If you’re like most bloggers, you’re making two huge mistakes with your content. You’re suffering from both qualification and respect when you write.
You’ll need to leave both of those behind if you want to be a successful writer with high conversion rates. The only way to write powerfully is to be bold, and to write boldly you must stop qualifying yourself and being overly respectful.
Don’t believe me? Here’s what you’d be reading right now if I had written the opening of this post in a qualified and respectful manner instead of boldly.
Writers often struggle to make their points effectively. It can be difficult to be precise and respectful while still being bold enough to persuade. Being precise and respectful has the advantage of not lowering any of your readers’ opinions of you. Being bold has the advantage of persuading more people and increasing your conversion rate. Either choice is valid; it’s up to you which one you choose.
Which opening is more likely to engage you and persuade you?
Don’t qualify. Be bold.
Here are some concrete examples of rephrasing things from qualification (“There are several things”) to bold (“There is only one thing and this is it”).
I’m going to talk about two very important words and explain why those words are so crucial. I hope that this will help you be a more effective blogger.
By the end of this post, you will be a more effective blogger, all because you learned two very important words, and the specific reasons why those words are so crucial.
“Can I really know that the reader will be a more effective blogger? Maybe they won’t put it into practice. I’d better qualify that statement, because it’s not 100% true when I think about it.”
No, you can’t know for certain. But if you strive for 100% qualified accuracy, your writing will end up reading like a dry academic paper or a technical instruction manual. Few will read it and zero will be moved by it.
There are many factors that can affect buying decisions. But in my experience, I’ve found that prospect fear is the most important factor that can cause potential customers to choose not to buy.
There’s a hideous troll hiding under the bridge. Every time you get close to making a sale, the troll springs out and scares your prospect away. Get rid of the troll and your copy will start converting better than it ever has before.
The ugly, smelly, dirty, bad-mannered troll is prospect fear. And it’s sitting there right now, stinking up your landing page and scaring good customers away.
This example uses both imagery and boldness, but again sacrifices academic precision. Which opening makes you want to read more?
Don’t be respectful. Be bold.
It’s difficult enough to stop qualifying everything we say, now we’re about to make an even dearer sacrifice: respect.
Five Grammatical Errors that May Detract From Your Credibility
Five Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb
Will they really make you look dumb to everyone? No. But if you add a “may”, a “sometimes”, or a “to some people” every time you want to avoid offending someone, you’ll end up with a very respectful wet dishrag that is so wishy-washy it will flop to the floor the instant you wave it in anyone’s direction.
Wet dishrag version
Five Grammatical Errors that May Sometimes Make You Look Dumb to Some People
There are lots of ways to make money, and many of them might work for you. One way that I’m going to talk about today is solving real problems.
If you want to make money in the real world, solve real problems.
In these examples, the author risks pissing off the readers.
“I make those errors. Are you saying I’m dumb?”
“I want to make money from advertising instead of solving real problems, are you saying I’m wrong? Are you disrespecting my choice?”
Write for the fence-sitters.
When writing to persuade or advise, there will always be three groups of people:
- those who agree with you
- those who disagree with you
- those on the fence
Write for those on the fence. Ignore the other two groups.
If your goal is to get people to stop making grammatical errors, the people who already agree will say “Yup, good post,” and move on. The radical descriptivists who call you a fascist for attempting to dictate how others use language are going to disagree with you no matter how well-written your copy is.
But those on the fence can be convinced. Those on the fence can be sold. (And as a bonus, you’ll automatically appeal to those who agree with you.)
Study these examples. Practice rephrasing things boldly. Find or write an example of something wishy-washy and rewrite it boldly. Find an example of something bold and rewrite it
wishy-washily more precisely or more respectfully. Let’s practice together — you can improve your writing skills right now in the comments section.
Be bold. It’s the only way to make a difference.
Reader Comments (165)
Sonia Simone says
Love this post from Pace, who is, I can confirm, a highly precise and respectful person.
Jodi Kaplan says
Love your post, Pace. You are qualified, respectful, and a great triiibal leader!
Yup, good post.
Heidi Fischbach says
Fantastic post! Fantastic advice. Plus, writing on eggshells sucks (*yawns* all around!) Thank you for putting this into concise, direct words. I’ll keep in mind to write for the fence straddlers.
@Sonia, Jodi, Cosmin, Heidi: Thanks!
@Heidi: It’s one of the great things about writing for a self-selected audience instead of having a one-on-one conversation. In a conversation, especially with someone you care about, you DO want to be precise and respectful. But with an audience who chooses to read your writing of their own free will, they can always choose to go elsewhere. So you can be unqualifiedly bold and treat your readers like big boys and girls.
