inject “free” and “new” into your headline.

Ogilvy felt the two most important words to use in a headline were “free” and “new” and encouraged his copywriters to find ways to sprinkle them in.

I disagree entirely, I feel these words are overused and can make the advertisement feel scammy or even cheap.

But, if I were you, I’d listen to Ogilvy over myself.

4. Use other words and phrases that work wonders.

In addition to “free” and “new”, Ogilvy would often reach for the following words that seemed to work well in headlines:

  • How to
  • Suddenly
  • No
  • Announcing
  • Introducing
  • It’s here
  • Just arrived
  • Important development
  • Improvement
  • Amazing
  • Sensational
  • Remarkable
  • Revolutionary
  • Startling
  • Miracle
  • Magic
  • Offer
  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Wanted
  • Challenge
  • Advice to
  • The truth about
  • Compare
  • Bargain
  • Hurry
  • Last chance
  • Darling
  • Love
  • Fear
  • Proud
  • Friend
  • Baby

While “darling” seems like a peculiar word to toss into a headline, one of Ogilvy’s “spiciest” and certainly more successful headlines was one he wrote for Dove Soap where he included that very word…

“Darling, I’m having the most extraordinary experience… I’m head over heels in DOVE.”

5. The headline should include the brand name.

Ogilvy wrote that…

“Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy, so it is important that these glaciers should at least be told what brand is being advertised.”

Simple but brilliant.

If fives times as many people are going to read the headline than the body copy, you might as well include the brand name so your client is getting some recognition.

6. Land on the right length.

During David Ogilvy’s tenure he found that long headlines sold more merchandise than short headlines and that headlines that contained six to twelve words pulled more coupons than their shorter counterparts.

This, naturally, led to Ogilvy writing longer headlines.

He claims his greatest headline of all time was an eighteen word behemoth he wrote for Rolls Royce…

“At sixty miles an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.”

7. End your headline with a lure to keep reading.

Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to leave your headlines open-ended, tugging on your reader’s curiosity, encouraging them to keep reading to find an answer, a solution, a conclusion.

Something like…

“She was a struggling small business owner, barely breaking even, then she finally decided to try FreshBooks.”

8. Don’t get tricky, punny, literary and fancy.

Cute doesn’t sell.

In fact, it often gets overlooked.

And, if you are going to be cute, make sure you’ve included #1, #2 and #5.

9. Don’t use negatives.

Read this phrase…

Our condoms don’t contain microscopic holes.

As a reader, you subconsciously associate “condoms” with “microscopic holes”.

You’re far better off writing…

Our condoms are practically a forcefield.

10. Avoid blind headlines…

Headlines that can’t stand alone on their own are called “blind headlines” and often require a body of copy underneath to help the reader fully understand them.

Ogilvy hated these. He hated these because of Rule #5.

Remember the bit about…

“Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy… blah, blah, blah.”

So, write your headlines like they’re ads in and of themselves.

And that just about sums it up.  

In Closing…

While singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was living in the Greek island of Hydra, he struck up a friendship with an Australian journalist, war correspondent and novelist by the name of George Johnston.

While Johnston was working on one of his books, he sought out Cohen’s help to come up with a title.

Johnston said to Cohen, “I just don’t know what to call it.”

Cohen asked, “What’s it about?”

Johnston answered, “My brother Jack.”

Cohen said, “There you are.”

Johnston’s book would be called “My brother Jack” and it’d become his most commercially successful.

Sometimes, when coming up with a headline––or a title, rather––the most obvious is the best.

So, in other words, don’t overthink it.

– fin –

“Say my name, say my name” –– giving brands and products the names they deserve.

Every so often, I get tasked with naming an upstart or a product or even a line of products.

I’d like to consider myself reasonable at such a task.

While I don’t necessarily have some tried-and-true naming formula, here are a few things I like to think about…

Trust your intuition (if it feels right it probably is right).

When in doubt, I try and rely on my intuition.

I named Honey Copy’s flagship newsletter “Sticky Notes” because it came to me one day, almost out of the blue.

After chewing on the name for a bit, I decided that I liked the way it tasted on the tongue, and being that “honey” is “sticky”, it felt relevant.

At the risk of sounding a bit kooky, when I saw the name in my mind, I knew it was the name.

(Side Note: I also felt this way in naming my paid newsletter Chasing Hemingway, it hit me out of nowhere and I knew, almost immediately, that it was the name.)

I’m not a parent. So, I’ve never had the experience of naming a human. But, I imagine parents feel this way when naming their offspring.

They might come up with dozens, if not hundreds, of names for their unborn children but, eventually, be it by their own intuition or divine intervention, they happen upon a name that feels as if it was just waiting for their offspring to slip into it and wear it like a good suit or dress.

When in doubt, be overly literal.

Other times, naming can be less intuitive (and dare I say creative) and more literal.

While “Bubble’s Dry Cleaning” sure as hell isn’t creative, nobody will ever question what they do.

This is the beauty in reaching for literality, functionality and specificity over creativity.

I named this copywriting guide “How to write words that sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year” because I wanted the name to say exactly what was being taught.

To date, it has sold 2,300 copies.

So, while it might not be the most creative name in the world, it’s certainly effective.

On the contrary, don’t be afraid to run in the opposite direction of the “norm”.

At the end of last year, I was tasked with naming twelve cookies for an upstart cookie brand called Last Crumb. The upstart has since blown the fuck up and the names and descriptions I wrote have put smirks on faces the likes of Chrissy Teigen.

While many consider the work to be creative, my process was fairly simple… I just ran in the opposite direction of what’s considered to be the “norm” in regards to cookie names.

Chocolate Chip > “Better Than Sex”

(One customer tried the above cookie and said, “It really depends on the sex… I’ve had some rather mind-blowing sex.”)

Birthday Cake > “50 cent”

(Inspired by 50 cent's famous song “It’s your birthday”.)

Peanut Butter > “The Madonna”

(Madonna was allegedly a huge peanut butter fan.)

Lemon Cookie > “When Life Gives You Lemons”

(I’ve always dug this saying and thought this would be a clever way to repurpose it.)

Chocolate Lava Cake Cookie > “The Floor Is Lava”

(I fucking loved this game growing up).

White Chocolate Macadamia > “MacaDAMNia”

(Ever heard Kendrick Lamar’s incredible album “DAMN”?)

Oreo > “The James Dean”

(Way too long of a story to tell here –– sorry.)

Red Velvet > “What The Fuck Velvet”

(Red Velvet is a bit… dated.)

Blueberry Muffin > “Not Today Mr. Muffin Man”

(Because, well, Drury Lane.)

S’mores > “S’mores San Campfire”

(They actually came up with this one and I just approved it).

Banana > “Donkey Kong”

(Because Donkey Kong is a monkey and monkeys like bananas.)

If all else fails, whip out the shotgun.

Earlier this year a spirit brand by the name of “Two Days” emailed me about wanting a new name.

I asked them to give me a few words that came to mind when they thought of their brand and they hit me with “holiday”… “relax”… “chill”… “vacation”… “weekend”…

I took these words and I began brainstorming a ridiculously long list of names.

Here’s what I came up with…














Good Morrow.

once more.


After Party.

Here & There.





My days!



You’ll notice that some of these words are capitalized.

Some aren’t.

Some of them are italicized.

Some aren’t.

I think the way a word looks on the page is important (and both capitalization and italics play a part in this appearance).

