(Open) The Envelope, Please!

The secret motives that will drive people to open your direct mail package

For most folks, a trip to the mailbox is filled with emotion and expectation—both good and bad. They’re hoping there won’t be a delinquency notice or some other bad news. They might be expecting a check or some other thing of value. They might even be hoping to find a letter from a family member (probably not).

In any case, they know they’ll have to sort through lots of clever offers and solicitations—the junk mail—to get to the important stuff.

So, in the midst of all the noise and distraction, how do you get someone to take note of your mailing—and actually open it?

You already know the answer, because the factors that motivate them are the same ones that motivate you.

Here they are:

Familiarity. If a person is already accustomed to interacting with your organization, congratulations, you’re in! They’ll probably take the time to at least look at what you’ve sent them.

Now, just don’t blow it by:

  • Offending them
  • Boring them
  • Letting them think they’re looking at something they’ve already seen

That last part is tricky, because you want to present a consistent brand image while conveying that this mailer is something completely new—so they’d better read it. That’s where a good envelope teaser comes in. Give them a hint of the compelling news that’s inside. Make it irresistible.

Expectation of benefit. This is also tricky, because people are jaded. They’ve seen all the free cruises and exclusive dinner invitations—and they know there’s a sales pitch hiding in there. I don’t even bother opening those mailers anymore. Do you? But I’ll tell you what gets me every time—personalized address labels. I know I’ll use them, so I open the envelope. And I’ll usually read at least part of the letter. Give your prospects something of immediate value—even if it’s only a small value. They’ll open the letter. The rest depends on your amazing offer.

Fear. “FINAL NOTICE!” Does that get your attention? It might be your last chance to take advantage of a great offer—or it could be from a creditor about to file a lien against your home. Either way, it might just be scary enough to make you open the envelope. On the other hand, when you find out it’s just another pitch, you’re liable to get angry and toss it. The envelope that’s designed to look like an official government document can provoke the same response. But fear is, and always will be, a strong motivator. You’ll have to decide whether it’s the right one for your product.

Curiosity. The blank envelope. You know it’s probably just another sales pitch. But you can’t be sure. So you open it.

Or, the envelope with an intriguing teaser. It piques your interest just enough to rip it open and see what it’s all about. After all, it will only take a few seconds …

Both approaches can work—or not.

To tease, or not to tease?

That is the question. Fundraising expert Gifford Claiborne says, “There’s a lot of research that says just a blank envelope will out-pull one with teaser copy.” He should know. He’s been testing this stuff with nonprofit mailings for about 50 years.

Stephen Hitchcock addresses the same issue in his book, Open Immediately: Straight Talk on Direct Mail Fundraising—What Works, What Doesn’t and Why. And as the title promises, his take is straightforward:

Most teasers are about as useful as an 8-track tape—without an 8-track player. That’s because a lot of organizations keep forgetting how intelligent and sophisticated donors are. If they’ve heard about your organization or if your organization’s name sounds like something they’re interested in, then donors open your envelope. Absent those factors, no amount of screaming or no degree of cuteness will save your package from the recycling bin.

There’s that familiarity factor again. It doesn’t offer much hope for organizations seeking to acquire new donors or customers.

But then Hitchcock follows with a caveat:

Of course, there are exceptions.

A truly creative or brilliant teaser—one tied forcefully to the central concept in the letter—can sometimes work well. That’s especially the case if there is a true crisis or emergency about your appeal.

Hitchcock also notes another interesting discovery from his own testing:

Membership or annual renewal notices appear to generate a higher response when the renewal process is telegraphed on the outer envelope.

That makes sense. We’re all programmed to be on the alert for expired memberships. No one wants to call the Auto Club for roadside assistance—only to find out their membership expired last month.

Here’s a good test for any mailing—one that’s easily overlooked. Imagine that you’ve just found the letter in your mailbox. Do you open it, or not? If you wouldn’t, why would you expect anyone else to?

Make sure you’re appealing to one of the motivators mentioned above: familiarity, expectation of benefit, fear, or curiosity. Then, once you’ve got their attention, hit them with an offer they can’t refuse.

Here’s to your successful direct mail campaigns.