Jenny, Bloggess says
Mike CJ says
Cracking post Pace, and it made me stop in my tracks because I’m often guilty of choosing the respectful route. I suspect it’s a common thing for Brits.
I am going to be bold now, I AM!
Mel Thomassian | Dietriffic says
This has given me heaps of food for thought…I shall now go and inject my articles with boldness and endeavor to persuade those fence-sitters!! 🙂
@Jenny: I don’t think anyone has ever accused you of being qualified or respectful. *grin* (Also, thanks!)
Ark Pizarro says
Are we at church? Cause I feel like this post was written just for me.
Awesome insight Pace thanks.
Wow. You know I have had problems because of my direct personality all my life. Good to know I can let my freak flag fly!
Funny how this kind of boldness would irritate in speech, but in writing, works just fine. Sort of goes against the old “write how you would speak” don’t you think?
Not if you learn to speak like this too!
I’d rather a real person speak what’s really on their mind, instead of eggshelling around. Eggshelling just wastes time – time which runs out very quickly.
We are too polite in the western culture. 🙂
By the end of this blog comment, I will be a better blogger.
Mr Uku says
Oh you are so right with this.
Many people revert to a pseudo-professional style when they write. But being bold puts more personality into your voice, which ultimately gains you more readers.
I think the trick is to write as though you were talking to your best friend. Say what you mean and don’t worry that they might not agree with you.
It’s certainly something I need more practice at.
Thanks for this great advice! I’ve been looking for new ways to keep my writing fresh and not as dry as dirt, so hopefully this will help. Great post 🙂
Anil Atluri says
a bold post that I shall try to emulate!
Deb Hildreth says
Dead-on post. You’ve disrobed me online; my writing is respectful and qualified rather than bold. I need to step up to the plate and write hearty copy.
@Mike: Yes! And it’s great for Brits to be respectful when speaking one-on-one, but in writing it’s entirely different.
@Ark: Thanks! And have you read Chris Guillebeau’s guest post here on preaching to the choir?
@Killer: I’m all about letting the freak flags fly. I have so many freak flags flying they block out the sun. (: And yes, I think it definitely goes against “Write how you would speak” because it’s a different audience. If you’re writing to one person, especially a friend, write how you would speak. If you’re writing to a large audience, be bold.
@Ele: So mote it be. (:
@Mr Uku: Yes! Being overqualified and overly respectful makes you seem inauthentic, and that’s a whole ‘nother kind of not good. Writing as if you’re talking to your best friend is perfect for when you’re preaching to the choir. But when trying to persuade, I’d talk to my friend respectfully and write for a large audience boldly.
@Brianna, Anil: Thanks!
Man, you guys are fast to the keyboard. 😉 I just got this post a few minutes ago.
This comes at an opportune time for me. I’m writing one of my first “opinion” posts on my blog (reviewing my experience choosing a theme) and after reading this post, I realize that I am doing everything you describe. Time to re-write.
My challenge is running writing skills courses in an organisation that values the ‘intellectual and oblique’ (their words not mine) style. Add in that most of them are not native English speakers and you can see that I have an interesting time with them!
Just one caveat to your post – always be consistent with your own style; don’t try and copy someone else’s boldness, it will just sound fake.
Le Daily Neuvième (Paris) says
That’s what I am desperately trying to do since 2 years now! Thanks.
Sonia Simone says
Good point about a dichotomy between “writing to a friend” and writing boldly. I think they can be combined, myself. Then again, I’m the child of one of the most opinionated people I’ve ever met. 🙂 I tend to have an invisible “That’s how I see it, you may see it differently” on the end of my posts. Just because I’ve put something strongly doesn’t mean it’s the only way to look at it. But no one wants to read mashed potatoes.
Tea Silvestre says
Wow. As a former English major who got straight As for writing grammatically correct and respectful papers, THANKS. I still have daily hand-to-hand combat with my own ugly troll (fear of using dangling participles), and love the reassurance that I can break the “rules” in order to be real-world-effective.
@Deb: It’s bold of you to step up. And don’t worry, I won’t post the pictures to the internet. (:
@Leslie: I had a lot of fun rewriting things more boldly (even rewriting things less boldly to prove a point was entertaining). I hope you do too!
@nic: Yes! This is an unconventional idea, and unconventional ideas rub conventional people (and organizations) the wrong way. And I completely agree with your caveat. I just didn’t want to put any caveats in my post — that would have been hilarious, but very silly. (:
@Le Daily Neuvième: Thanks!
