1. Boldfacing—Use bold type to emphasize subheadings, important words, phrases, dates, and other segments of important copy. Bold type instantly draws attention to these important points and allows your reader to skim the critical content.
2. Borders—Borders draw attention to important items such as headlines, testimonials, and coupons. A red border around a coupon grabs attention. Consider adding borders to your guarantees to make them look even more valuable. Use borders around light-colored illustrations, graphics, charts, and photos to help set them apart.
3. CAPITALIZATION—Use capitalization to set off a single (or two or three) word(s) which need extra emphasis. Use sparingly, since oftentimes it’s perceived as “shouting.”
4. Captions—These should always be used under illustrations, graphics, charts, and photos, because captions are one of the most often read copy cosmetic enhancements when placed next to an attention-grabbing image. Consider adding captions beneath the description of a significant benefit or a call-to-action.
5. Cartoons, Comics, and Caricatures—These little beauties are among the least used, but most effective, ways to grab attention and lighten up your copy. To get an additional boost in response, personalize the caption with the recipient’s name (more on “Personalization,” below).
6. Color—Blues and softer colors relax us; reds and hotter colors energize us. Use strong colors to grab attention and create urgency (I prefer red). Be careful you don’t use too many colors, which will distract your reader. Also, understand the concept of “reverse print” (light copy on a dark background) and be very careful to not overuse it.
7. Columns—50- to 70-character-wide columns are easier to read than single, wide columns. Look at your newspaper and classic direct-response advertisements to see how they use columns to “air out” the copy.
8. Drop Caps—An enlarged, initial capital draws the reader’s eye to the beginning of your letter. Studies show this simple technique increases readership.
9. Fonts and Typefaces — Whole books have been written about this enhancement alone. Here’s the simple rule for maximum readability: Use serif fonts (serifs are the short curls at the tops and bottoms of letters)—e.g., Times Roman, Courier—for print marketing, and use sans-serif fonts—e.g., Arial, Verdana—for online marketing. Consider using handwriting fonts for added personality.
10. Highlighting—This adds a touch of realism and color. Use highlights to emphasize key copy. Be careful not to overuse. (When everything is emphasized, nothing stands out.)
11. Indenting—Indentation of paragraphs makes for easier reading and helps break up long copy.
12. Italics—Use italics to create emphasis on a word or short phrases. Italicizing creates urgency and intensity. Use italics for book titles.
13. Line Justification—Justified text is typically harder to read (where both the left and right margins line up, like this newsletter) and should not be used in your sales letters. Instead, use flush left and ragged right. An exception to this rule is multi-column advertisements and newsletters.
14. Line Spacing—This is critical for maximum readability. Proper line spacing is based on typeface, font size, and line length. Wider sections of copy should have more spacing to enhance readability.
15. Lists—Include bullet, number, and checklists among your copy. This is an important technique because it communicates priority, and “airs out” your copy.
16. Personalization— Personalization is a critical copy cosmetic strategy, because it can yield significant bumps in customer response, much more than simply inserting the reader’s name in the salutation. Consider personalizing your headline and response device (e.g., certificate or fax-back form). Always sign your letters by hand—or add a graphic signature in blue—for an added personal touch. PURLs are another way to use personalization.
17. Photographs and Illustrations—Studies have shown that photos and illustrations are two of the most-often looked-at parts of a letter, and help to increase retention, because people love looking at compelling photos. So make sure you are using them. Consider photos of products in use, close-ups, before-and-after, people, and pets. Always include a caption. Study classic direct response ads, including those from the great David Ogilvy, for great examples for how to use photos.
18. Screen Tints—Use screen tints to draw attention to specific areas of copy. This gives the appearance of more than one color when doing one-color printing. Use light backgrounds for maximum readability.
19 Short Words, Sentences, and Paragraphs—Short. Delivers. Punch. Short grabs attention, helps keep the reader reading, and effectively breaks up long copy.
20. Sidebars—Sidebars help hold together—and differentiate—blocks of copy. They are excellent for case studies, testimonials, etc.
21. Simulated Hand-Drawn Doodles. Simulated hand-drawn doodles help draw the reader’s eyes to important areas of your copy, add variety and interest to the eye and creates a more personal reading experience. You can make this process easier using this tool.
22. Simulated Handwritten Margin Notes—These margin notes add a unique, “me-to-you” look. They generate interest and grab attention. All the great copywriters agree handwritten margin notes can increase response.
23. Simulated Rubber Stamps—A favorite technique of mine, especially on envelopes and order forms. They help create an attention-grabbing, unique, one-of-a-kind look.
24. Subheads—Subheadings break up long copy and offer eye relief. They are also critical for skimmers, and make long copy less imposing. They should be written as “breadcrumbs” to draw and entice the reader to follow you along your copy. Format—font style, size, and bolding—is a critical consideration to ensure maximum readability of subheads.
25. Text Boxes—A powerful way to draw the eye to important areas of information. Consider using text boxes for testimonials, offers, and guarantees.
26. Underscoring—This copy cosmetic technique allows you to emphasize key words or phrases. Always underscore with a continuous line. Use to signify e-mail and web addresses. Use sparingly, since overuse distracts and distances the reader from your content, and can decrease readability.
27. White Space—This is necessary for readability; too much and you lose valuable real estate; too little and the content is difficult to read. Add white space around headlines and images for maximum impact.