# # #

All that Pesky Punctuation

How a bunch of dots and squiggles can sink or save your written copy

I had just created a nice webpage for my boss, complete with some hard-hitting bullet points. He printed a screenshot of it and later came over to congratulate me.

But when I looked at the printout I saw a bunch of places circled in red.


“You put a period after some of the bullet points, but not others,” he pointed out. “Shouldn’t we be consistent?”

Of course, he was right. In creating my amazing work of copywriting genius I hadn’t paid attention to the punctuation—or lack of it—in my bullet points. But he noticed it. I should have, too.

So, what are the rules of punctuation for a copywriter, anyway?

In school, most of us learned rules to give our sentences proper form and clarity. But in copywriting, we’re encouraged to throw the rules out.

Well, maybe not all of them. But our objective is different, so the rules are different. For copywriters, every keystroke is meant to keep the reader interested and ultimately motivate her to act. In that light, the words matter—but the periods, commas, dashes and exclamation points do, too.

Punctuation is like a road sign. It can subtly signal the reader to:

  • Stop (period, paragraph)
  • Keep going (comma, ellipsis)
  • Watch for something important coming up (colon, ellipsis)

We usually don’t want the reader to stop. But sometimes we need him to focus on a particular word. Or phrase. So we put a period on it. Even if it’s not a complete sentence.

We might even give it its own paragraph for special emphasis.

That’s one way of using punctuation to keep the reader engaged. There are more.

What’s an ellipsis, anyway?

In normal writing, the ellipsis (…) indicates that something has been omitted:

“Oh say, can you see … what so proudly we hailed …”

Or, it can signal a pause:

“Well, I don’t know …” He stared out the window for a long minute. “… Maybe so.”

But copywriters can use an ellipsis at the end of a paragraph to tell readers that the thought is not finished …

There’s more coming …

So, they should keep reading …

I’ll also use the ellipsis at the end of email subject lines—because I want readers to feel they must open the email to finish the sentence. A cheap trick? Sure. But it works.

What about those dashes?

The em-dash is a good way to separate a thought within a sentence. (It’s called an em-dash because it’s the same width as the letter M. Now you know.) It can serve the same function as a comma setting off a phrase or subordinate clause—but it’s more dramatic. And I always want drama in my writing.

Nowadays the em-dash is often used instead of the stuffy, old-fashioned colon:

Rutabagas—they’re good for you.

I also like the em-dash because it mimics the way people actually talk:

I paid less than wholesale—by the way, you could probably get the same deal—so anyway, it was worth it.

(And parentheses?)

Direct mail wizard Denny Hatch addresses these things in his timeless book, Write Everything Right.  According to Denny, parentheses create distance, so they should be used carefully. They’re helpful when you want to downplay something:

(Individual results may vary.)

But they can also convey exclusivity:

“Original issue price (for our preferred members) just $99.50”

I like to use parentheses to convey a sense of confidentiality: (Pssst—what you’re reading now is private!) That can increase the reader’s involvement.

But all this comes with a warning …

Stop, already

Needless to say, all these critters can be overused. And then, instead of prodding the reader to keep going, you’re just annoying him. (Personal confession: Along with commas and colons, I tend to overuse the em-dash—as you’ve noticed. So I have to discipline myself to avoid that. Discipline—that’s the thing!)

Other overused devices:

“Quotation marks.” In general, don’t use them. Unless you’re actually, you know, quoting somebody.

Exclamation marks!!! They’re reserved for real exclamations:

My hair’s on fire!

Your hair’s on fire!

Walmart has women’s flip-flops at 50 percent off!

And never use more than one. Readers will get the point. No one likes to be shouted at.

So, learn the rules. And then throw them out. Or rather, use them shrewdly. Strategically. Effectively.

Oh, yes—what is the rule for punctuating bullet points? I’ve never found a style guide for this so I just apply what I learned in sixth-grade English class: If it’s a complete sentence, use a period. If it’s not, don’t.

Simple, right?

# # #

The Waterslide Effect

How to make sure they read your copy
 all the way to the end

Picture yourself at one of those big waterslides—the kind you find at a summer amusement park.

You’re at the top, looking down, not sure you really want to do this. But there’s a bronzed and brawny teenaged attendant standing there waiting for you to make up your mind. So you go.

