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#152 Make writing exciting
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, April 6, 2022



#152 Blog Post - Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Posted By Denny Hatch

Fifty-one Proven Tips Guaranteed to
Make Your Writing Exciting and Inviting

According to the LiteracyProject foundation, 50% of American adults cannot read a book written at aneighth-grade level.


The other 50% of thepopulation—your customers, prospects, investors, and employees—they can read.But many of them have simply lousy attention spans and can quickly loseinterest in what they are reading.


The Bugaboo: Modern Technology Has
Destroyed Our Ability to Concentrate

The challenge is helping readers to get through long copy without losing interest: books, letters, proposals, memos, special reports, press releases, articles, résumés, blogs and websites. 

“ ‘'The technology is rewiring our brains,'said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one ofthe world’s leading brain scientists. She and other researchers compare thelure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food andsex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess… Scientists say jugglinge-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people thinkand behave.


"They say our abilityto focus is being undermined by bursts of information. These play to aprimitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. Thestimulation provokes excitement—a dopamine squirt—researchers say, that can beaddictive. In its absence, people feel bored. The resulting distractions canhave deadly consequences, as when cell phone-wielding drivers and trainengineers cause wrecks.” 

—Matt Richtel, The NewYork Times


“Theaddictive nature of Web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds—thesame as a goldfish.”
—Dr. Ted Selker, MIT Media Lab.


TwoObvious Ways That Guarantee
YourWritten Words Will Get Read


 1.  Write Text Messages: 160-Character Limits.
80% of Americans text each other (Pew). They send 23 billion texts a dayForbes).


2.  Write Tweets: 280-CharacterLimit.
217 million users send 350,000 tweets per minute, 500 million tweets every day.David Sayce


3.  Avoidgray walls of type. —David Ogilvy

A sucker paid +/- $3200 for this press release. 
Would I spend time on thisgray wall of type? No.


Newspapersand magazines are dying because of gray walls of type—on the front page andthroughout the inside. They are boring as dirt and hard to read. Printpublishers blame the Internet for stealing advertising and putting them out ofbusiness.  The real problem is that gray walls of type make long copy unreadable.This is true in print and in digital media.


Ed Elliott’s Visuals and Interruptions to
Turn a
Skimmer into an InterestedReader


4.   Table ofcontents.


5.   Headlinesand subheads.


6.   Photography,especially of people and action.


7.   Tables,charts, graphs.


8.  Illustrations clarifying or reinforcing the text.


9.   Captionsunder every visual. People read captions as they skim


10.  A word orsubhead which is bigger, bolder, blacker,  or has a different color thanother elements on the page.


11.  Enlargednumbers, possibly followed by an enlarged or bold lead.


12.  A word or lineset off at an angle or in a box or a burst.


13.  Text inside anarrow or a ruled box.


14.  Anything that interruptsa page-by-page pattern of columns.


15.  Text with alight screen behind it.


16.  Pull quotes.


17.  A paragraph setoff in bold or with a double indent.


18.  Handwrittenindications.


19.  Bulleted text,especially with bullets that are larger or different from other bulleted text.


20. Text Size: Ten or eleven points is optimum for readability; maybe one pointlarger for older readers.


21. Column Width: 35 to 55 characters is a good target range. Ten or eleven pointis generally most readable on a column width of about a third of a page. Largerthan eleven-point should probably be about a half page wide. Columns wider thana half page are not quickly read.


22. Alignment:Rag right is often better than justified. It creates a text shape, which allowsan area for the eye to rest. It can also appear more inviting, less imposing,more personal.


23. Avoid:Text without sufficient contrast to its background.


24.  Avoid: background screen that is too dark.


25.  Avoid: Paper color that is too dark. 


26. Avoid: Textthat is too light, printed in something other than black.


27. AvoidText printed over—or reversed out of—a busy or distracting background.


28. Avoid:Text reversed out of a dark color.


29. Avoid:Flush right or centered paragraphs.


30. Avoid:Text that is too condensed.


31. Avoid: Characterspacing that is too tight.


32. In print: alwaysuse a serif type for readability—Times, Garamond, etc. Never use sansserif type in printed text. Why Johnny Can't Read —Vrest Orton https://heraldpress.ca/pdfs/resources/why-johnny-cant-read.pdf


33. Online: sans serif type is best. In Search of: The Best Online Reading Experience —Sarah DickinsonQuinn


34. With long copy: it is imperative to keep the reader’s eye moving.


DavidOgilvy on Readability

 35. After two or three inches of copy, insert your first boldface crossheadmini-headline), and thereafter pepper mini-headlines throughout.


 36. An ingenious sequence of boldly displayed mini-headlines can deliver thesubstance of your entire message to glancers who are too lazy to wade throughthe text.


37.  Keep your openingparagraph down to a maximum of eleven words. A long first paragraphfrightens readers away. All your paragraphs should be as short as possible;long paragraphs are fatiguing.  