@Sonia: Right! With friends who know you, you can make more assumptions. We can see the invisible “That’s how I see it, you may see it differently” on the end of your posts, emails, and sentences. With a large audience, some may see it, some may not, and the ones who don’t can go boldly away. (:
Here’s another example of how blog writing is different from newspaper writing. What I’ve heard called “the public voice” is often passive. “Those who are interested may contact … .” After all, the news section does not include calls to action. The opinion pages and columns? Ah. That’s something else.
Still, thank you, Pace. Your post reminds us former newsies to “de-wienie-fy” our writing.
Christine Martell says
Do you know how to Vulcan Mind Meld? I need it desperately. I’m a mushy, qualified, wet dishrag expert…..blah…..
Sonia Simone says
@Pace, laughing at “can boldly go away.” I love that attitude.
Sean Goldfaden says
I’m a 22-year-old college student doing social media consulting for 1-800-dentist. I started working there this summer, and now I’m back in Miami, getting ready for some good weather (minus the humidity…yuck!) and fun times.
I guess they kind of liked me there, or at least found me somewhat valuable, and are keeping me around (cross your fingers!).
We’re in the middle of a huge blog re-design, almost starting over from scratch. If you check out our site now, and then check back in a week or so you’ll see the difference (I’m sooooo psyched about it!).
Anyways, we’ve assembled a great team of bloggers working within the company to deliver relevant and valuable information and tips to consumers, and I can promise you that the content from the past is NOT relevant nor valuable :(.
Our blog team has been sending me rough-drafts to revise so we can start putting up new content once our new site goes live, and I find myself reading posts that are both too qualified, and WAY to respectful!
I wanted to personally thank you for such an amazing post. I have been an avid reader of copyblogger, and hundreds of other well known social media experts, and now that I at least know the ropes of social media, this has definitely been my favorite blog post I’ve ever read.
I’ve sent this link to my entire blog team, and I look forward to seeing our company improve. Thanks so much again! Keep doing what you’re doing! Take care. 🙂
@Tea: Academic writing has become so stilted that it’s hard for non-academics to even make sense of anymore. I believe it’s an ivory tower thing; academics have developed their own sort-of-dialect so they can keep out the non-academics. (Not on purpose, but that’s the outcome.) And I’m all about breaking down walls. Also, dangling participles aren’t something to be afraid of, they’re something you can deal with. *grin*
@RhondaL: I think it’s because most newspapers come from a tradition of trying hard to appear unbiased. Passive voice weakens the argument, and that’s a good thing when you’re trying to appear like you’re not making an argument at all.
@RhondaL: Also, I LOVE “de-wienie-fy”. *big silly grin*
Writer Dad says
Wonderful… I am SO guilty of the overly respectful route when writing on my own sites where everyone knows it’s me. I’m able to shed the skin when I’m invisible without a problem, but I find it far more difficult when writing for myself. I end up trying to write for everyone and consequently diminishing my own impact.
It is seeing success when writing boldly for others that has helped me more than anything when writing for myself.
Thanks for a terrific post, I couldn’t agree more.
Cheryl Bryan says
Yet another post that [boldly] hit me smack upside the head! Thanks.
The Lone Wolf Entrepreneur says
Wow, this was an excellent post! I can’t think of a single writer who wouldn’t benefit from reading this. No matter how much experience any of us have, I think we all find ourselves falling into this “qualified” style of writing from time to time.
Why does this happen? I think it’s because we’re all so nervous to offend anyone. We don’t want to be too bold and come across like a “know-it-all” or to say something that someone might disagree with and then no longer visit our site or buy from us.
But the thing to remember is that bold sells, EVEN if you don’t agree with what the writer is selling. Guys like Dan Kennedy and Randy Gage can say some downright offensive things from time to time, and even though I don’t agree with them on some of those issues, it doesn’t stop me from reading them or buying from them. In fact, it makes me MORE interested in what they might say next.
I guess it all really comes down to respect for your reader. If you respect your reader as a person who can actually think for themselves, you’re more likely to write bold copy.
At least that’s the way I see it.
@Christine Martell: I do, but not long distance. Coming to Austin anytime soon?
@Sean: Your comment makes me ridiculously happy. I’m so pleased I was able to write something that was so useful to you!! Best of luck creating a culture of boldness at your company!
@Writer Dad: Thanks! You have such a strong and unique voice, it’s a shame for you to water it down! Those of us who love your writing style are going to love it even more when you write boldly, and those odd people who don’t love your writing style? Well, it’s not going to make a difference to them.
@Lone Wolf: Thank you, and you make a good point. It’s kind of like a Zen koan: “To respect your readers, you must lose all respect for your readers.” (:
Samantha Milner says
thanks for the post it really opens up my eyes to different kinds of posts and what makes a quality blogger.
