Tell me quick and tell me true… And get to the point

Make your language work: The 4 basics

Getting your language right is hard, but there are a few simple tweaks you can use to make your marketing and selling copy convert better. Here are the four most important ones.

The obvious thing to do is very easily overlooked. In terms of your language, it’s that you don’t want to be boring. A big part of this is not to drone on about your company and yourself.

1. Better you than me

This is a though thing to remind yourself of, but: except for those closest and dearest to you, people are not very likely to give a damn about you. So if all you do is talk about yourself, you’ll quickly lose their attention.

It’s a bit like being at a party and ending up with someone who only talks about themselves. You’ll want to get away. Don’t do this to your prospects.

As a rule of thumb, make sure the ratio of “you” to “me” (and other references to yourself or your business) is at least 3:1, better 5:1 or even more than that.

[Look at the paragraphs above. I’ve just addressed you directly 17, no wait, 18 times. People are much more likely to keep reading if you do that.]

2. Get the nod

It’s a lot easier to keep people reading if they agree with you, right? If you start your paragraphs and sections with a statement that is hard for the prospect to disagree with, you get the nod, and you might keep them nodding all the way down the page to your call to action.

3. How you talk is how you write

Sir Winston Churchill said “Use words everyone knows, then everyone will understand”. I’m not suggesting you should dumb down your language until every idiot can understand it. Do keep your audience in mind when you choose your words.

But make sure people get the point. Avoid jargon like the plague. Keep sentences reasonably short, and paragraphs at a length that don’t slow people down when they read your text.

Stephen King, in his brilliant book on writing (called Writing: A Memoir of the Craft), says “The road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops”. Before you fire out an email or submit copy, read through your text and get rid of everything that isn’t needed.

In the same book, King writes how he was told by a publisher that “The second draft is the first draft minus 10 percent”. Always try to get rid of words. Obviously not the ones you need the most…

4. Tell me quick and tell me true

This is something you’ll find in Drayton Bird’s books and posts. It’s a little poem that tells you exactly how you should open any of your messages:

Tell me quick and tell me true
What your thing is going to do
Or else, my love, to hell with you.

You have the prospects’ attention for all of a few seconds. Unless you can show them right at the beginning that there’s something in it for them if they read your message, you’re doomed.

If you have an offer, introduce it right at the beginning. If you’re about to tell your prospects about something they might find unpleasant, tell them right there and then. Tell them what you’re about, then make your case.

Try these, and watch how the return on your efforts changes.

And if you have a question, as usual, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.


You might remember, I promised you something else in the last post — how to figure out how often to send out newsletters.

Well, it’s simple. Fire away at a high frequency and keep an eye on what’s happening in the back end. The moment you see a spike in the number of people unsubscribing from your newsletter, you’ve reached the point where to stop.

You might want to go a bit lower than that, but you’ve just found your best frequency. Any time in the future you see another such spike, adapt your mailing frequency again.