Fear turns to exhilaration as you plunge helplessly down a slippery chute, careening this way and that. As you speed downward, you find yourself smiling. Then chuckling. Then laughing out loud.

And then, sploosh! You’re dumped unceremoniously into a big pool.

Soaked and shaken, you gather your dignity and stagger toward the steps. And you have to admit—that was fun!

That’s what good written copy is like. The reader might hesitate at first, but once she starts, she finds it impossible to stop. And to her surprise, she finds herself enjoying the ride. Then suddenly, she’s at the end. That’s when you present your call to action—asking her to mail a check, click the box, visit the landing page, enter her credit card info, or whatever you’re hoping she’ll do.

But she’ll never do it if she gets bored or distracted halfway through.

So, how do you make your reader’s journey as fun and effortless as a ride down a waterslide?

Well, first, focus on that word fun. No one wants to read something dreary and tedious. We had enough of that in school. There, we read boring stuff because we had to. But no one has to read your copy. They can just as easily put it aside and go check their email or turn on the TV. So respect their freedom to choose, and make your piece irresistible. Try to keep it light and lively. Use short sentences. Make it fun.

Of course, if you’re highlighting the plight of hungry children in Bangladesh, fun doesn’t work. So, how about gripping? Captivating? Heartrending? You can do that.

The next adjective to notice is effortless. The waterslide experience is appealing because you don’t have to do anything but sit down. The slide takes you from there. In the same way, once you start reading good copy, finishing it is easy. You’re skeptical at first. You tell yourself you’ll just read the first sentence or two, to find out what it’s all about. After all, you’ve got a thousand other concerns vying for your attention. And then, to your surprise, you find yourself plunging farther and farther down the page. Before you know it, you’ve read the whole thing. And you’re entertaining a proposition you never would have considered before.

That’s where the power of a good story comes in. We all love stories. They capture our attention, even when we don’t want them to. You doubt that? Think of those tabloids at the supermarket checkout stand. They’re filled with stories—sordid, tragic, lurid, unbelievable stories. And no matter how we try to ignore them, they draw us in, at least for a few seconds till it’s our turn to check out.

Tell your reader a good story. It doesn’t have to be lurid or sensational. But it must be compelling. And it must have a human face. A story told in the first person is ideal. But as long as it’s human, dramatic and personal, people will be attracted.

And that brings us to the end—literally. You made it all the way through, didn’t you?

Congratulations. You’ve absorbed the first principle of good copy.

# # #

My secret to success: Strive to be the dumbest person in the room

Elderly man at keyboard

One of my passions is playing jazz guitar.

Bill Ireland Group 1985

I never quite made a living at it, but at times I’ve had the privilege of playing with some really great musicians. And in those moments, something amazing happened—I played better. Sometimes way better.

Instead of making me feel inferior, their skill and creativity brought out the best in me.

That’s what great musicians—and great people—do. And that’s why they’re the best folks to work with. They’ve already found their own niche, so they can afford to be gracious. They’re not threatened by the talent of others—in fact, they have a knack for recognizing it and drawing it out. They know that good ideas can come from anywhere, so they’re exceptionally open-minded.

This explains why people at the top of their game can be the easiest—and most fun—to collaborate with.

By contrast, it’s easy to spot folks who are insecure in their roles. They buy into the conventional worldly wisdom—that to succeed they must strut their stuff, make their mark, toot their own horn, make people notice them, etc. That approach sounds right, but it can boomerang and create the opposite result.

We’re all familiar with the loudmouth who always needs to be the smartest person in the room—and let everyone know it. Who wants to work with someone like that? His colleagues may nod and smile, but then they’ll secretly do all they can to avoid him.

That experience I had as a musician also applies to my business as a copywriter. I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am (It’s not that hard to do). And nowadays I work with a lot of young folks who weren’t born yet when I started my career. Their talent and skill continually amaze me. I ride on their genius, relying on their sharp wits and savvy ideas. And I always come out looking better for it.

sun and clouds

There’s another obvious benefit: By hanging around with people who are better/smarter/more accomplished, you’re steadily ascending to ever-higher levels.

You just have to be willing to be the low person for a while—a small price to pay. You’ll discover that collaborating with the most talented people can yield amazing results.

Ronald Reagan was fond of an old saying, which he quoted often in his speeches: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” Those words eventually wound up on a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office, so they apparently served him well.

