Direct-Response Copywriting – Cursing Or No Cursing?

One of the most unique and effective things about direct-response copywriting is its conversational nature.

But sometimes people take this “conversational” informality, too far.

For instance, yesterday I was having a conversation with a client of mine. We were going over some of the details of their marketing campaign, including the copy they used. And what they shared with me was very revealing.

After about 30 seconds, I was able to pinpoint exactly what was going on, and why their promotion didn’t work. Since I suspect this client and his partner aren’t the only ones who are making this mistake, I figured I’d share it with you, too.

Now before I get into this more specifically, let me also share something with you about marketing, and about writing copy. The best copy is written in a specific “voice” that belongs to a real or perceived to be real person. It might be your voice… it might be the voice of one of your satisfied customers or clients… and it may even be a doctor or a scientist’s voice – or even the voice of one of your family members.

But regardless of whose voice it is, it’s very important that whatever you’re saying in your promotion, is consistent and congruent with the character that’s speaking. So for instance, if the promotion is from your “wife” and she’s talking to your prospects about how hard you’ve been working on creating this specific product, and then she suddenly starts talking in industry jargon’ this isn’t going to be believable. Your marketing in this case, won’t be very credible, and it’s not likely to be an effective selling formula you should use.

Consistency is important, so keep this in mind.

But now let’s get back to the effectiveness of “conversational” sales copy, and I’ll do this by using myself as an example. I grew up in an apartment housing project in the Bronx. And although I’ve left a lot of those habits, as well as the general thinking of the people who are raised there, behind me’ one thing I still have, is a potty mouth.

I curse – sometimes a lot. However, if you’ve ever heard me speak on a teleseminar or on stage, you’d never know this. And of course, I don’t curse around women and children. But get me in a crowd of guys’ or one on one in a comfortable atmosphere, and BAM! Like a sailor, it comes pouring out.

Keep this in mind for just a second, and now let’s get back to my client and his promotion that didn’t work. He starts telling me that in his sales letter he was really edgy. He was dropping f-bombs and cursing throughout the letter, to try and get his prospect’s attention and to make a point.

Let me say something about this. Over the last 10 years I have written several million words and sold probably a few times this amount in dollar value of goods and services – maybe more, who knows.

And I will tell you something you may find surprising, especially in light of what I just said a few moments ago about my potty mouth: I have never EVER used a curse word in any sales letter I’ve ever written, either for myself, or for a client.


The answer is simple. See, when it comes to spending money, your prospects are dead serious about what they’re doing. They want to know one thing, and one thing only: that you are 100% committed to making their experience a memorable one, and that you are as serious as they are, when it comes to their money.

They don’t care if you have a good sense of humor, and they don’t care how ballsy you are, and they certainly don’t want to hear foul language from someone they never even met before, especially someone who wants their money.

A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it in print.

So save the four-letter words for you and the boys when you’re having a few beers, but be a first-class act, ALWAYS, when it comes to your prospects. Direct-response copywriting should be “real,” but not real loud… or real cheesy.

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