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17 Ways To Increase Your Marketing Material's Readership And Response

by Trey Ryder

TIP #1: Make sure your headlines are large and bold. You donít want them so large that they appear awkward, but large, bold lettering attracts your readerís attention and directs his eyes to the beginning of your message.

TIP #2: Use subheads to draw readers through your copy. Many people scan subheads to get an overview of the contents. If you promise a benefit in each subhead, your reader will conclude that he stands to reap so many benefits that he must read your article or brochure.

TIP #3: Choose type faces that are easy to read. Make sure you use common, everyday styles that look like those used in newspaper and magazine articles. Avoid fancy type. Avoid scripts. Avoid too many italics. Serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif fonts. You should always use serif fonts for paragraph copy because sans serif fonts cause your readerís eyes to tire quickly. If you use sans serif fonts at all, limit their use to headlines and subheads.

TIP #4: Donít use painfully small type. As I get older, I find small type really annoying. First, I have to find my glasses. Then I have to find the small type again. And then, when I finally read it, I usually learn it wasnít worth the trouble. Many artists use small type because itís supposed to be elegant and stylish. How can anything be elegant or stylish when itís too small to read!

TIP #5: Donít put big spaces between letters. Another technique popular with artists is to put space between the letters within a single word. This is supposed to make the wording look upscale and sophisticated. What it really does is (1) make the words hard to read, and (2) make me wonder who paid money to an artist to create words that are hard to read. If your words are hard to read, most people wonít read them. As a result, youíve lost the opportunity to deliver your marketing message.

TIP #6: Use reverse type sparingly. Type that is said to be ďreversedĒ or ďreversed outĒ is lettering that is surrounded by an area of solid ink, where the letters themselves are actually the paper showing through. Youíre safe using reverse type for headlines and sub-heads if you use it to emphasize only a few words. But do not use reverse type for paragraph copy because it quickly tires your readerís eyes.

TIP #7: Donít use more than two different typefaces in a document. (Bold and italic variations of the basic type font do not count as different type faces.) If you limit yourself to no more than two fonts, you avoid a clash of faces that donít look good together.

TIP #8: Donít let lines create obstacles for your words. Writers often insert a single line to make their layouts more attractive. The problem is, while the lines are intended to look nice, writers often put lines where they change the visual flow of the page. Last night, I was reading a magazine article that contained a horizontal line across the middle of the page. When I reached the line, I went to the top of the next column and continued reading. But the words didnít match. I was supposed to jump over the line and continue reading below it in the same column. The line obstructed the copy, sent me in the wrong direction, and broke my concentration, so I stopped reading and turned the page.

TIP #9: Set key paragraphs and important words in bold or italic type so they stand out from the rest of the copy. Indenting key paragraphs from both the left and right margins is another way to draw attention to the paragraph.

TIP #10: Justify type to create the appearance you want. For a friendly, informal appearance, use left-justified type with a ragged right. For a more formal appearance, use fully justified type. Full justification gives you the added advantage of allowing you to squeeze more words into the same space. If you fully justify, proofread the copy to make sure your lines look natural. If you see a line where the letters are stretched so far apart that they look awkward, see if you can hyphenate the first word on the following line. This results in the first one or two syllables of that word returning to the previous line so they take up the extra space.

TIP #11: Use an indented column of bullets to emphasize important points. If you have a series of points you want to make, stack them in a left-justified vertical column and put a bullet or another symbol at the beginning of each point. The value of bullet points is in their straight, vertical appearance. Donít center the column of bullet points because when the bullets are not in a vertical row, you lose the bulletsí value.

TIP #12: Vary paragraph lengths so your copy looks interesting. When your lines of copy go all the way across a page, try to limit your paragraphs to no more than seven lines. Not seven sentences, but seven lines. For brochure- and article-copy, use two or three columns on each 8.5Ē x 11Ē page. This works well because people are accustomed to reading newspaper columns, which are fairly narrow.

TIP #13: Put a double space (one extra return) between paragraphs so they are separated by a line of white space. The white space makes the paragraphs look less threatening.

TIP #14: Break pages at mid-sentence so you encourage people to continue reading on the next page. Most people cannot stop reading in the middle of a sentence.

TIP #15: Write in lists rather than paragraphs. Many people shy away from reading paragraphs because they look like large, foreboding blocks of copy. But people like reading itemized lists because they seem quick and easy to read.

TIP #16: Make sure your layout flows smoothly from upper left to lower right. This should be easy if your message is solid copy because people read from left to right, top to bottom. But things can get tricky when you include photos, illustrations, sidebars and other graphic elements. Donít include anything that blocks the visual flow. This allows your reader to easily follow your message from beginning to end. For example, in display ads, the coupon, phone numbers or other calls to action should always be at the bottom, right-hand corner because this is where the readersí eyes stop after reading the ad.

TIP #17: Develop your own graphic style and use it in all your written materials. The repeated impact of your format, even with different content, can as much as double your materialís recognition and response.