For example...


Feels like “FOX” News, whereas…


Feels like an expensive men’s clothier.

When naming something, anything, I recommend compiling a list of 25+ words, printing them out on good paper and then handing them out to people (entirely separate from one another so that there is no room for group think) and asking each person to circle their three favorites on the list.

Naturally, there will be some overlap in words. When there is, pay heed.

And, finally, while naming is important, remove the pressure because while a good name can certainly help you… a bad name won’t kill you.

After all this work, “Two Days” is still “Two Days” and they’re doing just fine.

Keep it short & sweet –– how to write a first sentence that grabs the reader by the shirt and tells them to listen up

Before Steven Pressfield became the legendary war novelist behind books like The Tides of War and Gates of Fire, he worked a series of odd jobs, one of which involved him writing copy for the New York advertising agency, Benton and Bowles.

While today Pressfield claims that he absolutely despises advertising, he was quick to share on The Tim Ferriss Podcast how writing for this particular medium made him a better novelist.

He points to a few examples, but one that really stuck out for me was on the basis of “brevity”, a skill he learned writing tv commercials.

There is an unwritten rule when it comes to TV commercials…

To keep an audience fully engaged, a TV voiceover actor must read at a pace of two words per second.

So, a 30-second commercial can’t have more than 60 words in it.

Pressfield wasn’t aware of this starting out.

He’d take a long-winded commercial he wrote into his boss’s office, read it and his boss would point to the door and tell him to…


After doing this again and again, he found that he could say the same thing in 25 words that he had previously said in 250 words.

It was in advertising that Pressfield learned brevity, which he’d later apply to his war novels.

Today, the spines you see on the shelf of a bookstore are about 50% the size of Pressfield’s original drafts.

This rule of brevity begins and ends at the sentence level…

You exposed your penis on national television, Max.

That was the first sentence of Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs.

All this happened, more or less.

That was the first sentence of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Forty minutes later he was up in the sky.

That was the first sentence of The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

It was a pleasure to burn.

That was the first sentence of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

The world’s greatest authors of all time figured it out far before us marketers and copywriters. The power of a short first sentence, that is.

They realized that asking a reader to spend hours reading a piece of literature was a great big ask, so they made sure they were keeping them hooked from the jump with a short first sentence.

To tie in the previous section, a killer headline gets the customer or reader to read the first sentence of our copy, the first sentence of our copy gets the reader to read the rest of our copy. So, the first sentence of our copy is important. It’s almost as important as the headline.

Now, to continue, writing copy is not unlike writing a book, our goal is to get the reader to read our writing in its entirety.

Or, at the very least, read enough of it to do what we want them to do or buy what we want them to buy.  

This is challenging because most customers are lazy and busy. That’s a difficult combination to market to. As copywriters, marketers, entrepreneurs and snow cone vendors we must make it as easy as possible for our customers (or prospective customers) to read our copy.

A good way to do this is by starting out our copy with a very short first sentence that grabs the reader by the shirt and tells them to listen up.

Below, which sentence is easier to read? Which sentence pulls you in more? Which sentence makes you want to keep on reading?

“Making money in the stock market isn’t at all impossible and from our experience we would even argue that if one is willing to put in the work and the time to learn, making money in the stock market is even… likely.”


“You could make money in the stock market.”

As you can see, the first sentence is long and lengthy. It feels like it’s never going to end. The second sentence, however, is short and punchy. It gets right to the point.

Your customers should be able to read the first sentence of your copy in less than a second. They should open your email or hit your sales page and be through the first sentence before the fastest snapper in the world can snap her fingers.

If you write a short first sentence you have a higher chance the reader will read your second sentence and then the third and then the fourth and then the fifth.

When you’re writing copy, rewrite the first sentence of your articles, emails and sales pages 2-3 times. See how much you can shrink it down.

If you can keep it under ten words, that’s good.

If you can keep it under eight, that’s ideal.

If you can keep it under five, that’s divine.

To begin applying this tactic, start in the emails you’re sending to colleagues. Start making the first sentence punchier, shorter.

When you start doing this dozens of times each day, it will begin to feel second nature. From there, in your copy, try to not just write a short first sentence but try to write an interesting short first sentence.

Remember, a short punchy first sentence moves the reader through your copy faster and acts as a “hook” for the reader. We have to “hook” our reader quickly otherwise he or she will get away.

- fin -

Nixing stuttering & long-windedness –– how to vary sentence length to write sharper copy.

Sentence length is important. It’s something to always keep in mind. Short crisp sentences are great for punch. They hammer in specific points. Longer, fattier sentences are great for adding an element of flavor and personality and conversation to your copy. Together they create rhythm. They feel like a dance. They feel natural. This little excerpt, for example, is filled with sentences varying in length. Reread it. Can you feel the rhythm?

With that said, when we use too many short sentences, the copy can feel off. It can feel awkward. It can feel forced. It can feel robotic. It can read weird. Uncomfortable. Punchy in an unappealing way. Like someone is stuttering. Or saying uhm. A lot. It’s anxiety inducing.

And, on the contrary, too many long sentences can make our copy feel like it’s never going to stop and can be difficult to read and leaves the reader wondering if the whole damn thing –– like a bad train wreck –– is going to go on forever with no specific end on the horizon and causes them to lose focus and their mind starts to wonder like your mind is beginning to do right now.

Thank God that’s over.

The best strategy here is to vary sentence length throughout your copy. This means sprinkling in both short sentences and long sentences.

Watch how we can vastly improve the horrendous copy on the About Us page of the National Park Service website…

“Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. With the help of volunteers and partners, we safeguard these special places and share their stories with more than 330 million visitors every year. But our work doesn't stop there. We are proud that tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individual citizens ask for our help in revitalizing their communities, preserving local history, celebrating local heritage, and creating close to home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun. Taking care of the national parks and helping Americans take care of their communities is a job we love, and we need—and welcome—your help and support.”

Who farted?

Let’s apply sentence variation to this copy and see what we can do…

"We care for our nation's national parks. We care so much, we’ve been doing what we do since 1916, before your grandpa was born. We safeguard these special places. We protect these stunning landscapes so your children and your children’s children can enjoy the full array of beauty this world has to offer. And, it’s rewarding. 330 million visitors visit our parks each year. Each of whom makes memories that last a lifetime. We’re biased. But we believe taking care of our national parks is one of the most important jobs in the world. And, so we ask you this, will you help us?"

The above copy took me about two minutes to rewrite and it’s vastly better than what is currently on the site. If you’re part of the National Park Service, give me a call.

If you’re not, apply what I did above to the copy that is currently on your site. Varying the sentence length can make your copy read better, flow smoother and ultimately be much more enjoyable for the reader.

– fin –

The Hemingway Method –– using one and two syllable words to vastly improve comprehension.

Ernest Hemingway could write. He could write like hell. I’d argue he was and still remains one of the greatest writers of all time.

But, what made his writing just so damn good? Hemingway’s writing is so special because anyone and everyone can understand it.

Hemingway achieved this by writing with primarily one and two syllable words. Take a look at an excerpt from one of his books A Farewell to Arms down below...

“In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river, there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

In the above four sentence excerpt, you’ll find one hundred and twenty-six words (one hundred and three of which only have one syllable). If one and two syllable words were good enough for one of the greatest American writers of all time, they should be good enough for us, too.

With that said, if you have a three or four syllable word that feels right, there’s room for those as well. Just use them sparingly.

