How to Ratchet Up Your Copy and Conversions

These days, been doing a lot of copy editing. In other words, amping up other people’s copy.

I let Mark Twain’s words guide me:

“The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Before we get started, here are 5 additional distinctions I’ve learned which you can use to ratchet up your copy:

Ratchet #1: Some words are worth more than others. For instance, emotionally speaking, the word ‘discover’ is worth more than ‘learn’. It has more emotional impact, yes?

Much has been published about ‘power words’. Words like ‘free’ and ‘amazing’ are very valuable when used judiciously.

Ratchet #2: Some words dilute the value of other words. This usually occurs when a piece is overwritten.  (Time to take out the machete.) But it can also occur with a word like ‘that’ that loves to sneak into our work.

Ratchet #3: By the same token, some words can increase the value of other words around it. For example, which is ’7-figures’ is stronger:

’7-figures’ by itself? Or ‘Easy 7-figures’?

Ratchet #4: Some words multiply their value by being in the right place.

For instance, “How to” in a headline is worth multiples more than in the body copy.

Ratchet #5: Some words can be increased in value by formatting them. It’s useful to use capitalization, underlining and such–but be careful: Too much overall can dilute the value.

So with those 5 distinctions in mind, I mentally put a dollar value on each word and phrase. I then incrementally increase the overall dollar value while keeping the original idea intact.

For instance, today I was working on an email with this subject line:

“Subject: How to crush the competition”

First off, please understand:

What’s the goal of the subject line?

Answer: To get the reader to open the email. Curiosity is the emotion we’re shooting for.

The email subject line above, while rather generic, sounds interesting. How can we improve? How can we boost the likelihood of the email being opened?

Well, we could increase the impact of all the words if we targeted the audience specifically:

“Subject: Web designers, how to crush the competition”

That’s better, but can we amp it up a bit and make it for relevant to the reader? How about:

“Subject: Web designers, how to crush your competition”

That works. But how about:

“Subject: Web designers, this *CRUSHES* your competition”

‘This’ usually works great in an email subject line. It evokes curiosity. Definitely more valuable than ‘how to’ in this context.

Capitalizing the verb ‘crushes’ and adding ‘*’s increases the value even more.

So here’s our before and after:

“Subject: How to crush the competition”


“Subject: Web designers, this *CRUSHES* your competition”

If you were a web designer, which would you be more inclined to open? More curious about?

Only testing will reveal. But my bet’s on the later.

Now, imagine if you really took the same amount of time to amp up your own pieces this way. Line by line, word by word. Whether it’s a video script, sales letter or email?

It’d be pretty compelling, wouldn’t it?


Rick Duris is CopyRanger.

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