Naomi Dunford says
Dude. The Wet Dishrag Version totally made my Monday. I heart wet dishrags. (Mmm. T-shirts. Merchandising opportunity, methinks?)
@Pace – one of the toughest things to accept about being a blogger is that I’m *expected* to show bias now. 🙂
But that also makes writing “conventional journalism” again tough.
Just sending an SMS to a mate to read a cracking post over at copyblogger. Just what we needed for our blog.
Jason Cohen says
Another nice benefit of picking one side and owning it: It leaves room for discussion in comments.
If you cover all the bases or hedge everything to death, all comments can do is nit-pick on the fringe. That’s boring for the commenters too!
Let other people take the other side! That’s debate. Debate is interesting. Debate makes your post multi-faceted.
Great post. Cheers.
@Naomi: JV proposal. You and me sit in a booth, each armed with one (1) wet dishrag. A long line of people stretches out in front of us. A person approaches. We take their money, slap them silly with the wet dishrag, and boldly send them on their way. We donate half the proceeds to Ban Comic Sans.
@RhondaL: *nods* It’s like using a QWERTY keyboard when you’ve just learned Dvorak.
@Azzam: Thanks, glad you liked it!
@Jason: Good point! And the comments on this post are definitely not boring! (:
Jarie Bolander says
Wonderful examples. This reminds me of the Ladder Of Abstraction.
Roy Peter Clark’s book “Writing Tools” has a wonderful explanation of the Ladder Of Abstraction (Tool #22). Climbing up and down the Ladder Of Abstraction relates to showing (the bottom) and telling (the top) your story or idea in a way that mixes the two into a fluid idea. Clear, fluid prose has the most impact.
The respectful blogger is in the middle — muddled in worthless words that have no meaning. Being bold is about confidence in your argument and what you are saying — clearly the top and bottom of the ladder.
Romain Dardour says
Nice point, that’s precisely what I was explaining to a colleague a few days ago.
I was telling her that the business world has too much “passive talking”, people trying to sell something without engaging themselves, and making strong points, in case the client would not agree with them.
They fear losing the business, and lose it doing so.
Ana Luiza says
Wow. This is an amazing and timely post. I’ve been so “respectful” and have “qualified” my opinions so much up to this point. Bleh… (’cause I know I’ve been doing that because I was afraid readers wouldn’t like me anymore) THANK YOU!
You’re really excellent with a hammer I thought you’re a he. BRAVO!
Great post! Thanks, man!
May I repost this piece at pochp09.wordpress?
Thanks for agreeing.
Michelle Russell says
Pace–What a fantastic post! And I’m going to prove, right here and now, that I’ve absorbed your message (and picked up the gauntlet you tossed) by saying boldly, right here and now in incontrovertible type that I **LIKE** Comic Sans. :o)
@Jarie: Neat. I like that way of looking at it.
@poch: That’d be “BRAVA”. *grin* As for reposting, that’s a question for the Copyblogger folks, not me. I would guess their policy is to ask others to link (possibly with an excerpt) instead of repost, but that’s just a guess.
@Michelle: Thanks so much! (: *eyes you suspiciously* And… Papyrus? *raises eyebrow*
William Darling says
“Damm good and convincing post.” Is this bold enough?
I do attempt to be nice and respected in my post because that how I am in real life.Thank you really show me the difference.
Nadira Haniff says
Brilliantly done! Informative, to the point and well laid out. Advice and tips to be use right now for all bloggers!
Steve Hartkopf says
Fantastic post! I wrote about this a few weeks ago…wish I’d done half as good a job.
AMMAR ALABBAD says
Extremely enlightening post, I’ll set your advises into my writing practice! Thanks.
Like @WriterDad, I’m so busted and guilty as charged of keeping it safe and playing nicey nice.
No need to wet dish towel, your post smacked me awake like the crack of a wet rag.
So, I’m inspired and going bold!
@Ana: You’re very welcome! Glad you found it helpful.
@Kirill, Nadira: Thanks!
@William: Yes, very bold! Thanks!
The Frugal New Yorker says
Ack! Every article you write is like a smack upside the head for me. Once again, I’m going to endeavor to follow your advice as I write.
No, let me restate that: From now on my blog posts will be clear and bold. Better, huh?
Good advice, and good examples, but (possibly through eating your own dog food) a little boldly overstated and insufficiently qualified 🙂
Depends on what you’re writing about, and for whom. If you just want to write a popular blog on a mass-interest topic, yes. But there’s room for careful writing as well.
And it is a mistake to conflate nuance and rigor with “dull.” Nuance and rigor require care, avoidance of showy “punchiniess”, and yes, qualifications.
