The Ultimate Copywriting Checklist

by Charlie Cook


1. Using Headlines to Grab Attention!

80% of your eventual sales will come as a direct or indirect result of your headline. Why? Because 80% or your readers will either read on or go elsewhere on the strength of the headline alone. This goes for both online and printed media.

2. “Putting Quotes Around Your Headline Boosts Sales”

Just placing quotes around your headline will Increase sales by 20 to 50%.

3. Don’t Put a Period in Your Headline

A period denotes a full stop – and that also stops the readers momentum. However, question marks. exclamation points and three ellipses (…) are very acceptable. (See Next Point.)

4. Multiple Exclamation or Question Marks Are A No No!

One is plenty. As soon as someone sees a multiple “!!!” they’ll instantly think it’s BS.

5. KISS – Keeping It Short & Simple

If the headline is too lengthy, it probably won’t get read.

6. Please, Use Only One Major Point – Idea – Benefit -Promise – Fear

The headline is not the place to be a Jack of all Trades. Put in more than one thrust, and you’ll just confuse your audience.

7. Fancy Fonts Don’t Work

Fancy fonts are hard to read. Hard to read means lost sales.

8. Keeping Your Headline Between 16 to 24 Point Size is Optimal

Don’t go overboard in headline font size. Sure you want it to get noticed, but you don’t want to overwhelm your audience either!

9. Does Your Headline Offer A Specific Benefit To Read Further?

If not – toss it. It won’t generate much interest.

10. Adding Specifics Spikes Interest

“5,242 Satisfied Users Can’t Be Wrong!” Putting in a specific number adds credibility and interest to the message.

11. Is Your Headline Negative? If So – Can It Be Made Positive?

Sure, sometimes you have to go negative to make a point. But if at all possible, emphasizing a positive benefit will outperform focusing on a negative consequence.

12. Using Sub-Heads Will Underscore Your Main Headline

What’s a SUB-HEAD? It’s just what it sounds like – a smaller headline beneath the main one. (And sub-heads CAN have a period at the end.) Here’s a tongue-in-cheek example:

Uncover the shocking truth about health foods, exercise, and vitamins.

13. Color Counts – Making Your Colors Work For You

Make your headline even bolder by using a vibrant color. Red, maroon, very dark blue all work. Yellow, pink and light blue are no-no’s!

The Content Format

14. The Readability Factor – What Fonts You Use Does Make a Difference

The best fonts to use on the web are either Verdana or Ariel. These are easiest to recognize off a computer monitor. The next best are Georgia or Tahoma. Don’t use the default font for online content – which is usually Times New Roman. Times New Roman should be reserved for paper media only.

And please – make the font large enough to see! Not everyone has 20/10 vision – so using the equivalent of a 7.5 point font will only cause your visitor to squint, growl and leave. Font size should be a minimum of 10 point.

15. Italics – They’re Not Online Friendly

For Online Copy – Don’t! Italics are deuced hard to read off a computer monitor. Use them at your own peril. For paper media, use them sparingly.

16. Why Underlining May Not Be Wise

Again, for online content, steer away fro underlining words or phrases in your copy, unless it’s an active hyperlink. Exceptions can be made for underlining in made for underlining in headlines or sub-heads.

For a paper sales brochure or letter, use underlining sparingly to emphasize a major point.

17. Use Bolded Black, Red Or Maroon Font Color For Emphasizing Online Content

Your goal is to draw the eye and your reader’s attention to the important parts of your sales message.

NOTE! There’s a time when you SHOULDN’T USE RED FOR EMPHASIS. The time to use another color is when you mention cost. The price should never be in red! Try blue, or black, or hunter green instead.

18. Be Careful With Blue!

The blue receptors in the human eye are the fewest – meaning this color is the hardest to recognize and assimilate.

19. Break Your Copy Into Digestible Chunks

Nothing turns off a reader like a big, honking, never ending paragraph. If something looks too long or too tedious to read, it simply won’t get read.

20. Sentences Should Be About 10 Words Long

Avoid ones much longer than 18 words. More than 20 words? Go back to the drawing board – or break them up using commas or em-dashes. (Just like I did here!)

The Content Message

21. Problem, Agitation, Solution: The Three Basics of Persuasion

This formula is a proven winner. Basically you describe a problem (the one your target audience is experiencing), then get them all hot and bothered about why it’s making their life miserable, or at least less enjoyable. Then offer your solution – and cash those checks!

22. Writing at a 6th to 7th Grade Level To Increase Responses

Now hold your horses! If you think I mean talk down to your audience, you’re sadly mistaken. Do that and you can close up shop and go home. You’re aiming here to make your message understandable. The human mind can best and quickly comprehend messages aimed at a 6th grade level – connecting you with your audience

23. Watch Your Words! Keeping To Good Grammar

Making obvious grammatical errors makes you and your message look sloppy. Keep to the rules, unless you’re emulating the spoken word or local vernacular. For instance: “You’re Gonna Love This New Design!” would be acceptable.

“Your Gonna Love This New Design” isn’t.

