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One word which makes all the difference

By Mel Henson 09 Sep, 2011
Essential

How changing one word can help you win more sales

The other day I was speaking at a workshop organized by Royal Mail. After my talk, the chairperson asked ‘What is the one thing that you will do differently when you go back to the office’.

When the people in the room gave their answers, almost every third person said the same thing. They all intended to change one single word in their copy because they were convinced that doing so would improve sales instantly.

I was pleased they had picked up this tip from my talk since the correct use of this particular word is very powerful. It’s also extremely simple, so anyone can do it to their own copy, right now.

I described it as ‘changing’ one word, but in fact, it’s even easier than that, because all you do is delete it.

And the word is….

But what is the word? Here’s a clue.

Here’s the lovely Kate with the charming Will by her side.


Here she is again on her own. And look, she’s going shopping


In other words, if you want your customers to get buying, like Kate, you need to get rid of ‘will’. Here’s how it works in copy. Here are some typical advertising copy sentences using the word will:

Kids will love the fruity taste
These shoes will have your dancing feet tapping
Your room will have a true daylight feel with this new light bulb.

Simply by removing the word ‘will’any of the sentences become much more powerful eg:

Kids love the fruity taste.
These shoes get your dancing feet tapping
Your room has a true daylight feel with this new light bulb.

Removing ‘Will’ puts customers into the present

The reason why this works is because it puts the customer into the present moment.
By writing the sentence without the word ‘will’ it helps the customer imagine themselves actually using the product in the here and now. The subconscious brain cannot distinguish between reality and strong visual images. If you write in a way that helps the customer imagine they are experiencing the product it makes them more likely to buy.

It’s the verbal equivalent of a salesman in a store helping you into a jacket or placing a bracelet over your wrist. They know that the more you have connected with the product the more likely you are to buy it.

It’s also how people talk to each other in real life. Some while back, I was in looking at ice cream scoops and I asked the shop assistant for advice. She said, ‘This is a good one because the sharp edge here really digs into the ice cream’. As she said it, she even made a scooping motion into an imaginary tub. She didn’t give a vague, half-hearted promise of some future benefit by saying, ‘This one will really dig into the ice cream’

There are other ways to achieve the ‘No Will’ effect

Of course, removing the word ‘will’ is only one way to achieve this powerful connection with the customer. There are other techniques. A sentence such as

“This cushion will brighten any room”

could be re-written as

“This cushion brightens any room”.

but is even more effective re-written as

‘Brighten any room with this pure silk cushion’.

The last re-write achieves the same effect of putting the reader firmly in the present moment. It also uses another effective technique which is to start the copy with an active, benefit-conveying word. It grabs the reader’s attention far more than a passive, limp starter word like ‘This’.

The only safe way to get rid of ‘Will’ is to edit

Although it sounds very simple to cut the word ‘will’ out of your writing, it’s a lot harder to do in practice. It’s natural to be very literal. The customer has to purchase the product, take it home and use it at some future date. If you’re not careful, your writing reflects that path, rather than focusing on the key objective of creating emotional reasons to buy.

Even now when I’ve been writing copy for more than fifteen years, I often find the word ‘will’ creeping into my work. The trick is to be aware, look out for any use of the ‘future promise’ in draft copy, and edit it into ‘present experience’ before it’s put in front of any potential customers.

By Mel Henson

Mel is an author, consultant and copywriter specialising in ecommerce websites and retail catalogues. She is the founder of copywriting agency Words that Sell, and Head of Creative at AWA digital an international conversion rate optimisation agency. You can follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn

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