May 11

Simple Writing System : Create Effective Bullets


JC-SWS-imageCarlton shows how to write bullet phrases to sell your product or service. This is point 5 of his Simple Writing System.

His comments:

OK?  That could be a headline.  But, as Tony said, using a “how to” headline is a breakthrough for most people…or a bullet, a “how to” explanatory sentence.  Yet, when you write for the top mailers, in the contract it will actually say you cannot use “how to” bullets.  The reason they do that is, as Tony said, it is overused.  Lazy writers will have “how to do this”, “how to do that”.

Here, I have 2 in a row.  What’s interesting about this (and I wouldn’t have brought it up if Tony hadn’t brought it up) is that this is an A-list piece for a top-end mailer.  I forced them to do that because I like “how to”s so much that I left them in there.  I had 2 “how to”s and they happen to be right next to each other in the copy.

I usually write the bullets as soon as I can.  I get my features and benefit list out, then I start writing bullets for every single one.  Every single feature and the benefits I will start writing bullets.  And I will have 20 pages of bullets that I will start culling down from 100 to the hottest 20, the best, and then I will start arranging them in order.  Really nailing them.

There is nothing wrong with “how to” bullets, but they are way overused.  And, in fact, Rodale does put that in their contract.  No “how to” bullets.  The only way I get these through, when I write A-list pieces, is that they’re so good that they have no argument.

Their argument is sound.  Most writers would have 20 in a row…”how to do this”, “how to do that”.  Boring, boring, boring.  And this, by the way, is page 6 of an 8-page letter.  Mack…

Is there a formula for how many bullets you do use then?

In direct mail you are usually limited to an 8- to 12-page letter because of postage, so there is a physical limit.  Online, people are writing 40 to 100 page letters full of bullets.  But, I go in and I say “This is the same bullet as this one”.  They may not realize that, but the feature and benefit are the same.  They get repetitive.

A good writer goes in (what do they say “good writing is rewriting) and starts culling and seeing how they can say things better.  I will tell you that on this page, these probably started off as 10 or 12 bullets.  I started combining them.

Do you write them from the best to the least?  Yes.  Don’t save the good for last.  That’s another thing I do when I critique websites.  The guys usually hide their stuff for 4 screen pages down.  I say “No.  You want everything you can get on that first screen page”.  Then you start supporting that as you go down.  So, yes, you don’t want to save the best for last.  That is a ridiculous way to do it.

For more information about the Simple Writing System, go to

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