This goes for punctuation as well. Learn the rules, and break them by choice and design – not ignorance.

24. Write To your Audience, Not to Yourself

If your copy doesn’t appeal to the person reading it by directing the message to them as often as possible – then forget about putting it on your site or on paper.

Write to your audience! Use the lingo that your visitors normally use. For example, if you’re selling sports shoes to teenagers – don’t go into how the darn things are made. Your audience couldn’t care less. The shoes aren’t “fine quality” they’re “rad.” They aren’t “great bargains” they’re “awesome buys.”

25. Use “YOU” and YOUR Sales Will Soar

When writing your sales message, talk about the prospect at least three times more often than you talk about yourself. This means use the “You” word, and tone down using the “I” word.

26. Tell Me a Story And I’ll Be All Eyes and Ears!

People love stories. If you can – start off with a short story, and you’ve got ’em hooked. Jump right in with facts and figures and you’ve got ’em lost.

27. When At All Possible – Write Using Contractions

“You Will” becomes “You’ll”
“Can Not becomes “Can’t”
“Will Not” becomes “Won’t”
“Is Not” becomes “Isn’t”

And so on …

EXCEPTION: In making a point for emphasis – sometimes the whole phrase is better. Such as: “YOU WILL BE SATISFIED!”


When you write about features you’re telling your prospect what the item or service does. Ho Hum. When you write about benefits – you’re explaining how your item or service will improve their life.

Stress Features – and your prospect will walk. Stress Benefits – and they’ll take out credit cards and buy.

For instance – you won’t sell a SUV to a soccer mom based upon engine size and horsepower. You’ll sell it on safety and carrying capacity. (You can fit the whole soccer team inside – with room for groceries. And the anti-locking break system will make sure you & the kids arrive home safe and sound.)

29. Being Active, Not Passive Brings Home the Bacon

When writing, try and use the active voice as much as possible. Here’s an example:

ACTIVE: This product will catapult your profits right through the roof.

PASSIVE: Your profits will be catapulted through the roof by using this product.

30. Keeping Your Eye on the Goal: Focus On Results

As you’re going through all the benefits your product is offering, focus on the “end results.”

It’s not a diet, it’s a thinner, trimmer body. It’s not a fountain pen, it’s a writing experience. It’s not a home business, it’s a way to escape the rat race and achieve financial security.

31. Use Strong Testimonials to Blast Those Sales Into The Moneysphere

By using strong testimonials, you can increase your sales by an astounding 250%!

If possible, show actual names & addresses. Always get permission before you post a testimonial. Don’t alter the testimonials, except to correct obvious spelling mistakes. Also – never make them up. That’s not only unethical, but illegal.

32. Show Me the Proof, And I’ll Buy

Put pictures of canceled checks, income statements, or other proof that your service will do as you claim. If it’s a product, put supporting evidence that it works. For your website, using a current date script implies everything is up to date and real.

33. Sprinkle with Facts To Augment Your Sales Message

Sprinkle your sales message with actual facts and figures. Here’s an example:

“165 million Americans get on the Internet every month. 135 million of those consumers go there to shop. How are your sales doing?”

34. AIDA – The Marketers Mantra

This is the grand formula for writing successful copy. AIDA stands for:

A – Attention (Awareness): Attract the customer’s attention

I – Interest: Raise customer interest by demonstrating advantages, benefits and features.

D – Desire: Convince prospects they want, desire and need the product or service you are offering.

A – Action: Tell the prospect what action they should do next – like purchasing your product!

Some have added another letter to this formula:


S – Satisfaction – Satisfy the customer after the sale so they become a steady source of repeat business.

35. Use Bullet Points to Highlight Lists

Have a long list of items? Then try breaking them up by using bullet points.

36. Use Pictures to Supplement (Not Supplant) the Content

Studies have shown that quality pictures or images of your product or service can increase your page views by up to 300%. They can also increase your wanted actions by 200% (link clicks, downloads, responses, signups, phone calls, whatever …) and increase the amount of time someone stays on your site by as much as 50%.

Pictures make a great supporting cast – but never make the mistake of using them as the lead actor.

37. Long vs. Short: Which is Better?

As long as you have something to say – long copy won’t adversely affect sales. In fact – it’ll more than likely improve them. The rule here is simple: Sales copy should be long enough to fully explain the product or service and the benefits in purchasing – and not one word more.

38. Using the “Barstool Technique” for Selling and Profit

When writing your copy, make believe you’re talking one on one with your prospect. Write like you’d talk to your buddy at the local watering hole, or to a close friend while sharing a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

39. I Feel Your Pain… Really!

This is known as empathy. If you can share a common trait or cause, this “I’ve been in your shoes” technique can be quite powerful. But to be powerful, it also has to be real. If not, you’ll just come across as a lying, insincere blowhard.

40. Give Them The Fish, Not the Line

Today, people are looking for ways to reduce stress, and to make their life easy – or at least easier. Your prospect doesn’t want you to teach them how to fish – they want you to deliver that fish to their door fully cleaned, cooked and ready to eat.

Put the emphasis on how your product or service will make your prospect’s daily grind go smoother – and hassle free.