While this might sound obvious, it’s not. Words like innovative, bleeding-edge, leverage and scalability litter business emails and marketing communication constantly (more on this later).

Hemingway’s one and two-syllable approach to writing reminds us to never use a harder word where a simple word will do.

Take a moment. Look back through the emails you’ve sent your customers or colleagues. Pinpoint the three and four-syllable words in them. Could you have used simpler words in these places? My guess is that you could have.

Always remember that Great writing can be built with the bricks of simple language.

Junior Johnson was a Nascar Legend, winning fifty races over the course of his driving career (including a Daytona 500).

Surprisingly, Junior learned to drive not on the track but in the Appalachian Foothills as a moonshine runner.

In Wright Thompson's tremendous book Pappyland, he shares a conversation he had with Junior once upon a time where described in what Thompson’s calls “post-modern grease poetry”  the muscle cars he'd build to haul moonshine.

*Junior is typing now*

"The 1944s had the same motors as they got now. Like a Cadillac, overhead valve, supercharged, bored out, stroke, cammed, and hell fire… you could run it.
They said you can’t get a Cadillac motor in a ‘44 Chevy. They just dropped right in there. Dropped it in a dad-blame frame and called Vic Edelbrock. Talked to him. Built me a manifold, three or four carburetors.
Then they had that lawn mower people, made the McCulloch, they made a supercharger. Shit, I got me one of them things and adapted it. Had to build brackets and stuff. You hook that thing to that fan belt and it started whining, and when it started whining, you had some damn power. Sitting there with three carburetors and that’s all I needed.
You could put camshafts on that and hydraulic lifters on it and that thing would run so fast you couldn’t see the road.
And that ain’t no shit."

- fin -

A century-old guest lecture from the one and only, Ernest Hemingway.

In the Spring of 1934, a twenty-two-year-old Midwesterner by the name of Arnold Samuelson did something that would leave aspiring writers green with envy for decades to come: he jumped atop of coal car and hitched a ride down to Key West, where he walked straight up to Hemingway’s front door, knocked, and miraculously, ended up spending the summer adventuring with “Papa” in Cuba.

Hemingway treated Samuelson like both a son and an apprentice, helping him hone his chops as not only a man but a writer.

Fortunately, for us, Samuelson wrote down the timeless lessons that Hemingway taught him in a book called, With Hemingway: A Year in Keywest And Cuba.

And, fortunately, for you, I took the liberty of reading the book and separating the cream from the horseshit down below, where you will find a dozen lessons that left me sprawling for my pen.

Lesson #1: Never Write too much at a time.

“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time.

Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out.

When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop.”

Lesson #2: Reread. Reread. Reread.

“Every day go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing and when it gets too long, read at least two or three chapters before you start to write and at least once a week go back to the start. That way you make it one piece.”

Lesson #3: Cut out everything you can.

“And, when you go over it, cut out everything you can.

The main thing is to know what to leave out. The way you tell whether you’re going good is by what you can throw away.

If you can throw away stuff that would make a high point of interest in somebody else’s story, you know you’re going good."

Lesson #4: The reader should feel they’re reading their story.

“… after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.”

Lesson #5: Don’t write about what you don’t know.

“You can’t write what you don’t know about. Anything purely imaginary is poetry.

You’ve got to absolutely know your place and your people or your story will take place in a vacuum. Then you invent as you go along.”

Lesson #6: Never compete with living writers.

“Another thing is, never compete with living writers. You don’t know whether they’re good or not.

Compete with the dead ones you know are good. Then when you can pass them up you know you’re going good.”

Lesson #7: Poetry is easy. Prose is hard.

“Archie can write poetry. But poetry is easy. If a poet hits it lucky, he can write two lines and live forever. What is hard is prose.”

Lesson #8: Don’t write like everybody else –– but be patient.

“If you don’t write like everybody else does, the readers in the magazine office don’t know you’re good until somebody else makes the discovery and then they all see it at once.“

Lesson #9: Never use an outline.

“If you use an outline, the reader can tell it. The story is forced and unnatural.

Sometimes you think you know how a story is going to end, but when you get to writing it, it turns out entirely different.

Anybody knows when he gets to the end of a chapter. I never divide a book into chapter until I’m through with it.”

Lesson #10: Interesting for the sake of interesting isn’t interesting.

“Anybody can write an exciting story and make it interesting. The trick is to learn how to write a quiet story and make it interesting.

If you can do that, you won’t have any trouble when you get an exciting story.”

Lesson #11: Use short sentences sparingly.

“There are times when you can use short sentences, but you’ve got to learn when, because if you use them too much you get a monotonous trip-hammer action that tires the reader.”

Lesson #12: Don’t play God.

“You’re not God and you never judge a man.

You present him as he is and you let the reader judge… as a writer you have got to see him absolutely as he is, you’ve got to understand his viewpoint completely and learn how to present him accurately without getting your own reactions mixed up in it before you can write about him.”

I know that was long-winded so here’s a brief summary…

[1] Don’t write too much at any one time.

[2] Reread what you wrote the day before.

[3] Cut out everything that isn’t necessary to the story.

[4] Make the story the reader’s story, not your story.

[5] Never write about what you haven’t experienced.

[6] Only compete with dead writers.

[7] Poetry ain’t shit.

[8] Don’t write like everybody else.

[9] Scrap your outlines.

[10] Good writers make boring stories interesting.

[11] Don’t use too many short sentences.

[12]  Remember: You’re not God.

– fin –

Murder your adverbs –– how overuse of the adverb might be the single, quickest way to kill good writing.


I’m undoubtedly awful where adverbs are concerned. I’ve been notorious for naughtily overusing them since the day I eagerly picked up the pen for the first time.

In fact, I’m so wildly distasteful that already in this mini-lesson covering why writers should avoid them, I’ve been extraordinarily guilty of ignorantly committing several of these tiny atrocities.

I’d tell you that I’m not purposefully fucking-up these sentences… that I’m not intentionally littering them with adverbs only so I can later correct them…

But, we both know I’d be sheepishly lying.

However, jokes aside, I do use adverbs at an alarming frequency. So, this afternoon’s lesson is just as much a lesson for you as it is for me.

Let’s now do some sifting and see how the past seven sentences or so can be improved upon by murdering a few adverbs…

Adverb hunting.

Let’s reread the first seven sentences of this section (minus the adverbs)…

“I’m awful where adverbs are concerned. I’ve been notorious for overusing them since the day I picked up the pen for the first time.
In fact, I’m so distasteful that already in this mini-lesson covering why writers should avoid them, I’ve been guilty of committing several of these tiny atrocities.
I’d tell you that I’m not trying to fuck up these sentences… that I’m not trying to litter them with adverbs only so I can later correct them.
But, we both know I’d be lying."

The writing is by no means profound.

But, it’s obvious that by murdering the adverbs, we’ve added punch, brevity and clarity that wasn’t there previously back when the adverbs were still raging at the party.

Wait… what is an adverb?

I suppose I got ahead of myself…

An adverb is a word that “modifies a verb, adjective or another adverb”.

(They usually end in “-ly” which makes them easy to spot.)

The reason it’s in good practice to avoid using them is because they make your writing both timid and redundant.

For example…

Let’s take the following sentence…

“Brad yelled loudly.”

If we were to poll ten thousand people, asking them if they consider a yell to be “loud” or “quiet”, all ten thousand people would, without a doubt, check the box of the former.