And no, those things don’t always lead to wet dishrags. If they did, there wouldn’t be an entire universe of beautifully written scholarly papers and books that are just a joy to read.
Blogging as a whole is not a medium that is friendly to this approach, but that’s primarily because people haven’t tried hard enough or innovated elements to support it.
That will change.
linda wilson says
I’m with you there, mate! There’s nothing wrong with ivory towers and academia in the ‘write’ place. My own blog – hopefully – is both academic, carefully written, respectful and humorous. I see no reason for bloggers to avoid creating ‘beautifully written scholarly’ posts, whatever their niche!
Brian Clark says
Venkat, what took you so long to show up, my contrarian friend? Off letting people know the alternatives to the overrated breathing of air for survival? 😉
Jon-Mikel Bailey says
This is great! When I edit my own posts I end up taking out way more than I add back in, and after reading this it is because when I write at first I am overqualifying everything. I will focus on being bold from the beginning, it will certainly save me some time! Thanks!
Shane Arthur says
Right up there with qualification and respect is the dangerous content killer “passive voice.” Find it and kill it.
@Steve: Thank you, you’re very kind.
@Ammar: Thank you!
@Jason: Hooray! That makes me really happy. (:
@New Yorker: Much better!
@Venkat: I disagree, and I look forward to whatever change does occur. I’m sure it will be interesting!
@Brian: LOL (:
@Jon-Mikel: Kyeli and I did the same thing when editing our first book; we went back and removed a lot of unnecessary qualifying words and wishy-washy phrasings. Even the words that were attempting to make the writing stronger made it weaker — words like “really”, “very”, and “totally”. Boldness comes more clearly through straightforwardness. And yes, this will definitely save us some time when writing our second book. (:
@Shane: Agreed. Passive is the opposive of bold.
carti online says
Yes! … from now one I am a bold blogger ! Watch out …
Don’t Be Bold, Be Bada$$!
Michelle Russell says
::blushing wildly yet still standing firm in my shiny new boldness::
Erm…Papyrus is one of my favorite fonts ever.
(This could get positively brutal, couldn’t it?)
@Michelle: You’d best be prepared to face the full brunt of my Papyrus-induced brutality. Here it comes…
*hugs you* (:
Felicia - I Complete Me says
You must have visited my site. As I read this I realized I am very respectful when I write. I need to change that up so I’m certainly going to practice. Especially with this New Monday Series I’m doing. Thank you for this post.
Mailing Lists says
Very interesting article, you bring up some great theories here. I think there is some positive aspects of both writing styles. Society has definitely become more accepting to bold styles of writing, marketing and advertising, however, there is something to be said with traditional methods. I think there is a fine line and the writer needs to be tactful when using a particular method and to definitely remember who their audience is.
Paul, copySnips.com says
Nice. It’s too easy to slip into “qualifying” language because we’re trying to please all people, but sometimes stirring it up a little bit is going to provoke a more intense response.
If we want our blogs to become a HIVE of activity, sometimes we have to prod the BEES a little harder 🙂
OK, I can see how this analogy could get me STUNG pretty quickly, so I’m buzzing off…
Jon Morrow says
This is an AWESOME tutorial. You can bet I’ll be linking back to it on a regular basis.
Welcome to Copyblogger, Pace!
Great article! I just posted on my blog referencing you and your advice, check it out if you get a chance. Keep the good info coming!
Jimi Jones says
This post hit the nail on the head for me. I did not realize how much of a “qualifier” I’ve been. I tend to travel the polite route, but what you have written makes sense.
“I think I’ll attempt to write more boldly”
“Stop writing like a wuss Jimi” 🙂
Thanks for the post!
@Felicia: Thanks, and best of luck to you!
@Paul: Feeling waspish, I see. (: See, it turns out that it’s not actually true that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (:
@Jon: Thanks, and thank you kindly for the warm welcome! I love your writing.
@Sloane: Thanks, and thanks for the link to Copyblogger! I’m happy to help out.
Naomi Niles says
You must be talking to me. I am so guilty of doing this and didn’t even know it.
Will definitely be keeping this in my bookmarks for reference. Thank you!
YES. YES. Well said.
Every blogger runs into critics, and I think the natural reaction is to back off and try not to ruffle feathers. This is a great reminder to be a bold spirit instead of a hem-hawing sap. Thanks.
Wapello Warbler says
The radical descriptivists who call you a fascist for attempting to dictate how others use language are going to disagree with you no matter how well-written your copy is. But those on the fence can be convinced.
Thank’s Pace, I needed that. I ran into a guy like that this weekend.
