Reprinted from The Catalog Marketer

A Few Words About TRUTH

by Rene Gnam

A copywriter must recognize one essential fact before writing anything: you are not in a one-shot business.

Because marketers achieve their greatest profits by acquiring and retaining customers, the writer must review all copy with an eye for truthfulness.

School yourself with this credo:

You really are creating copy to get a long-term customer who will try you once, like you, and then have faith that he can continue to deal with you.

In your eagerness to create copy that sells, it is natural to want to describe every product in the most glowing terms you can devise.

Be careful.

Readers search your copy to find points they can disagree with, unbelievable points, obviously false claims. When they find those stretched-truths, they don't buy.

If your claims are so extravagant that an unsuspecting reader is convinced, buys, and then is disappointed because the product didn't live up to your claims, refund requests go up.

You can make your copy more believable, and thus create longer-term customers, by following these 12 editing techniques:

  1. Do not use the word "best" for every product.

  2. Avoid superlatives when possible.

  3. Avoid strings of multiple adjectives.

  4. Do not exaggerate.

  5. Eliminate puffery.

  6. Never knock competitive products.

  7. Avoid imprecise copy.

  8. Do not mislead to get a sale.

  9. Do not use subtleties or nuances that may not be understood quickly by fast readers.

  10. Avoid unorganized copy which confuses the reader.

  11. Do not overly stress the legitimateness of your company.

  12. Avoid excessive enthusiasm.

The 12th point is the most difficult. Without obvious enthusiasm for the product, your reader won't buy. But some writers frequently go wrong by s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g.


"The most wonderfully glorious, positively beautiful, entrancing and fashionable..."


Eliminate the first four words and your copy becomes more believable.

Another frequent problem is that your copy may be 100% truthful, but the reader's perception of your wording leads to an impression of falsity or exaggeration.

This problem can be licked by switching to short words and phrases, often in a staccato presentation without complete sentences.


"From the very first moment that you start using this handsome executive calendar, you'll discover how marvelous it is to have the ultimate convenience of highlighted, easily-accessed, color-coded separate sections for important appointments, personal notations, expense memorandums, things-to-do listings, and staff schedules. And it's all yours in a modern, spring-loaded looseleaf binder so you can insert special company memos at key reminder dates."


Instant ring-binder convenience is yours. Add memos at key dates. Use color-coded separate sections for appointments, personal notes, expenses, reminders, schedules. Modern. Handsome executive styling.

The edited version contains every sales point from the longer version, but is less argumentative and the staccato copy implies enthusiasm, a much more convincing approach than using enthusiastic wording.

Your goals are to sell while being believable, to present your products in a favorable light without overstating benefits so prospects are turned off, to create long-lasting customers instead of one-shot sales.

It's easier to do, if you remember the Boy Scout code.


Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400


Photo of Marketing Consultant Rene Gnam

Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

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I'm usually in Florida, and here are the numbers:

FAX 813-475-4354      CELL 813-407-8400

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