Because of this, we’re far better off writing…

“Brad yelled.”

Yelling being “loud” goes without saying. So, it should go without writing, too.

Let’s, for a moment, look at this in the context of writing advertising…

The slogan I wrote for Honey Copy is…

“Words that read like poetry and sell like Ogilvy.”

It’s short.

It’s memorable.

It’s confident.

And, it’s far from redundant.

However, let’s pretend I smoked a bunch of crack and felt called to sprinkle in a couple of adverbs…

“Words that artfully read like poetry and confidently sell like Ogilvy.”

What once was a good slogan now feels redundant and unbelievable (and not in an awe-inspiring way).

If the reader can gather from the line “words that read like poetry” that my copy is “artful”… why say so?

The same can be said for the line “sell like Ogilvy” –– David Ogilvy was one of the greatest (and most confident) advertising men to ever live.

So, when making the comparison to selling like this legend, it is not necessary to use the adverb “confident”.

Not only are the adverbs “artfully” and “confidently” redundant to the reader but they give off the impression that the writer is bluffing; that he’s overcompensating.  

It’s not unlike the man who constantly brags about the size of his dick.

How big is your dick actually, Harry?

All that to say, after you’ve written something, reread it and look for “-ily”. Murder your adverbs and then re-reread the piece free of these rodents.

I can confidently guarantee your writing will improve.

- fin -

Murder your adverbs (part II) –– why you should murder your adverbs from a statistician.

A gent by the name of Ben Blatt once set off on the preposterous quest of using statistics to gain a tangible understanding of what makes for great writing.

I think much of his findings were hogwash.

But, he found something interesting in the lack of “-ly adverbs” amongst the greats…

He displayed this data in a rather hideous bar chart titled “Number of -ly adverbs per 10,000 words” that I’ve turned into text down below for aesthetic purposes.

Ernest Hemingway committed 80 -ly adverbs every 10,000 words. Mark Twain came in a close second at 81. Amy Tan was third at 83. John Steinbeck held fourth place at 93.

After this, it was Kurt Vonnegut at 101, John Updike at 102, Salman Rushdie at 104, Stephen King at 105, Charles Dickens at 108, Virginia Woolf at 116 and Herman Melville at 126.

When you read these numbers, it’s fairly obvious that the less adverbs you use, the better your writing is.

However, I’d like to mention that E.L. James, the writer behind the Fifty Shades books, wrote 155 adverbs per 10,000 words –– which isn’t that much when you consider it.

But, despite her “fame”, she is widely considered to be a heinous wordsmith.

While cutting adverbs might be advantageous, it’s not the secret sauce.

Hemingway wasn’t good because he only wrote 81 adverbs per 10,000 words. He was good because he was fucking Hemingway.

Which, speaking of fucking…

A good way to filter out your adverbs is to place them before the word “fuck”. If they sound ridiculous, remove them.

Passionately fuck…

^^^ this goes without saying.

Cautiously fuck…

^^^ this doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Quietly fuck…

^^^ sure, in the right circumstance.

Desperately fuck…

^^^ a bit creepy.

Aggressively fuck…

^^^ a bit rapey.

Mindlessly fuck…

^^^ if we’re talking about the 70s.

Anyway, you get the gist.

- fin -

The man kissed the girl –– how to word sentences to make your readers and customers do something.

In marketing, the active voice is better to use because it is much more direct and the sentences are generally shorter. It’s a good idea to write primarily in the active voice when you can.

The man kissed the girl.

That’s an example of an active sentence.

The girl was kissed by the man.

That’s an example of a passive sentence.

To know the difference between the active voice and the passive voice, simply locate where the doer is in the sentence. If he is before the verb, the sentence is written in the active voice. If he is after the verb, the sentence is written in the passive voice.

In addition to this rule, also consider the types of sentences you are using when writing copy.

There are four types of sentences. When we can, we want to stick with a sentence structure called imperative. This is where the verb comes first in the sentence.

Join the newsletter.

Sign-up for our email list.

Buy our product.

Those are all active sentences.

We use this type of writing because it forces action, people are more likely to respond to it.

Take a quick look at how the sentence below can be improved drastically by turning it into an imperative sentence...

For our latest news, advice and stories from our studio make sure you join our email newsletter.

Here’s that same sentence written in the imperative form...

Join our newsletter for the latest news, advice and stories from our studio.

See the difference? The latter sentence entices the reader to take action, to make a move, to do something. Whereas the first sentence reads like we’re just sharing some piece of information with the reader.

When you’re wanting to force your reader to take action, start your sentences with a verb.

- fin -

Stop narrating your brand in third person.

Brands are notorious for referring to themselves and their customers in third person. I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe because it’s “professional” or something. But, today, customers could give a shit less about professionalism. They want to read something that sounds like a human wrote it.

So, instead of writing “our customer”... write “you”.

Instead of writing “Nike”... write “we” or “us”.

This one simple hack will immediately make your writing feel more human, more personal, more relatable. It will make the reader feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

So, again, instead of writing...

Nike is a world-renowned fitness apparel brand that’s proud to deliver great products to customers around the globe.

We should instead write...

We make fitness apparel for athletes like you.

When we write directly to our customers it feels like we’re sitting across from them having a conversation face-to-face. It feels like we are in the same room having dinner. Always, always write directly to your customers and do so by using “we” and “you”.

I would argue the only exception is when you’re crafting an “About Us” page... but even then it’s appropriate to write with “we” and “you”.

- fin -

Slang, business jargon, cliches and everything in between.

dogs talking.gif

It’s a piece of cake.

It’s spot on.

At the drop of a hat.

Ball is in your court.

Best of both worlds.

These are all examples of slang or idioms that can be used in writing to add some personality.

Using slang and street talk (or at the very least writing in a casual way) is effective in connecting with the reader, building rapport and empathy and ultimately selling like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.

With that said, we must be careful. Too much of it can make our writing sound too ambiguous.

Here’s a good example of slang in copy...

Download our app in two-minutes. It’s a piece of cake.

Here’s a bad example of slang in copy...

At the drop of a hat you can download our app… it’s a piece of cake.

The latter feels like it is doing too much. Whereas the former sentence adds some personality and playfulness to the call-to-action.

Now, while it’s effective to use slang in your copy, it’s never (and I do mean never) okay to use business jargon. If you’ve ever read my work before, you know I despise business jargon and I’m not alone.

I wrote an article a while back called, The unofficial (slightly sarcastic) thesaurus for business buzzwords, where I poked fun at the over-usage of jargon in the industry. Over one hundred people commented on the article, sharing business buzzwords that irked them as well.

Writing today is littered with business jargon and it’s a damn shame. It’s cliche. It’s tacky. It lacks personality.

All I can say is that you should avoid them. Period.

Here’s some examples of business jargon you’ll see if you read enough poorly written articles lurking behind hideous stock images on Linkedin:

  • Open the kimono
  • Bleeding-edge
  • Put out some feelers
  • Lots of moving parts
  • Double check
  • Ducks in a row
  • Working in silos
  • Core competency
  • Move the needle
  • Buy-in

All industries have their own jargon. As a copywriter or a marketer or an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to be aware of this jargon and avoid using it.

- fin -

More than words –– understand that copywriting is equal parts strategy and voice.

Copywriting is equal parts strategy and voice. As I mentioned earlier, the difference between writing and copywriting is that we’re not just trying to get our reader to “think” about something but we’re trying to get them to do something.