Right on. I have to admit, I’m committing both of these sins on my blog. I always feel the need to qualify my positions on issues so my readers don’t think I’m pulling them straight out of my ass.
Not only does being bold with copy make the author appear more confident, but being so strong in your convictions is persuasive. Wishy-washy copy is not.
Thanks for the wake-up call. It’s one of those situations where you know you’re holding back, but until someone tells you that it’s Ok to bold, nothing changes.
Ali Hale says
Thanks Pace, for some stuff I sorta suspected vaguely in the back of my head but have never really thought through.
And congrats on your first Copyblogger post. I hope we’ll be getting more!
I find that I fall into the “qualified, respectful” trap when I’m either not sure of my facts (tut) or I’m just not feeling very confident. I’m learning to be bolder and not to worry too much about causing some disagreement in the comments!
Your examples were great, by the way, they really brought home to me the reason WHY firm, confident, succinct blogging works.
Sonia Simone says
@Carmina, I definitely felt that way. But eventually my inner BossyBoots just couldn’t be quieted. 🙂
You can’t argue with the truth.
Michelle Russell says
@Pace — This will sound funny out of context to anyone who doesn’t scroll up, but that’s a kind of brutality I can live with! ;o)
Patsi Krakoff aka The Blog Squad says
Oh god, I wanted to write about this forevah, but you did it with some great examples. I don’t know you, Pace, but I’m a new fan now. I’ve got a post scheduled to showcase yours on Tuesday afternoon.
(: See, it turns out that it’s not actually true that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (:
OMG, Pace. You have introduced me to a rare gem with that link. Thank you!
Deni Kasrel says
I think everything you said is absolutely wrong!
Just kidding. Good stuff. Will change how I do things from now on.
Gordon Rowland says
An inmate of the prison psychiatric wing escaped through the laundry room, where he raped the laundry ladies before exiting via the outside door.
Nut screws washers and bolts.
Mehul Harry says
Great post and advice.
Paul Hassing says
Dug it. Onya! P. 🙂
Knock me down, bowl me over…I have been the wishy washy queen.
I am learning, and learning a lot.
And…I am a polite person, so I will say thank you (wishy washy or not).
Gone will be the apologetic blog writer. I see your point, and it definitely correlates with the blogs that I seek out frequently.
In a nutshell, how can we take charge, form a community of readers, if we are afraid to speak?
I love it!
Hendy Irawan says
Yes, I’m saying that right now, you can already increase the number of comments you’ll get in your post.
Don’t believe me? Just end your post with “Practice this tip in the comments” and see what happens. 🙂
Shannon Henry says
This is a great post, and a great reminder. I already had a tendency to sacrifice power for precision in my writing, and my corporate years have just amplified that. That level of clarity is great in some circumstances, but I need to remember that it’s just one of many tools at my disposal. After all, there are a lot of situations where the hammer works better than the needle-nosed pliers.
Great post! I’m guilty of “respectful” writing, and your bold examples really hit home and highlighted just how I can apply your advice…and get more reads, comments. Thanks!
If I write boldly, as you suggest, my 5th grade English teacher (yes, an elderly nun) will scribble scary corrections all over my blog post in bright red and I will have to rewrite it.
Oh, wait – I have to *SELL* stuff now? eh – never mind, then. Sister did not prepare me for that.
@Naomi Niles, Carmina, Wapello, Deni, Mehul, Paul, GirlPaint: Thank you! (:
@Cory: Thanks! You can go one of two ways when writing to persuade. You can go logical or emotional. But since people make decisions based on emotion and only after the fact justify them with logic (I’m working on a post about that for my own blog, in fact) it’s more effective to write for the emotion.
@Ali: Hi there! Thank you! I pulled all those examples from the Copyblogger archives. And of course, because of the high quality of the writing here, I had to unboldify them to make the wishy-washy versions. (:
@Patsi: I’m flattered! Thanks very much, and I look forward to your post!
@Killer: Happy to share. (:
@Mary: Yes! *cheers*
@Hendy: I’m enjoying the comments here quite a bit. (:
@Shannon: Hey there, you! And thanks for the compliment. You know, this post was in my head from the editing Kyeli and I were doing on the Freak Revolution manifesto. It’s turning out to be quite bold indeed. (:
Timothy Johnson says
Fantastic post! Having just started my own blog about 24 hours ago, this kind of information is priceless. I’m sending anyone that I know to this one, it’s great.
I’m sure I’ll refer to it many, many times in the near future. Keep up the great work!
This is a great post! Especially for a new blogger myself. Thanks Pace!
@Timothy & Kiran: Thanks very much!
Hey pace you rock….
I am just starting my blog (well actually thinking..) and you just bought me… well I was indeed on the fence….. 🙂
I would love to go for this style….
lots of love….