41. Being Precise Makes More Money

You decide which is more enticing: “Lose that blubber faster than you’ve ever thought possible!”
“Drop 10 Pounds in 10 Days!”

Door number 2 will outperform its vague cousins every time. But … make sure you can back up your claims. Complete honesty is the best policy.

42. Meeting Objections Head On

In almost every service or product, there are bound to be at least a couple of objections your prospect can make. The price is too high, the wait is too long, the paperwork is too lengthy. Meet those objections head on, with reasons why your product or service is worth the extra cost, time or expense.

43. Curiosity Rocks! How to Instantly Generate Interest

Make your prospect curious, and you have them by their attention lapels. For instance:

“Do You Know The 7 Secrets To Great Sex?”
“Revealed: 8 Foolproof Methods to Conquer Insomnia”
“By This Time Next Month, Be $24,505 Richer!”

Directed at the proper target audience, these lead-ins would be virtual interest super-magnets.

44. Use Descriptive Action Verbs to Nail Down Sales

• Put The Swagger Back in Your Step!

• Hammer Out Credit Card Debt Now!

• Fend Off Debt Collectors Once and For All!

45. Imagine This … Painting Mind Pictures

Paint a vivid picture of what your prospects life will be like by using your product or service. Make it as real as possible, pressing all the hot buttons applicable to your audience.

“Just imagine where you’ll be six short months from now. Financially secure, never worrying about where the next dollar is coming from. Taking that long waited vacation, treating your wife to all the good things in life – that up until now you just couldn’t afford…”

46. It’s FREE! This Technique Never Goes Out of Style

It might sound hokey, but people love free stuff. If you can offer quality freebies just for looking or buying, by all means do so. Now, take notice of the word “quality.” If your free offer is perceived as junk, then your product or service won’t fare much better in your customer’s mind.

47. Reduce Anxiety or Buyers Remorse to Close the Deal

It’s ingrained and hard wired in most of us: Parting with the cash produces stress. Anything you can do to make that process go down easier is to your direct benefit. Offer a FREE trial or a FREE sample to overcome reluctance.

48. GUARANTEED! You Gotta Have One

If you’re selling a product, you all but have to offer a guarantee. If you’re selling online – no guarantee means no sale. Contrary to popular belief, a longer guarantee means less returns and more profits.

One technique that is working quite well is to offer a 110% return on the money invested if the product or service doesn’t meet the buyers expectations. While there will always be those who’ll try and take advantage of your offer, the increase in revenues more than makes up for it.

49. Including an ACT NOW! Limited Time Offer to Bolster Response

Put a deadline in the sales message. By acting now, the buyer will get x additional premiums, or x more months of service, or an upgrade to a higher class of membership. If you do have a fixed date deadline – don’t extend it. That makes you look like a liar. Buy now before December 31st means just that. On January 1st, they’ll have missed the boat.

50. Don’t Put Up Buying Barricades!

If you’ve done your job and got your prospect clamoring for your offer, don’t squash the sale by making it difficult to purchase. Make it crystal clear how to order. If online, pose your buying hyperlinks in an action orientated manner. For example:

Grab Your Future By The Tail Right Here!
Who Else Wants To Retire in Three Years!
Ready for those slim thighs and 6 pack abs?

51. Including a P.S. – It’s a Integral Part of Any Sales Message

After the headline and the initial paragraphs, this is one of the most read segments of any sales message! Make it strong and bold. One good idea is to add an extra benefit not before mentioned – or a consequence of delaying by not jumping in right away on your offer.

52. Redundancy Check – Cutting Out The Fluff and Filler

After writing your masterpiece, get out the red pencil. Go through every line and cut out any redundant words or sentences. If you’re not sure a word or phrase is necessary, it probably isn’t. For instance, the common word “that” is overused to the point of exhaustion. Cutting it out from a sentence usually makes no difference in how it reads – except for making it smoother.

53. Flow Control – How To Make Your Copy HUM! (And not Ho-Hum!)

After you’ve cut and revised, sit yourself down and read what you wrote ALOUD! Yes – aloud. Shoo away the dog and close the door if you feel self conscious. But speak every word as you read. Not only will you find umpteen mistakes that passed you by before, but here’s another good reason:

When speaking, if any phrases or sentences get you tongue tied, revise or eliminate them. They are just interrupting the sales message flow.

54. Keeping A “Swipe File” Will Keep You Current

Every day you probably come across dozens of sales pitches and messages. Some are notoriously bad. Some are works of persuasive art. Start saving the ones that pique your interest or have actually induced you to buy. Hey! If they were good enough to get your money, they must have something behind them.

Don’t plagiarize of course, but no one says you can’t borrow techniques, principles and styles and use them in your sales copy.

55. Never Stop Testing & Improving

What works for today may be tomorrow’s dog. There is always room for improvement, and testing your current copy (called the “control”) against newer versions will make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your sales message buck.

But remember: When changing or revising your message, do it one point at a time. Otherwise, you’ll never know what exactly produced the altered results.

(VALUE: $200)
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