38. "The first 10 words are more important than the next ten thousand. —Elmer Sizzle Wheeler


39. Type smaller than 9-point is difficult for most people to read.


40. “Widows”increase readership, except at the bottom of a column, where they make it tooeasy for the reader to quit. (A widow occurs when a line of copy is too long bya single word, with the result that the word shows up in the next line—and isthe only word in that line.)”


 41. Break up the monotony of long copy by setting key paragraphs in boldface oritalic.


 42. Insertillustrations from time to time.


 43. Help the reader into your paragraphs with arrowheads, bullets, asterisks andmarginal marks.


44. If you have a lot of unrelated facts to recite, don’t try to relate them with cumbersome connectives;simply number them, (as I am doing here.)”  


 44.Never set your copy in reverse (white type on a black background) and never set itover a gray or colored tint. The old school of art directors believed thatthese devices forced people to read the copy; we now know that they makereading physically impossible.


46. If youuse leadingbetween paragraphs, you increase readership by an average of 12 percent.”


 47.Short words! Short sentences! Short paragraphs! —Andrew J. Byrne, copywriter


48.  With printed letters, always use the writer's real signature—preferably in blue—and NOT a phony baloney computer handwriting font signature. The signature is your handshake at the end.


49. With letters always have a P.S. It is the fourth most-read element in a letter. Spend as much time on the P.S. as you do on a headline. 


How theWorld’s Longest Full-page Newspaper
Advertisement Brought in Huge Reader Response


Thisfull-page ad ran in The New York Times, October 1948. The writer wasLouis Engel, former editor of Business Week who became a VP of marketingand a partner at Merrill Lynch.


• The ad ran6,550 (Six thousand, five hundred and fifty) words—the most words ever crammedinto a newspaper page. The record still stands.


• Entirelytext. Words only. It has no photographs or drawings... nor any charts, graphsor tables.


• When Engelfinished writing the ad and it was laid out, there was space left over. Hedecided to fill that extra space with an offer at the very end of the ad. Thereader was forced to read the entire ad—more than 6,000 words—before learning about the free book.


• The ad ran several times. Readers had to plow through this entire monster before comingacross the offer—an afterthought at the very tail end of the ad in a bottomright box. 


• Box at the very bottom setting off the offer with the mini-headline: "What's This? . . . What's That?" 
“Theseterms are defined in a booklet, ‘How to Invest’, which we have just published.A basic guidebook for all security owners, this new publication develops ingreater detail the story of how this stock and bond business works. It reviewsthe basic principles of sound investing, such as the analysis of market trends,the diversification of holdings, and the management of a portfolio. We will beglad to send you a copy."


“Always makeit easy to order." —Elsworth Howell, CEO Grolier Enterprises


Louis Engel’s copybroke Howell’s Rule. The free book was a bitch to order: Here was the drill.



 —You find apiece of paper and pencil to write your request. Include your name and address.Find an envelope to put it in, address the envelope, lick the stamp and go mailit...


You spendmoney on a long-distance phone call to Merrill Lynch in Boston. (This wasmany years before 800 numbers or the Internet)...


You physicallybetake yourself to a Merrill Lynch office to request the booklet.


WhatHappened Was Astounding!

5,033 readerscontacted Merrill Lynch by mail, phone or a visit and requested more than20,000 copies of the booklet. —Julian Lewis Watkins, The 100 GreatestAdvertisements


The Secretof This Unbelievable Success:
Compellingly Written Plus Brilliant Design

Quite simply,the ad was broken up into dozens of bite-sized paragraphs—the equivalent oftoday’s tweets and texts.  Among the elements:

Upperdeck (super headline in Italics): “What everybody ought to know. . .”

Main headline (big, boldface type): “About This Stockand Bond Business  


Subhead (In Italics): “Some plain talk about asimple business that often sounds complicated”  


•Big boldsubheadin mid-ad: How to Buy and Sell Securities


• 16Boldface Crossheds (mini-headlines.) 


Note: Forreadable text of this 6,550-word ad:



Criticalfor Maximum Readability:
Number of Words in Each Sentence

I dug throughmy correspondence and found the following e-mail from Scott Huch in response toa column of mine on how to write:


As anaspiring, young direct mail copywriter in the early 1990s, I clipped an itemfrom my local newspaper. It has been taped to my desk—right next to mycomputer—ever since. It is now tattered and yellow. But I keep it there as areminder anytime I’m writing.


50. Text of Scott Huch's clipping (above):

Tests haveshown that a sentence of eight words is very easy to read; of 11 words, easy;of 14 words, fairly easy; of 17 words, standard; of 21 words, fairly difficult;of 25 words, difficult; of 29 or more words, very difficult; so, this sentencewith 54 words, counting numbers, is ranked impossible.


51. With every long sentence you’ve written, count the words. Any sentence longerthan 29 words should be split in two—or three. 




Word Count: 1838




The Most Fun You Can Have
In the English Language
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press.He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletterand archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 yearshe has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.



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