As King Solomon said, “He who walks with the wise grows wise” (Proverbs 13:20). So, learn to excel—by being the dumbest person in the room. You’ll grow smarter. And you’ll accomplish more than you could have imagined.

# # #

Society’s Unsung Heroes: Salespeople!


Yes, you read that right.

I know what you’re thinking. Are you kidding? I hate salespeople! They bug me, day and night. They’re constantly at my door, in my TV, on my phone, in my email! Aaagghh!

True enough. But maybe your perspective would change if you had to work as a salesperson. It’s a tough business. It’s not glamorous—unless maybe you’re selling cosmetics to celebrities. But probably not even then.

I have a friend who sells Ferraris to people in Beverly Hills. One day I heard him complain, “I’m barely making minimum wage!” Because, you see, a salesman only gets paid when he, you know, closes a sale. The rest of the time it’s all work and no pay.

But here’s the thing. It’s salespeople who make our economy work. Not big-shot executives. Not factory line workers. Not even the consumers who buy stuff. Because they wouldn’t be buying a product unless someone somewhere had sold them on it.

There’s an old saying: Nothing happens until somebody sells something. It was true then. It’s true now. Think of the telephone, the motorcar, the computer, and my personal favorite—the flush toilet. They’d all be quaint curiosities gathering dust in a dark storeroom if someone hadn’t sold the public on their amazing benefits. And without that where would we be? Riding horses, communicating by letter, and tiptoeing outside in the middle of the night to a cold, disgusting outhouse.

Yes, you say, old-fashioned selling was useful once. But we’re more sophisticated than that now. Modern advertising takes the place of crude salesmanship.

The fathers of modern advertising would disagree. They knew better. As Claude Hopkins wrote in his classic book, Scientific Advertising:

Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Success and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards.

David Ogilvy, another advertising legend, put it even more bluntly in his famous slogan, “We sell or else.”

Here’s another bombshell to rock your world: Salesmanship promotes virtue.

How? In several ways.

If you’ve ever had to sell something, you know it takes courage. You face a steady barrage of rejection, ridicule, hostility, sometimes even the threat of violence (Get away from my door before I get my shotgun, you dang huckster!).

But you keep at it, because you have to. That leads to another virtue—persistence. You know you may only get one sale for every hundred encounters. So you patiently slog through 99 fruitless sales pitches. Only then do you get your reward—a single sale.

Here’s another virtue that salesmanship teaches—selfless service to others.

How could that be? Well, to sell anything you must consider the customer’s needs and find an effective way to meet them. The customer doesn’t care about your problems. Your late mortgage, your toothache, your troubled children—all are irrelevant. To sell, you must focus on the other person, empathize with her problems and help her solve them.

So, the next time someone intrudes on your space to sell you a magazine subscription, a solar panel, a software program, a cruise, a business service, a home renovation, or a phone plan—feel free to turn them away. But do it gently. They’re keeping the world spinning in their own little way.

# # #

7 Reasons Your Business Should Be Using Freelance Writers—Now


“We don’t really use freelancers.” I hear that sometimes from marketing and creative directors.

Of course, it’s a knee-jerk objection to what they perceive as a sales pitch.

I understand. I do the same thing myself. “No, I’m not a candidate for your solar panels.” “No, I’m not interested in your software that will revolutionize my business.” You know how it goes. Sometimes I feel like I spend half my day turning away vendors.

But the we-don’t-use-freelancers line is pretty easy to knock down. First of all, it’s probably not true. Most companies will call a freelancer if they’re in a pinch. And then they have to go through their list (if they have one) and find someone who can handle the job—and whom they haven’t already blown off.

But why let things get to that point? Here are seven reasons for a healthy business to use freelance copywriters—now, not just when a crisis hits.