This action-oriented element is what separates copywriting from regular writing. However, where many copywriters and marketers screw up is they write copy without having a clear strategy in mind. And, as a result, they don’t end up writing copy at all.

Creating a strong strategy doesn’t have to be overly complicated, it can be super simple. In fact, sometimes keeping it simple is the best thing you can do.

Here are some examples of strategies you might have when writing copy:

  • We want people to sign up for our newsletter after reading our articles.
  • We want people to fall in love with our brand and tell their friends about us after reading our articles.
  • We want 10,000 people to download our app after reading our emails.

I recommend that marketing teams have very clear and specific strategies when writing their copy so they can know for sure whether or not their copy is working.

And, yes, your strategy might change depending on the type of copy or content you’re writing. For example, the strategy of your sales page might be to drive downloads whereas the strategy of your articles might be to capture emails.

Your strategy doesn’t have to be the same. You just ALWAYS have to have one when writing copy. Otherwise, like I said, you’re not actually writing copy... you’re just writing.

- fin -

A conversation between two people –– establishing a brand and customer profile.

Creating your brand’s voice is hugely important in creating a unique and authentic tone for your copy. When your readers read your copy they should know exactly who wrote it (without having to look at the URL). That’s how unique and authentic your copy should be.

The best way to come up with a brand voice is to pretend your brand is a person. I recommend all brands write out a description of a fictional individual that represents their brand. Anytime they write, they should be making it a goal to write in that voice.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourselves to create your fictional character:

  • What clothes would your brand wear?
  • What things would he or she talk about at dinner?
  • Would he or she cuss?
  • Would he or she be funny? Or would he or she be serious?
  • What would he or she look like? Dress like?  
  • What music would he or she listen to?
  • What books would he or she read?
  • How would he or she talk to his or her friends?
  • If your brand was a famous person, who would it be?

When you get a chance, take a moment and describe who your brand is, write a short description about him or her on a piece of paper.

Let’s shoot for 5-6 sentences a piece, please. Pick out the elements that feel most like your brand. Then, give the fictional individual a name and put together a bio. Read this bio every time you write a piece of copy and upon completing the copy, ask yourself: does this sound like our brand?

This one trick will help your brand write more like a human and will immediately allow you to connect with your customers on a much deeper and more personal level.

Now, do the same thing for your customer...

It’s no longer enough to say: our customer is... women between the ages of 25 - 40. That’s not a target market.

I’ve dated women 24, 26 and 30 and they’re absolutely nothing alike. One to two years in age difference can drastically change people’s maturity level, values, interests and desires.

When we are defining a target market we need to just think of one person and describe her or him thoroughly. We can use the same process and ask the same questions as the ones in the previous section to define who he or she is.

Again, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to create your customer:

  • Is your customer a he or she?
  • What does he or she wear?
  • What things does he or she talk about at dinner?
  • Does he or she cus? Does he or she not cus?
  • Is he or she funny? Or is he or she serious?
  • What does he or she look like? Dress like?  
  • What music does he or she listen to?
  • What books does he or she read?
  • How would he or she talk to his or her friends?
  • What are his or her fears?
  • Why would he or she buy your product?
  • What problem is your product solving for him or her?

Once we’ve created our brand profile and our customer profile, writing copy becomes easier. It simply becomes a conversation between two people. That’s it.

The questions now become...

  1. Does what we have written sound like something our brand would write?
  2. Does what we have written sound like something our customer would read?

If we can give a firm, honest “Hell Yes!” then we have nailed our brand voice.

Pssst... creating a brand voice and a customer profile can feel like treading water in steel toe boots (especially when you’re close to your brand)… again, I’m here, if you need me.

- fin -

You don’t have to be a psychologist (but you need to be aware of psychology).


As we are writing to our customers, we must have a deep understanding of what is going on in their heads. And, while you should never trust a marketer or salesperson that says they can read a customer’s mind (people are much too complicated and unique for this to be true)… I do believe we as humans have some similarities when it comes to why we buy stuff.

Below, I have shared a handful of psychological reasons people buy. They are things I think about when writing copy (and they are things you should think about too). This list will grow, of course, as I discover more. But, for now, this will be enough to get you started.

People buy to move closer to pleasure or further from pain.

People buy Advil to move further from pain. They buy a luxurious wine to move closer to pleasure. They buy car insurance to move further from pain. They buy a back massage to move closer to pleasure. When you think of the purchases you made over the course of the last week, most of them can be categorized as either...

  1. Moving closer to pleasure.
  2. Moving further from pain.

Marketers, copywriters, entrepreneurs and snow cone vendors must have a deep understanding of what their product or service is doing. Is it moving their customer closer to pleasure or further from pain? Or both?

Once we’ve determined what our product is doing for our customers, we can better market it to them by crafting copy that makes them feel and experience this pain or pleasure through the written word.

To put it another way, people buy to avoid pain or to feel good. Market to this.

People buy because of emotion but justify what they’ve bought with logic.

This is fairly common in almost all transactions (especially when they fall under the pleasure category). Most people will make a purchase because of emotion and then justify that purchase with logic.

Think about Dave who just bought the super expensive sports car. He bought it because it made him feel good, perhaps younger, wild or edgy. But, when his friends ask him why he bought it he says something like...

“Great question, this year’s model offers great gas mileage. And, not to mention, it has been relentlessly crash tested and is super safe for the kiddos. Plus, I wanted something nicer than my last vehicle to pick up clients in. You know, I want to leave a good impression on them.”  

We need to be certain we are giving our customers both emotional reasons to buy our products and logical reasons to buy them. Emotion sparks the purchase, logic allows the customer to then justify the purchase to friends, family and colleagues.

People buy because other people buy.

In social psychology, there is a concept called "herd mentality" which essentially means that humans can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain emotionally charged behaviors (sometimes extremely irrational behaviors).

While herd mentality can be dangerous, it can also be used by us marketers and copywriters to sell a lot of whatever we’re selling.

When others see their family, friends and complete strangers buy the same thing over and over again, herd mentality begins to set in. Suddenly, they want it, too.

We must constantly be making it apparent to our customers that tons of people are buying whatever it is we are selling. This can be achieved best through stories, statistics and testimonials.

- fin -

You should also be aware of these 15 long forgotten old school marketing principles.

Here are some long forgotten, old school marketing rules I’ve stolen and applied from books like Ogilvy on Advertising and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  

1. It’s much better to be first than it is to be better.

Unless you’re a history buff, you don’t know the name of the second person to walk on the moon, just like you don’t know the name of the second president of the United States.

Remember this when it comes to marketing.

Xerox was the first plain-paper copier.

Tide was the first laundry detergent.

Advil was the first ibuprofen.

Today, when people need to make a copy, they say “Xerox copy"… when they need to do their laundry they refer to the detergent as “Tide”… and if they have a pounding headache from last night’s hangover they ask whoever is nearest, “Do you have any Advil?”

Marketers, creatives, entrepreneurs and snow cone vendors can easily become obsessed with being the “best” to market which can, many times, prevent them from being the “first” to market.

Much of success in marketing is about being the first in the customer’s mind.

2. If you can’t be first, set up a new space you can be first in.

Let’s say you want to get into the ride-sharing business but can’t be first because of brands like Uber and Lyft.

If you can’t be first in a category, set up an entirely new category you can be first in.