Charles - Big Idea Blogger says
Thanks for the reminder! Here I am telling people to be bold when I’m being so un-bold myself. Gotta be more bold!
Jenny Pilley says
I read about your post on Patsi’s blog who advised we read this and I must admit she was right to do so. It’s a great way to inform people of what they may be doing wrong. I think it’s incredibly brave to entitle some of your blogs how you suggest, but it does get the attention and the readers you desire.
Igor Kheifets says
That’s an awesometastic piece of post.
Thanks, great read and even greater wisdom shared.
Rick Boretsky says
this ‘may’ be a great post, that I ‘might’ tell others about so that it will ‘maybe’ help them improve their bogging 🙂
Dan Boyle says
Truly bold words. It’s funny because I consciously try to be bold, but see myself being “conservative.”
I really like your examples because they help me open my mind to being a little bolder.
Thanks for the cool post!
The Rock says
Definitely agree, Pace. Well said.
How do you persuade the people you’re writing for to adopt that mentality? Too often, the editors or senior level people are nervous about offending others and start wordsmithing to make copy less bold.
My God, this is so ME! Something I struggle with every day. Thanks for the kick in the butt. Will rewrite my post for tomorrow (and the next couple of days) to be bolder.
@Ilyas: See, I was writing for the fence sitters, and I got you. Hooray! And lots of love back atcha.
@Charles: Go for it!
@Jenny: Yes! And it’s more likely to move people in addition to getting their attention.
@Igor: Thanks once for your compliment and thanks a second time for saying “Awesometastic”. (:
@Rick: *grin* (;
@Dan: Thanks, Dan! It’s definitely a skill that you can practice and learn!
@Rock: I’d attempt to persuade them by saying, “Let’s give it a shot and see what happens. I expect an increase in publicity and readership, and I’ll bet on it.”
Lydia, CluelessCrafter says
A lesson learned. When you write simply, you must be the greatest proponent of your ideas. When you write with extra word garbage, you’re hiding behind an insecurity.
Chun Kay says
Nice post. Be bold to make a difference! Learn a lot. Thanks!
Dang. I love it… The examples of the copy really made the post. Great job! I’d love to see more examples like that in the future.
@Jim: Thanks! Best of luck with your boldness!
@Lydia, Chun Kay: Thanks!
@Shaun: The examples were all taken from bold posts right here on Copyblogger, then I wishy-washified them to make the qualified or respectful versions. As for another example, I’ll wishy-washify your bold comment. (:
“That was a pretty good post. I liked it quite a bit. There were many things that I liked about it, but one of the best things about it was the examples of the copy. You did a good job, at least for your first Copyblogger post. If you have the time and it isn’t too much trouble, I’d enjoy seeing more examples like that in the future.”
How ’bout that? (:
Wonderful post. Absolutely fantastic. I can’t help but be bold and choose a firm position when I write – it’s the bolshy nature in me. But the advice about targeting the fence sitters rather than fighting with the naysayers is a particularly good point well made.
Cedric Solidon says
Wow, this is really a fantastic piece of advice, Mr. Smith. Oh wait, that’s still the respectful side of me talking.
I’m definitely printing this out to keep it handy when I’m writing copy.
You have my gratitude, sir! 😉
Pamela Slim says
With all due respect, you totally kick ass Pace.
Wonderful post, true and important for anyone who writes (all of us).
I will never sit on the fence with you sister, I am a true supporter.
Mike Schinkel says
Sorry @Pace but like @Venkat I have to be a dissenter.
While I concur the extremes result in poor writing, I find a complete lack of qualification useful in confirming the results of the Cornell study on Competence. Such writing comes across as either 1.) incompetent, 2.) dishonest, or 3.) just plain arrogant (albeit these three are often redundant.)
Of course I’ll readily admit I may be the only person in the world who thinks this way.
P.S. I don’t see writing with qualifications as an attempt to avoid “offending” the reader; I could care less about that. I see it as the writer acknowledging they are not omniscient. FWIW.
@Kimota: Thank you!
@Cedric: It’s Ms. Smith. (: And thanks for the compliment!
@Pam: Yay, happy to see you here! And thank you very much. (:
Coree Silvera says
Couldn’t agree with you more, Pace! It’s kind of funny because I know I tend to speak my mind quite openly offline but yet when I write I second guess myself and tend to tone it down so as not to offend….and you know what I get? B-O-R-I-N-G. Snoozefest.
