flow versus impact in marketing

In his  book, “The Art of Writing Copy,” Marketing wiz H.G. Lewis said:

Tying two statements together with “and” adds flow and subtracts impact.

Here is an Example of what he means:

Which bullet point is stronger?

  1. In  my line of work, every word counts, and I practice what I call “word economy.”
  2. In my line of work, every word counts. I practice what I call “word economy.”

Line one has flow, but the “and” dilutes the strength of both statements.  Line two creates a momentary loss of flow, but retains the impact of the individual statements.

Maybe you’ll guffaw. Maybe you’ll think that a one-word, comma-versus-period change isn’t worth your thought or effort. But I challenge you to give it a try in your next marketing campaign, particularly if you are limited to a specific word count.  Write your first draft, then, as Lewis recommends, “cold-bloodedly” remove the “ands” when they link two thoughts. Then read the statements out loud, considering the intent of the overall campaign.

Which are you after – flow, or impact?


The Generic Determination Rule

Sometimes in speech writing and marketing you can change the audience’s perception without changing the facts. One way to do this is by putting psychology to work with The Generic Determination Rule. Detailed by famed Direct Marketing/Copywriting Guru Herschel Gordon Lewis, the rule states:

“The generic determines reaction more than the number.”

This means that when you are indicating time, size, distance, or a number of other factors related to your product or service, the generic⏤months versus days, hours versus minutes, miles versus feet⏤is more important than the number attached to it.

Lewis gives a great example when he asks “What if McDonald’s Quarter Pounder were called McDonald’s Four Ouncer?”

Yes, a quarter pound IS four ounces.

But somehow, a quarter pound sounds significantly larger than four ounces, because pounds are heavier than ounces.

Depending on your intent, you could market the same burger two ways:

  1. For our weight conscious friends, this popular burger is just four ounces. Dressed up with your favorite low-cal toppings, it packs a wallop! OR
  2. Our all-around best selling burger⏤a full quarter pound of choice meat⏤with all your favorite toppings!
  • One month free trial is perceptually longer than a 30-day free trial.
  • One hour feels longer than 60 minutes.

If I were to tell you my office is five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet north of town, you might, for just a moment, think you’d have to pack a lunch to get there. But if I told you instead that I am just one mile north of town, well, that’s an easy trip, isn’t it? Putting the rule and the psychology behind it to use, you could drive a customer or prospect away from a competitor and right to your door.

Think of The Generic Determination Rule as you are creating your next advertisement, menu, or sales pitch. First determine how you want your prospects or customers to perceive the extent, usefulness, or appropriateness of your product or service. Then choose the generic that matches your intent – bigger/smaller, faster/slower, farther/closer, shorter/longer.

Freelance Copywriting and Editing

Image of Ali Luke, AliVentures, Copywriting Interview
Ali Luke of AliVentures


Wondering what it takes to start and sustain a copywriting and editing business?  I’ve been at it for 15 years and blogging about it for 7 years. I’ve worked hard to make it work for me. Can you do the same?

Ali Luke of AliVentures in Cambridge, England, (that’s her at left) interviewed me on this topic, and posted it in her private Writer’s Huddle group. She’s allowed me to share it with you.

Click to listen to the 45-minute interview on SoundCloud.

Click to download a PDF transcript of the interview.

Click to download a PDF of the accompanying WORKSHEET.

Thanks, Ali! You are an amazing woman, and a gift to the freelance writing community around the world!


Four Tips for Effective Copywriting

1.  Don’t waste money on internet copy writing courses. Find the writers whose work resonates with you and follow them.

2.  Don’t waste a reader’s time with 6-page long letters full of highlighted text and screamingly large headlines.

3.  Do follow the advice of Joseph Pulitzer, one of the greatest journalists of all time. He said: “Put it before them briefly, so they will read it, clearly, so they will appreciate it, picturesquely, so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”

4.  Learn to be a ruthless editor, and don’t stop until every unnecessary word is eliminated.


How to Write More in Less Time

The real “art” of writing compelling copy—words that matter and draw people into the story—is in knowing what goes where and how to edit for story potency.

A hint from Copywriting 101: Your first draft will never be your best draft, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be full of great fodder for the finished piece, whether it is a short story or a magazine article, blog post, or the concept for a full-length novel. Your first intention should be only to get words on paper, or on screen, if you prefer. Just get your thoughts down as if you were talking to a friend, and try to do it in ten minutes or less. Then walk away for at least two hours.

When you come back, it’s time to organize and edit. For a 300-word article or post, give yourself no more than 30 minutes. Read it out loud to yourself, note changes needed, then walk away again.  I know some will argue this point, but in my writing, I rarely sit for more than an hour before I need a mental and physical break, and I do edit as I go along.

The final round of the practice is to read your piece out loud to someone you trust to tell you the truth. If you stumble over words or phrases, change them. If your sentences are too long, break them in half. If you’ve used industry jargon or ten-dollar words, clean things up. If you’ve wasted too much space with unnecessary introductory material—a common error for new or untrained writers—your friend should tell you. Get rid of it. Make it worth your reader’s while.

My very first copy writing instructor drilled in into our heads to look for the parts of what we had written that we really loved—the sentences or phrases to which we were emotionally attached—and cut them out completely. This is the “kill your darlings” process, a challenging exercise in non-attachment and journalistic excellence that, in the end, will make your writing stronger.