Chipotle wasn’t the first fast-food Mexican restaurant.

It was, however, the first fast-casual Mexican restaurant to care a ridiculous amount about fresh ingredients.

Starbucks wasn’t the first coffee shop.

It was, however, the first truly scalable coffee shop that customers could count on receiving the same quality product, quickly… whether they were in Nashville or Los Angeles.

If you can’t be first in a category, create a new niche you can be first in.

3. It’s better to be first in the mind than first in the marketplace.

If you and your marketing team fuck up marketing rules #1 and #2… there is still hope.

Apple was most definitely not the first brand to sell personal computers.

However, it’s the first name that comes to mind when we hear the word “laptop”.

A big reason Apple is first in everybody’s minds is because of its easy to remember their name. In the early days, it was going up against the Commodore Pet, IMSAI 8080, MITS Altair 8800 and Radio Shack’s TRS-80…

Which name is easiest to remember? Perhaps a piece of fruit that can be found in every American household.

4. Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.

A lot of marketing is about perception. If the product you are selling is perceived as being good, it’s good. If the product you are selling is perceived as being bad, it’s bad.

Starbuck’s coffee is luxurious. McDonald’s coffee is cheap. This is true because it’s what customer’s perceive.

I’d bet if you were to put both cold brews side by side in identical unlabeled cups, coffee snobs wouldn’t be able to tell a difference.

Fiji water is another example. Why the fuck would someone cough up a small fortune for bottled water that tastes almost identical to other bottled water?

Because it is perceived as being much more than water. Fiji water is collected from tropical rainfall in Fiji and it’s naturally filtered through volcanic rock that wells up in an underground aquifer.

Fiji water is perceived as being the creme de la creme of water… so that’s what it is.

This can also be referred to as the, “everybody knows” principle.

Everybody knows that Japanese-made cars are of higher quality than American-made cars.

So… Japanese-made cars are of higher quality than American-made cars.

Whether they actually are or aren’t.

You can have the best product in the world, but the minute the world perceives it as being underwhelming, it is.

As marketers, our battle is just as much about perception as it is designing and marketing a stellar product.

5. The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.

This is an extension of marketing rule #1: It’s much better to be first than it is to be better. But, a more micro approach to owning a category is owning a word.

Heinz owns ketchup.

Hershey owns chocolate.

Starbucks owns coffee.

McDonald’s owns cheeseburger.

Coke owns pop, cola, soda and soft drink.

If your brand can own a word in your prospective customer’s mind, you have a real shot at becoming a category king.

6. Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

When I was first building Honey Copy, I was battling for the word… “copywriting”.

However, I quickly realized two things…

  1. Copywriting is a very competitive word (a lot of sites and agencies were already owning it).
  2. When most people hear the word copywriting, they think of a lawyer or an attorney.

So, I said fuck it… I’m not going to attempt to own a competitive word that most people know nothing about.

Instead, I positioned Honey Copy as a creative writing shop that grows brands with pretty words.

That’s a lot more than just one word, but you get the idea.

7. Have a realistic understanding of where you rank among your competitors in the prospect’s mind.

Most businesses and brands believe they’re better than their competitors and really struggle with admitting that they’re in second place, third place or even fourth place.

This has never made much sense to me –– a sure way to lose money in business is looking at your business through a pair of rose-colored glasses.

If your brand isn’t the best but you market to prospective customers that you’re the best, they’re going to know something is fishy.

You’re much better off being honest and playing to your strengths.

For a long time, Avis and Hertz were competing in the rent-a-car space. Hertz was clearly the best. If you would have asked any prospective customer they would have told you this.

But, for years, Avis wasn’t willing to accept the fact that they were the second best in the rent-a-car space. Until, one day, they changed their marketing messaging… “Avis is only No. 2 in rent-a-cars. So why go with us? We try harder.”

Previous to this, Avis had lost money for 14 years straight. But, as soon as they adopted this new messaging, everything changed… their cars started selling like hot cakes.

Your prospects know where you stand in competition with your competitors, so be honest and market to your strengths.

Saying, “we’re the best” isn’t marketing.

8. If you’re number two, don’t follow the leader.

Brands that are number two in a specific category will generally attempt to compete with number one by being like them, but better.

Instead, brands should tell how they’re different and try desperately to be different.

Take Hellman’s Mayo and Miracle Whip.

While I personally think folks who like Miracle Whip are sociopaths, there is a small portion of the population that hates mayo and instead prefers a different creamy, fatty spread they can put on their sandwiches…

For these people, there is Miracle Whip.

Now, if Miracle Whip were to be just like Hellman’s Mayo, they would have lost their market share in the creamy fatty spread market long ago.

But, they’re not. They’re Miracle Whip –– a funky tasting spread (that, in my opinion, tastes like shit).

And, they sell because of it.

If you’re number two, be different.

9. Don’t run too many sales (or, perhaps, don’t run any sales at all).

One mistake I recently made here at Honey Copy is running too many sales on my copywriting guide. After running a very successful sale at the end of May, I thought I’d try my luck again a month later.

To my disappointment, the revenue I had made on the sale dropped drastically by about 90%.

It was a good lesson. If you run too many sales, you begin to devalue your services and products.

There is a reason you rarely see sales on luxury brands like Prada and Ferrari. If folks knew they could pay 10% less for a Ferrari 2-3 times a year, why would they ever buy the sport’s car at full price?

The mistake of running too many sales highlights a much larger problem and that’s brands taking too much of a micro approach to their marketing.

Sure, a sale might drive tons of revenue today, but could it ultimately stifle sales one year, two years and three years down the line?

Sometimes in marketing, today’s quick “win” could ultimately lead to tomorrow’s demise.

Why do you think so many mattress stores go out of business?

10. Find a product that is working and double down on it.

Creating too many product lines is a sure-fire way to kill a brand (or come somewhere close).

Once upon a time, Coors Beer tried Coors Water, Bic lighters tried Bic Pantyhose, Levi’s Jeans tried Levi’s Shoes.

There is something that just sounds wildly uncomfortable about Coors Water, Bic Pantyhose and Levi’s Shoes.

It makes you kind of squirm.

While from our vantage point we certainly scratch our heads wondering how any decision-maker could approve these types of line extensions, if you run a business you know how tempting it is to create new products.

I’ve battled this a ton with my copywriting guide. It has sold extremely well, I’ve made nearly $19,000 from it at the writing of this article –– not too shabby for a one man band.

When I see that $19,000 number, part of me thinks, “What if I could create three more guides that each generate that kind of revenue, too?”

Unfortunately, like most things, the reality is quite a bit different than the dream.

Many times, a better strategy than creating more product lines is simply doubling down on the product that is selling like hell.

It’s like digging for gold –– when gold miners hit a vein they don’t go digging for another vein, they commit all of their time, money and man-power to pull as much gold as possible from that vein.

Entrepreneurs and marketers should be doing the same with their marketing.

11. Sometimes, to make more money you have to cut a few products.

One piece of advice I give time and time again to clients is to retire products that aren’t selling or selling very little.

In almost every business, Pareto’s Law (also commonly known as the 80/20 rule) applies. It states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.

In other words, 80% of a brand’s revenue comes from 20% of its products.

A great strategy to simplify a business and increase the revenue is cutting the 80% of the products that aren’t selling and doubling down on the 20% of products that are generating 80% of the revenue.

Pay attention to your sales. They are an excellent indicator for what the world wants.