  1. Cost. When things get busy, businesses start thinking they need to hire a writer. But once you factor in the cost of health benefits, payroll expenses, sick time, paid vacations, holidays, etc., full-time employees are really expensive. And what happens when business slows down again? That now-full-time staffer is spending time schmoozing with the other employees, pretending to be busy—and drawing the same paycheck week after week. Savvy business people know all this, and use “contractors” as much as possible—often to the point of abuse. But using a genuine freelance contractor is a no-sweat way to get the job done without entanglements. Let the freelancer worry about the vacations and health insurance.
  2. Overflow. Your poor staff writer is already overloaded—and now you’re going to give her one more assignment? That’s a recipe for stress, bad performance, resentment and disappointment. Give the kid a break. Bring in some help.
  3. Emergencies. Yes, it’s still okay to call in the cavalry when disaster is looming. Here’s a secret—we freelancers are accustomed to working by the seat of our pants. Some of us even thrive on emergencies. So when you need it done now, do you really want to rely on your loyal-but-plodding staff? Call someone who’ll welcome the stress and get it done when you need it.
  4. A New Voice. Even the best writers have a limited repertoire. When your marketing messages always sound the same, prospects may tune you out. And that’s a killer. You need a different voice.
  5. Versatility. You may have writers who are good at certain things but not others. Few people are excellent at sales letters, white papers, press releases, articles, social media and blogs too. A freelancer who specializes in some of those areas could be just the thing to round out your efforts.
  6. You’re Not Getting It Done. If writing isn’t part of what your organization sells, you probably have a lot of marketing tasks sitting unfinished. You know you should finish that brochure, update your website, and get into that social media thing. But you simply don’t have the time. You really need a writer’s help—but probably not full-time. Voila! a freelancer can solve your problem.
  7. A Fresh Perspective. This is the most important point. You may be too close to your work to appreciate its unique features. It’s hard to see something with fresh eyes when you’ve been wrangling it for years. But it’s probably all new to your prospects. You need someone who can spot those delightful things you’ve forgotten about—and present them to the public with real enthusiasm.

# # #

What Makes a Good Quote?



Let’s say you’re writing something that calls for input from outside sources—testimonials, expert opinions, statements from important people. So you conduct some interviews and end up with a ton of material. How do you choose what to use?

For journalists, a good quote might be one that conveys hard information—the who, what, where, when and why of the story—with at least some human feeling attached.

But for commercial copywriters who use quotes for press releases, ads, case studies, articles, sales letters, appeal letters, etc.— the task is a little trickier. We’re looking for color, vivid snippets that will bolster whatever case we’re making—while keeping the reader riveted. So we’re wise to be fussy. I’ve spent countless hours interviewing people –and then more hours transcribing the interviews—only to end up using a tiny fragment in my writing.


Well, first, because most spoken narratives aren’t very good.  Even geniuses aren’t always eloquent—especially when they’re speaking off-the-cuff.  Once I edit out the jargon, filler words, repetition, and incoherent nonsense, there may be only a little usable substance left.

Besides, a good writer can almost always provide the necessary facts more clearly and succinctly than the interview subject. So, you might ask, why use quotes at all?

Mainly, for credibility. It helps to have more than just the writer expressing an opinion. A second and third witness immediately give an argument more weight. If the topic is technical or hard to understand, a few words from an expert can do the same thing. And if you’re selling the benefits of a product or service, there’s nothing like the actual words of an ecstatic customer.

With all that in mind, here are a few things I look for in the quotes I select:


A good quote sounds like a real person speaking the truth. We all look for honesty when we’re weighing any proposition. If it sounds like a prepared sales pitch or a missive drafted by committee, we’ll tend to dismiss it–consciously or subconsciously.

Here are a few quotes I pulled from my archives. See if they ring true to you:

“What a fun experience! I’m just a regular guy. But I discovered some secrets about investing … and when I put them into practice, I made a lot of money.”

“I was stressed out because of the loan payments on my house. I couldn’t sleep well, and had frequent headaches.”

“I had lost all hope in the world around me, and fell into deep despair. I began to realize all my friends had started to change, so I thought to myself, if they could change maybe I could too—and there might be a hope for me.“

These are real human beings, recounting experiences that all of us can relate to. That makes them interesting and powerful.


This is where we get the color we’re looking for. Don’t dismiss a speaker’s colloquialisms and verbal idiosyncrasies. They can help paint a vivid verbal portrait, adding dimension and detail.


A passionate, enthusiastic response always beats a cold recitation of the facts. We’re emotional beings and we look for that in other people. Real excitement is contagious. Here are some examples from my files:

“I love it! You can tell it really works.”

“I am definitely going to share this with my best friends!”

