As a freelance copywriter, I naturally assume my readers will patiently hang onto every word I pen, lingering now and then to ponder what great mind authored such magnificent prose?

Unfortunately, we all would be better off assuming our readers will only take a quick scan over our copy, lasting no more than 3 seconds. Only if that quick glance reveals something that might possibly be interesting (to the reader, not to us) will the reader devote more than 3 seconds.

So how do we write copy that passes that 3 second test?

  1. Use numerous sub-headlines. Subheadings do two wonderful things that attract attention even if the reader is scanning over our copy. They break the material into small sections and (if well written) grab the reader’s interest with something that attracts her self interest. If the subheading works, the reader will be pulled into that small portion of the copy. Then if your writing in that small section delivers the goods, she may read your entire copy.

  2. Underline or make important information bold. Underlined and bold phrases makes this information jump right off the page. Don’t overdo this technique, and be slective to only key phrases, or this technique will lose its effect. The rule here is to assume the reader only reads the bold or underlined words. If that happens, she must still be able to understand your basic offer and know what the key benefits to the offer are.

  3. Make the headline count. Don’t be cute, coy or creative. Announce something that tugs at the reader’s self interest. The job of the headline is to persuade the reader to read the first sentence of the first paragraph. And that first sentence’s job is to persuade the reader to read the entire paragraph, and so on.

  4. Bullet points or numbered lists. Lists draw the eye because readers like to read packaged information in “bite sized” portions. Readers also like lists because they get right to the point and they feel you are communicating the essentials of your message without a lot of fluff.

  5. Put some information in small boxes. Like sidebars in magazine articles, these boxes pull the eye to small sections of information. Make these boxes contain stand alone messages and examples. You can use boxes for proof, testimonials or to contain intriguing examples.

It’s always a safe bet to assume that your readers will only scan over your copy. Readers are busy and pulled from many different directions. Only if they see something in that quick scan that appeals to their self interest will they read any more.

If you never assume you have any more than 3 seconds to capture that interest, you will write your copy with scanning in mind. After all, you can do a lot in those 3 seconds.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, writing web content, copywriting tips

COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.


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