This week’s guest contributor is a founder and editor of www.GoodNewsGirlz.com, an online lifestyle magazine.
Judy Dedmon Coyle
In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey comes off as an average woman to whom stunningly above average things have happened. Whether it’s being slashed across the face in the alley behind her house when she was five or winning seven Emmy awards for her TV show 30 Rock, Ms. Fey describes herself as ordinary and the events as extraordinary.
The first part of the book, with its riffs on menstruation and growing up with gay friends, staggers around, funny but unanchored—a stand up routine when I expected a memoir. The pace picks up when she gets to the Second City and Saturday Night Live sections. Ms. Fey pulls clever and insightful life strategies from her encounters with everyone from YMCA personnel to NBC executives. Background information on life at SNL and the real story of the Sarah Palin/Hilary Clinton skits with Amy Poehler run alongside stories of breastfeeding and Peter Pan themed birthday parties.
It’s a quick read with some lines that cracked me up, but Bossypants is more than just entertainment, more than just her take on management: This is Ms. Fey’s call for equality. Her examples are funny, of course, but she’s serious when she takes on the boy’s club attitudes of improv troupes or ramblings of misguided high school teachers.
If you’re a Tina Fey fan who wants to know more about the star, an aspiring actor who wants tips on getting ahead in the biz, or a manager who wants to learn to laugh about the crazies you supervise, this book is for you. If you’re someone with an extra hour or two and want a good laugh, this book is for you too. I read the book, but understand that the audio book read by Ms. Fey is a special treat.
Today, with texting and iChat being accessible to kids of all ages, are full words and punctuation losing their touch?
In the third grade, my dad granted my one and only wish: an AOL account. Instantly, I was able to e-mail, surf the Internet, and best of all, exchange instant messages with my friends. His only requirement was that I learn to type correctly- you know, left hand on “ASDF” and right hand on “JKL;”. After a month of Mavis Beacon typing lessons on my own, I was ready. In just a few minutes, I became Rachelkool@aol.com. By 7th grade, I was the fastest typist in my multimedia class, and everyone wanted to know where I’d acquired my superhuman skills.
In learning to put my fingers on the right keys, I learned to type using all of the letters for words like “you” and “are”. I gained an understanding that “great” isn’t spelled “gr8”.
Yes… on Facebook and Twitter we take these shortcuts. The problem is that in English classes and when it comes to ten page papers, Webster’s Dictionary still reigns supreme. Despite the ease with which we can text a “c u l8r” or a “ttyl”, the art of spelling is not and should not be ignored. Learning to write properly is a necessity for obtaining jobs, getting accepted into higher educational institutions, and being perceived as an intelligent and well-spoken individual. And I’m in my early twenties – in the very generation that cultivated this computer sign language.
There’s a time and a place for abbreviated speech, and it’s outside the classroom and the work place.
No – I am not proposing that you begin to embrace direct marketing as your way to grow your business.
No – I am not going to tell you how to write one of those mass junk mail letters with lots of miniature paragraphs.
BUT – Yes – I am going to tell you about some powerful writing concepts that will increase your chances that action will be taken after reading what you’ve written.
Recently I attended a writing conference. Isn’t it funny that sometimes you gain as much during the networking breaks as you do from the course itself? While chatting with a fellow speaker, she suggested that I buy Yanik Silver’s book, “Ultimate Sales Letter Tool Box”. These concepts on power writing are from Silver’s book. To find out more, click on SurefireMarketing.com.
CONCEPT #1: Your Opener
This is the toughest part of any letter. The first few lines make people read on, or toss it into that special round-shaped filing cabinet on the floor. You want to compel people to keep reading. Yanik Silver comments that’s why good copywriters cross out their first paragraph or two and start from there. That’s because when most people begin writing, it takes a few paragraphs to warm up.
Some excellent ways to begin a letter are the same techniques I tell clients how to start a presentation. You want to gain your reader/audience’s attention. Here’s how: Begin with a quote, or startling piece of data, a question, or a story. Or you can hint to the benefits your reader will get from reading your letter. (See the beginning of this article.)
Example openers that will make people want to read more:
Imagine, for a moment, that it’s 6 months from today…
Would you do us a favor? You have been specially selected to participate in an important survey about the Smith Dental Practice…
Please take a minute from your busy schedule and read this letter… I promise you will not regret it…
Let me make a prediction…
You’ve got enough people trying to waste your time with things you don’t really want or need. I’m not one of those people…
This letter is going to be short and to the point. We don’t want to make a big thing of it. Not yet anyway…
Just a few weeks ago I returned from the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration annual meeting. Maybe you’ve heard about this group. Anyway, if you didn’t get to attend, let me tell you…
CONCEPT #2: Your Closer
According to Silver, your letter close is almost your last shot at persuading your patient to take action. Don’t just end with your phone number hoping they’ll pick up the telephone and call you to make that appointment to do a total mouth reconstruction. You have to lead people by the hand and tell them to take some action, like make the appointment, fill out the questionnaire, or send referrals your way.
End with examples like these:
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Please click on SmithDentalPractice.com to see dramatic before/after photos.
So what are you waiting for? Drop the enclosed card in the mail today.
I could go on and on with stories like these, but here’s the point: You need to prove to yourself that you can experience your own personal miracle.
I urge you to take action today. Pick up the phone and call for your next appointment.
CONCEPT #3: Your Bullets
Bullets are one of the most powerful persuaders in a letter. The same philosophy applies to a presentation. All too often I evaluate a presentation that has miles of power point visuals filled with paragraphs of information. The audience gets numbed to death with data. Plus it causes confusion and lack of clarity for your listeners. Similarly, in a letter, use more bullets and fewer paragraphs. It’s easier to read, easier to digest, and easier to remember.
Silver suggests that you think of bullets as “mini-headlines”. Here are some of Silver’s bullet templates:
An easy 3-step system for…
Easy cure for…
The secret of…
7 new ways to get…
How supermodels maintain their smiles…
Think about your opener, your closer, and your bullets when typing your next letter or email. Ask yourself if YOU would continue reading what you’ve just put on paper or in a word document. Good luck writing letters that make your patients take action!
Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S.
P.S. Believe it or not, your P.S. is usually the second most read part of your letter. So, don’t make it an afterthought. A powerful P.S. can double or triple your response.
Some compelling P.S.s that make readers do something:
P.S. Thanks so much for reading my blog, and, please, I need your feedback within 10 days.
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