And (ahem) a few more from my own client testimonials:

“I’m so thankful!”

“Just yesterday I was singing your praises!”

“Wow! I am impressed!”

Don’t those beat any dry list of facts?


A good quote tells us things we didn’t know. And for this, the words of an expert can be invaluable. If you have the reader thinking, Wow, I didn’t know that, you’re on the right track.  I’ve written mailers, white papers, books and articles on a huge variety of topics—finance, medicine, economics, technology, politics, real estate, and many more topics. Am I an expert in all these areas? Of course not. But I can find people who are—and get them talking. In many cases that’s all I need. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The next best thing to being wise is to live in a circle of those who are.”


Don’t you hate it when you can predict the plot in a movie? A written piece is no different. You’ll keep the readers’ interest if a speaker catches them off guard with something new or shocking.  And a quote from an expert refuting the conventional wisdom adds intrigue to a narrative.

Let me end with a nice visual image of what we’re talking about, courtesy of King Solomon: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 AKJV).

Look for those apples of gold and you won’t go too far wrong.

Writing Copy for the Modern Age: Why Short Is Better

Young girl texting at the beach

When I was learning the copywriting trade, I was told to “write at an eighth-grade level.”

And be sure to use short words.

Short sentences too.

And short paragraphs.

That alarmed me. Were American consumers really that stupid? What had happened to our education system?

Without commenting on the state of American education, I now understand why this makes sense. It’s not that people are stupid. It’s that they’re overloaded with information.

When we approach people to donate or buy something, we’re intruding into their busy and hectic lives. We must respect that by making our pitches as concise as possible. We’re also competing with thousands of other messages that shout for their attention—all day, every day.

Junk mail. Spam emails. Pop-up ads. Billboards. TV commercials. Radio commercials. Phone solicitations. Door-to-door solicitations. Flyers on the doorstep—or in the driveway!

Is it any wonder that people tune out?

To rise above the noise, we must convince prospects instantly that our message is worth a few moments of their time. And we can’t do that using elaborate sentences. Or big words. Or massive blocks of text.

That’s not to say that long-form copy doesn’t work. Folks who study this stuff know that longer copy performs better than short copy—even in our attention-deprived age. The old saying is still true—the more you tell, the more you sell.

But you’d better have a great hook to get past the mental roadblocks. And then, a great narrative that keeps them reading to the end. And don’t get complex—or they’ll become distracted and move on to something else.

There’s no escaping the fact that our language has changed drastically—and the pace of change is picking up. Our sentences now are not only shorter—they’re less elaborate and much less formal.

And the grammar? Well …

Just for fun, here’s an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen—followed by some ideas of how the same sentence might be written in modern times. In this passage, the pompous Mr. Collins begins a letter to his uncle, Mr. Bennett.

From 1797:

Dear Sir,—

The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honoured father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory for me to be on good terms with anyone with whom it had always pleased him to be at variance.

Same passage from 1957:

Dear Sir,

I know that there were disagreements between my father and you, and I always felt bad about this. Now that he has died, I would like to make amends. But frankly, I could not bring myself to contact you because of what he might think were he still here …

From 1997:



You might have heard my dad died. I know you guys weren’t on great terms. That always bugged me. But now that he’s gone I thought I’d reach out and see if we could, you know, get over it. But then I thought what would dad say? It made me feel like maybe I shouldn’t do it. You know what I mean?

From 2017:

(Text message)

mayb u herd my dad died 🙁 I no he was pissd at u bt thts over now cud we get tgthr?????? I’d like to chil but i nevr no what he mite be thnkng abt tht TTYL

Are you happy about these developments? Me neither. But that’s the world we live in.

Actually, the changes aren’t all bad. Here’s how a passage of the New Testament came out when King James commissioned his team of translators back in the 17th century:

From 1611:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:2-12 King James Version)

Just in case you didn’t read the whole thing—that’s two sentences. And if 20th-century grammar rules were followed, it would be just one (Wherein being a connector for the subordinate clause that follows). Quite a mouthful for one breath.

Here’s how it reads in the New International Version:

From 2011:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Same passage, six sentences. And more readable. Unless you happen to be a 17th-century English scholar.

The message? If you want to reach people today, be concise.

Keep sentences short.

Make every word count.

The End.