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Add It Up

These do-it-yourself advertising tips can save you money.

By Annette Lockwood

Robert W. Bly, author of The Copywriter's Handbook (Henry Holt, $13.95, 800-488-5233), has good news for small-business-owners-turned-copywriters: "Sometimes, cheaply produced ads, written simply and directly without a lot of fluff, do the best job of selling," Bly says. Here are some of Bly's recommendations:

1. Write headlines that grab attention, address a select audience and draw the reader into complementary copy or graphics (choices include questions, commands and testimonials). "Have You Had Any of These Decorating Problems?" (Bigelow Carpets).

2. Instead of clever, pun-based headlines, offer benefits in direct sales appeals. "Lose 19 Pounds in Three Weeks!"

3. In your copy, speak directly to your prospects by inserting the word "you" and giving them practical information. "BankPlan can help you balance your books and manage your cash flow."

4. Break copy into short sections, using simple sentences and words that will be read and understood. Use "help" instead of "facilitate;" "get" instead of "procure;" "prove" instead of "substantiate."

5. Get to the point of your offer without forfeiting a friendly style. Use "The roof won't leak if it rains" instead of "Adverse weather conditions will not result in structural degradation."

6. End with a call for action and means to respond (coupons, reply cards, toll-free numbers or other devices). "Clip this coupon and bring it into the store."

"The copy should contain enough information--no more, no less--to convince the greatest number of qualified prospects to take the next step in the buying process," Bly says.

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