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.

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