12. Don’t be afraid to take the opposite position of your competitors.

In the vast majority of industries, there is a leader and that leader has a claim to specific verbiage. McDonald’s, for example, owns verbiage like “cheap” and “fast” and “kid-friendly”.

So, if a start-up fast food joint was looking to compete with McDonald’s, they shouldn’t market themselves as cheap and fast. And, they most certainly shouldn’t attempt to make some product to compete with the McDonald’s Kid’s Meal.

Instead, they should market themselves in the opposite direction. It’s sort of like Newton’s Third Law –– for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

For every person looking for a cheap meal, there is someone out there looking for an expensive one.

For every person looking to pay for their meal and have it in front of them immediately, there is someone that would prefer a slower more luxurious dining experience.

And, for every person that has a kid they want to shut-up with a mouthful of nuggets, there is someone who doesn’t want to eat anywhere near a screaming snotty-nosed little brat.

This is evident in almost every industry. Marketing against your competitors doesn’t need to be a game of beating them at their own game. Instead, beat them at a different game, be the exact opposite of the things they stand for.

13. Being honest and admitting where you fall short is good marketing.

Marketing gets a bad rap because a lot of marketers do two things that are borderline lying (or at the very least an intensive stretching of the truth).

One, they make their brand’s strength appear to be stronger than what they actually are.

Two, they cover up their brand’s weaknesses or attempt to draw attention away from them.

What marketers forget is that the customer isn’t stupid. In the words of David Ogilvy, “The customer isn’t a moron. She’s your wife.”

Customers know that Listerine tastes like shit and they know that grape-nut cereal is underwhelming and they know that Smucker’s is a really funny sounding name. So, instead of ignoring these truths, these brands should just be honest about them.

Listerine had a slogan for a while… “The taste you hate twice a day.”

So did Smucker’s… “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.”

And, we can’t forget about General Mills admitting their grape nut cereal is a “learned pleasure” and that customers should “try it for a week”. This, apparently, increased sales by 23 percent.

Being honest about your weaknesses can turn your weakness into strengths if you add a pinch of creativity.

If Listerine tastes like shit, it must be good at killing germs.

If grape-nut cereal isn’t very tantalizing to the tastebuds, it must be pretty good for you.

If Smucker’s has such a stupid name and people keep buying it, it must taste pretty damn delicious.

14. Double, triple and quadruple down on the marketing that’s working.

FOMO is a very real feeling in the game of marketing. If you don’t have a podcast, a blog, an in-person meet-up event, a newsletter and a following on every social media platform in existence, it’s easy to feel like your brand is missing out on acquiring more customers and in turn more money.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a massive brand like Nike, it’s impossible to find the time, money and resources to kick-ass at every marketing channel.

I’ve found time and time again both at Honey Copy and when working with brands directly that it is far better to be great at one marketing channel than decent at five.

Pareto’s Principle applies here, too. There is a very good chance that 80% of your revenue is generated from 20% of your marketing efforts. So, find the 20% that is working and double, triple and quadruple down on that 20%.

For me here at Honey Copy, it has been writing articles and pushing readers to my weekly newsletter.

What are you waiting for? Get to stealing.

The finale before the finale –– the art of finishing strong.

Gymnastics is a lesson in finishing strong.

Let me explain.

Gymnasts can come barreling down the floor at 15 mph, smack the springboard and flip and turn and twist a dozen feet in the air and if they don’t land pretty, with their feet sturdy as a pair of fire hydrants beneath them, they don’t have a snowball’s chance in a microwave of walking away with gold.

This is the lesson that sports, particularly gymnastics, teaches the athlete; that finishing doesn’t just matter, that finishing is all that matters.

With that said, one of the greatest finishes in the history of humanity never happened on a court or a field or a floor but rather on the deck of a sinking ship.

On April 15, 1912, when gravity and a 220-foot gash was dragging the Titantic to hell, there was a gent named John Jacob Astor IV, who was sitting beside his wife in a lifeboat.

Astor was an American businessman, a real estate developer, an investor, an inventor, a writer and a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War.

At some point during the hysteria, Astor stood, giving up his seat to a woman who needed it. And, he turned to his wife and he said…

“The ladies have to go first. Goodbye, dearie. I’ll see you later.”

This is finishing strong.

When you arrive at the end of something –– be it a life or a day or a relationship or a piece of writing ––  finishing strong doesn’t just matter, it’s all that matters.

Finishing strong, specifically in regards to writing, isn’t something you can teach but instead something that must be learned through practice.

When Neil Gaiman, the prolific novelist, finds himself struggling to finish a novel he has started, he makes himself incredibly bored. He gives himself permission to do anything and everything as long as it’s “nothing” or “writing”.

In other words, he can just sit there and stare out the window or he can write a story. And, because staring out a window eventually gets boring, he chooses to write and complete a story.

Another splendid novelist by the name of Haruki Murakami has learned to finish books by finishing races (particularly marathons).

This excerpt from his book, “What I talk about when I talk about running”, is perhaps a bit long-winded but wildly valuable in making this connection….

*Murakami is typing now*

"Muscles are like work animals that are quick on the uptake. If you carefully increase the load, step by step, they learn to take it. As long as you explain your expectations to them by actually showing them examples of the amount of work they have to endure, your muscles will comply and gradually grow stronger.
It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. But as long as you take your time and do it in stages, they won’t complain –– aside from the occassional long face –– and they’ll very patiently and obediently grow stronger. Through repitition you input into your muscles the message that this is how much work they have to perform. Our muscles are very conscientious. As long as we observe the correct procedure, they won’t complain.
If, however, the load halts for a few days, the muscles automatically assume they don’t have to work that hard anymore, and they lower their limits. Muscles really are like animals, and they want to take it as easy as possible; if pressure isn’t applied to them, they relax and cancel out the memory of all that work.
Input this canceled memory once again, and you have to repeat the whole journey from the very beginning. Natrually, it’s important to take a break sometimes, but in a critical time like this, when I’m training for a race, I have to show my muscles who’s boss. I have to make it clear to them what’s expected. i have to maintain a certain tension by being unsparing, but not to the point where I burn out. These are tactics that all experienced runners learn over time.”

There you have it.

While finishing strong, can’t be taught, it can be learned through repetition; it can be learned by forcing yourself to sit in the chair again and again until you’ve reached the proverbial finish line.

So, if you’re struggling to finish that piece, begin by sitting still and continue by tapping into the emotion of the thing that you’ve written.

If you’re having trouble tapping into that emotion, here are the closing lines of 47 individuals who understood that finishing doesn’t just matter, that finishing is all that matters.