I remember one of my very first posts I said I felt ‘retarded’ and this guy left a comment demanding I change that word because it was offensive. I made a few smart comments myself then wussed out & changed it. Someone once said, If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not doing it right. I kinda like that. 😉
@Mike: Hooray for bold dissent! And as is common with academic research, for every study, there is an equal and opposite study. (:
Tuesday Hall says
My favorite taskmaster, the great E. W. Strunk (“The Elements of Style”) would definitely approve! Boldness is the way to go. Always. Respectful writing doesn’t help carry the message.
Lydia, CluelessCrafter says
Alright, Pace, you challenged me to write boldly and for my new post I did. Yup, when we free ourselves from the shackles of doubt, we write with authority and truth.
Cedric Solidon says
@Pace: Ack, my bad. Anyhoo, great great post. And I mean it. 🙂
Lydia, CluelessCrafter says
@Pace: Loving the premise of your blog. FR, I’m all over it!
I write marketing materials (case studies, web content) for a design firm, and am trying to learn a more direct and compelling style that draws people in. Your piece was a fabulous starting point–lots of really good, concise examples.
@Coree: Loved the boldness post on your blog!
@Lydia: Yay! And well done on your bold new post!
@Cedric & Alan: Thank you kindly!
This is sort of the style I have adapted right from the get go.
I have to admit in the beginning of blogging days I was strict to being perfect…
Today, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. I write like if I am talking to a good friend. If they like me they will stick around. If they don’t …Adios.
You must make your blog your own.
Great post Pace,
This hit home. I’m a people pleaser, bold at heart, but not face to face. Now I understand why I love your posts.
As a blogger in training, this is the most valuable post I’ve read yet. Thanks.
Best. Article. Ever. (Maybe)
Johnny B. Truant says
Way late to the game on this one, but had missed it. ROCK ON, PACE. Wimp writing goes nowhere. Now I think… I THINK you may have had some experience writing posts that riled some people up. But I may be wrong about that.
Joanne Spruyt says
Great post, Pace. I loved it.
You really hit the nail on the head. In today’s society we crave bold. Qualified and Respectful writing receives more yawns than accolades.
Jen | affiliate marketing forum says
Great post! I’m still learning how to write boldly, so hopefully it will work fine. I just discovered copyblogger when a friend of mine forwarded one of your newsletter. This site is a gold mine for bloggers everywhere!
Thank you. You just gave me the license to stop being too nice all the time. I’ve always been “afraid to offend” my readers. Now I’m going to turn that around and see what “offending” them will bring me – feedback, ideas, criticisms … enlightenment.
Poh Nean says
Great Post! The examples you used are really awesome!
Rit Li says
Thank you for the great post.
Joe Thomas says
Holy Crap that is as insightful a post about improved blogging as I’ve ever seen.
Pace Smith says
Thanks, I’m flattered! (:
Artur N. says
This article is fantastic and really mind opening!
Brilliant mindset and concept. Thanks a lot!
Frank H says
Wholeheartedly agree upon review …. there is plenty of bland in the world.
Min M says
I want to write bold, natural copy just like this, and sound smarter at the end of it! Thanks for this!!
I’ve read through most of the comments, but one question I don’t see here is how to handle qualifiers when you have a legal team approving your work.
As a copywriter for a marketing firm, everything my team submits has to get legal approval before it goes live. We want to say “Start Saving with xyz” or “Save Now with xyz,” but these don’t pass legal without the qualifier “could.” They come back as “You Could Start Saving with xyz.”
“Cans” and “wills” get replaced with “coulds” and “mays.” They say we can’t guarantee anything for liability reasons. Almost all of the bold examples above would never have a chance of passing our legal approval system.
What advice for bold writing can you offer copywriters who work at companies that require legal approval on copy/content?
Thanks – I can stop extracting eggshell chips from my toes. Yup, great post!
Sonia Simone says
@Jen, I have faced that exact issue — I don’t believe there’s any remedy for it other than a senior executive sending a decision that failing to sell is a greater risk than the legal risks that are “solved” by a waffling marketing statement.
Accounting and Legal are both tremendously valuable functions within a company, but when they start *running* the company, you have problems.
If it was me, I’d look for some good, strong, bold copy written in comparable industries, bring them to the VP of Marketing and talk to him/her about this issue, and see if you can get some C-level support to at least be able to make bold statements in the headlines, then do any qualifiying in the copy.
Simple, yet insightful. I hadn’t realized how much of a handicap I’d been putting on myself.
I’ve started using a few of these techniques in email today and I’m already more confident about the response. 🙂
Kenny Rose says
Sucks writing for everybody. Your right. I am trying to please everybody. I cannot make a living in this space if I don’t please myself first. I have to start writing bold copy and really writing from my heart with the goal of converting readers into customers. After all that is why I am here. Thank you for waking me up.
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