Jeff's rules for direct-response fundraising copy
These are the things I tell fellow copywriters. They might work for you too.
Keep reading level low
Never go above sixth-grade reading level (Flesch-Kincaid). Aim for the 4th to 5th grade range. See if you can get lower yet. "Never use a long word where a short one will do." (George Orwell)
Make sentences readable
- Vary in length (but seldom go over 30 words).
- One-word sentences are good.
- And starting with conjunctions is good.
Make paragraphs readable
- Vary in length.
- Almost never more than seven lines long.
- One-word paragraphs are good.
Use a selling style
- Conversational (not formal; not writerly).
- Talk to and about the reader (singular!).
- High ratio of "You" to "I" ("we" means the reader and the signer, not the organization).
Never generalize. Find the details that make it "real." Strong emotion flows from specificity.
Think about imagery
Find a simile that clarifies, enlarges and dramatizes the situation. Be plain-spoken, not poetic. If it's forced, silly, or off-point, cut it (but at least try it).
Keep your eye out for the details
Look for small ways to add "sell" to any appeal. Can you alter the letterhead, the salutation, the sign-off to make them better? Can you revise the back of the reply device? Can you put handwritten comments in the margins? Squeeze in selling everywhere you can.