  1. “Applaud, my friends, the comedy is finished.” –– Beethoven, German composer and pianist.
  1. “I’m going away tonight.” –– James Brown, American singer-songwriter.
  1. “Stopped.” –– Joseph Henry Green, an English Surgeon, uttered the above words before death while checking his own pulse.
  1. “I must go in, for the fog is rising.” –– Emily Dickinson, American Poet.
  1. “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” –– Todd Beamer, at the end of a cell phone call before attempting to rush the cabin of United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
  1. “The story of life is quicker than a blink of an eye. The story of love is hello and goodbye, until we meet again.” –– The last two lines in a poem found on Jimi Hendrix’s nightstand.
  1. “How did the Mets do today?” –– Moe Berg, MLB catcher and coach.
  1. “Wow.” –– Bo Diddley, an American Singer, said the above word and gave a thumbs up while listening to the song “Walk Around Heaven”.
  1. “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!” –– American actress, Joan Crawford, to her housekeeper while she was praying over her.
  1. “I’m bored with it all.” –– Sir. Winston Churchill’s last words before slipping into a coma.
  1. “Doctor, if I put this here guitar down now, I ain’t never gonna wake up.” –– Leadbelly, Blues guitarist, to his physician.
  1. “I’ve offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” –– Leonardo Da Vinci, painter (and much much more).
  1. “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.” –– Frida Kahlo, Mexican painter.
  1. “Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!” –– Karl Marx, German philosopher and sociologist, to his housekeeper asking what his last words were.
  1. “One last drink, please?” –– Jack Daniels, the gent who started a whiskey empire.
  1. “Valerie.” –– T.S. Eliot, America poet, whispering the name of his wife.
  1. “Where is my clock?” –– Salvador Dali, Spanish Artist.
  1. “Love one another.” –– George Harrison, lead guitarist of The Beatles.
  1. “You are wonderful.” –– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British writer and doctor, to his wife.
  1. “I’m about to take my last voyage; a great leap in the dark.” –– Thomas Hobbes, English Philosopher.
  1. “The taste of death is upon my lips, I feel something that is not of this Earth.” –– Mozart, Austrian composer.
  1. “Goodnight, my kitten.” –– Ernest Hemingway to his wife before taking a shotgun to his head.
  1. “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.” –– Wilson Mizner, American Playwright, to a priest on his deathbed.
  1. “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” –– John Wayne to his wife.
  1. “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.” –– American Reporter, O. O. McIntyre, to his wife.
  1. “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.” –– Murderer James W. Rodgers before facing the firing squad (I obviously don’t think this gent is legendary but his last words were badass).
  1. “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.” –– Marie Antoinette after stepping on her executioner’s foot before facing the guillotine.
  1. “I’m losing it.” –– Frank Sinatra, American singer-songwriter.
  1. “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.” –– Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau to a priest trying to sing to him at his bedside.
  1. “Happy.” –– Raphael, Italian Painter.
  1. “I want nothing but death.” –– Jane Austen, English Novelist.
  1. “There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.” –– Roman Statesmen, Cicero, to his assassins sent by mark Anthony.
  1. “This is a hell of a way to die.” –– George Patton, World War II General, after a lethal car crash.
  1. “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” –– Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana.
  1. “Relax –– this won’t hurt.”American writer Hunter S. Thompson in the final line of his suicide note.
  1. “I hope I haven’t bored you.” –– Elvis Presley’s last words in the last concert he ever performed.
  1. “My Florida water.” –– American actress Lucille Ball when asked if there was anything she wanted.
  1. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” –– General John Sedgwick reprimanding his men for ducking from a Confederate sniper.
  1. “The ladies have to go first. Goodbye, dearie. I’ll see you later.” –– John Jacob Astor IV (an American businessman, real estate developer, investor, inventor, writer and lieutenant colonel in the Spanish–American War)… to his wife upon giving up his seat in a lifeboat for another lady after the Titanic was struck by an iceberg.
  1. “Give me coffee, I’m going to write.” –– Olavo Bilac, Brazilian Poet.
  1. “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” –– Errol Flynn, Australian-born actor.
  1. “I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.” –– Virginia Woolf to her husband in her suicide note.
  1. “Take away those pillows I shall need them no more.” –– Lewis Carroll, English writer.
  1. “I’m just going outside and may be some time.” –– Lawrence Oates, Antarctic Explorer.
  1. “Now comes the mystery.” –– Henry Ward Beecher, American Congregationalist Clergyman.
  1. “The bastards tried to come over me last night. I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.” –– Private First Class Edward Ahrens, USMC, whispered this as he lay dying from wounds suffered during his single-handed prevention of a breach in American lines during World War II. Ahrens was holding a sword and beside him were multiple slain enemy soldiers.
  1. “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.” –– Oscar Wilde, Irish Poet.

– fin –

And, for the finale, the most important copywriting rule, ever.

In old school advertising, there’s something called AIDA. If you’ve ever seen Mad Men, AIDA is some Don Draper shit. It’s a model us marketers, copywriters, entrepreneurs and snow cone vendors can use to get customers to buy what we’re selling.

It’s an acronym. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Whether you’re writing a sales email, an article, a landing page, whatever… AIDA applies and if you stick to it you’re naturally going to start writing better copy.

Here’s how the AIDA model looks when applied...

1. Grab the customer’s Attention.

Begin by grabbing your customer’s attention with a strong headline, subject line or article title. This should almost yank the reader by the shirt and tell them to listen up. When we can, we should pair our headlines with an image of sorts that is also attention-grabbing. Before we can even think about selling someone on our product or service, we need to get them to look at us.

2. Gain the customer’s Interest.

Once we have grabbed the reader’s attention, we now must establish interest. This begins with our very first sentence.

Remember to make this sentence ultra punchy so they can begin flowing down the page, as they flow down the page, interest will begin to take root. We’re wanting to make them curious here. If we can make them curious about whatever it is we are selling, we can turn this curiosity or interest into desire.

Establishing interest can be done in numerous ways, but I have found telling a story or highlighting a problem (and hinting at a solution) to be the most effective ways.

3. Create Desire in your customer.

Once we have grabbed our reader’s attention and got them interested in what we are selling, we are well on our way to making the sale.

But, before doing so, we must make them desire whatever it is we are selling. This can be done in a handful of ways.

It can be done by utilizing the psychological triggers I shared in the previous section.

It can be done by telling a story to the customer about how their life will change after using our product or service.

Or, it can be done by sharing the benefits of using our products. Keep in mind that “great customer service”… is not a benefit. But, “our leather gloves are made from kangaroo leather, the strongest leather in the world”… is.

In other words, be specific with your benefits.  

4. Close the sale by telling the customer to take Action.

Customers can’t read our minds. They can’t. If we want them to do something we must ask them to do something. And, many times, we must ask them to do something over and over again.

If we want our customers to buy our product… we must ask them to buy our product.

If we want our customers to give us their email address… we must ask them to give us their email address.

If we want our customers to share our article with their friends… we must ask them to share our article with their friends.

The AIDA model closes with “Action” (short for call-to-action). And, it serves as a wonderful reminder that we as marketers have to ask. We have to.

In fact, to close out this run down, I’m going to ask you again. I am a marketer, copywriter, entrepreneur and (aspiring snow cone vendor after all)… so I have to.

So, here it goes…

To begin, thank you for buying this run down. It means the world to a marketing geek like myself that has spent hours studying, practicing and applying the rules of the game.

Folks often ask me why I am in marketing… why I do it… and for a long time, I didn’t know why I was so drawn to the craft. But, as I have continued to build my copywriting shop, I’ve realized it’s because I like helping people and brands share the beautiful things they’ve built with the rest of the world. Marketing and copywriting, when done right, makes the world a better place because it connects people struggling with problems to solutions. That’s why I do what I do.

So, if at any point on your journey you need help sharing what you’ve built with the people in this world, don’t hesitate to give me a call.

But, to be candid, I think if you apply what you’ve learned through your experience as a marketer, copywriter, entrepreneur or snow cone vendor… and if you trust your intuition… and if you sprinkle in a few of the lessons in this run down… you won’t need to.

For now, that’s the end. But, there’s more coming. I promise.



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