There are set rules in the English language for using colons with lists. This article will detail each rule and give you clear examples, so you can see for yourself how to structure your sentences when using colons in your lists.
You should use a colon after a complete sentence when introducing a list of items when words such as “for example” or “namely” or “to be specific” etc., are not present:
We will have to bring many items: pens, paper, notebooks, and dictionaries.
The manager wants the following things: completed reports, amended invoices, and order forms.
The teacher wants a student who can do the following: (1) complete their homework on time, (2) be obedient, and (3) provide lots of apples.
Colons should never go in front of a list unless it follows a complete sentence:
Success in business requires the following: (a) determination, (b) common sense, (c) hard work, and (d) a good dress sense.
If you want to be a success in business, you should (a) be nice to your colleagues and boss, (b) always be on time, (c) make coffee for everyone in the office, and (d) be willing to do overtime.
A colon always precedes a list that is written in tabular format:
To be a success in business, you should do the following:
(a) always dress appropriately
(b) chat to colleagues
(c) work through your lunch break
To be a good student, you should:
(a) study long hours
(b) read lots of books
(c) eat lots of apples
You should note that the use of capital letters and punctuation are optional when using phrases or single words in bullet form. However, if each numbered point or bullet point is a full, complete sentence, you must capitalize the first word and end the sentences with the correct punctuation, such as a full stop (period). It is important to be consistent in this matter. Here are some examples:
To be a success in business, you should:
(1) arrive at the office on time,
(2) attend all meetings,
(3) wear a suit.
To be a successful student, you should:
(1) Do all your homework,
(2) Listen in class,
(3) Give apples to the teacher.
You can use “and” before the last phrase, if you wish:
To be a success in business, you should:
(1) work hard,
(2) promptly answer the phone,
(3) and work to deadlines.
For the exam on Thursday, please:
(a) Arrive 15 minutes beforehand.
(b) Register with the administrator.
(c) Find your desk and sit quietly.
When writing lists, you can use full stops (periods) after letters and numbers instead of using parentheses:
For the exam on Thursday, please:
a. Write your name clearly on the booklet.
b. Read the instructions carefully.
c. Begin writing when you are ready.
You've got an online store that's full of fantastic products and services, but no one's buying… In fact, not many people are even stopping by for a look.
What do you do? Well, don't panic because luckily there are six simple fixes that increase traffic to your site, hook customers and boost your online sales:
1. Become your customer
As it’s your business, it goes without saying you know your site very well. You know where everything is, which buttons to click for information, products, and how to buy. You know your site's layout like the back of your hand.
However, the same can't be said for your potential customers. Consumers are savvier than ever before, but they're also more impatient. If they find your website hard to navigate, they'll be off in a click. Bye, bye buyers.
We all receive a lot of sales emails every day, but how many of them actually achieve their aim – getting opened, read and making the sale? It’s likely most are ignored, even emails sent to subscribers, and swiftly deleted.
Marketers are certainly up against a tough challenge as most people have bulging inboxes these days, but there are 8 essential features that you should use to raise your chances of making a sale via your email promotions.
1. Your subject line
When you scan your lists of emails, you probably check the subject lines first to see if you’ll open them.
The subject line is the most important part of your email. It’s like the first screen of your website, tempting the viewer to find out more.
So, your subject line has to be compelling enough to get your recipient to open your message.
Subject lines that have an obvious sales message tend to be deleted or wind up in the spam folder, so what you’re aiming for is a friendly tone, rather than a business-like tone, such as:
Rhythm, tone and flow are vital writing skills that draw your reader into your writing and keep them there. Copy with these elements is easy and enjoyable to read. Without a consistent flow in your writing, your reader is very likely to get bored and confused. As a result, they’ll turn to one of the many other pieces of advertising or information that is fighting for their attention.
We are bombarded with written words every day – many thousands of words – so it’s no surprise that readers are easily distracted. That is why consistent, good flow is so essential when writing sales copy. Few readers have the time and inclination to wade through clumsy or confusing copy. They want copy that is both informative and easy to understand.
Let’s look first at rhythm. Rhythm is achieved by varying the type and length of your sentences. You don’t want to overuse a particular sentence format, such as, for example, noun/verb/object, in a way that distracts your reader. The rhythm of your words should be smooth, moving between simple and complex sentences that mirror a conversational tone. The best way to check the rhythm of your text is to read it aloud. If you find yourself running out of breath or stumbling over words, you know it has no natural rhythm that is easy to read.
Tone is the “feel” of your copy. It’s the attitude you express through nuances of innuendo, humour or emotion. To reach out successfully to your reader, your tone has to match the product or service you are selling.
A lighthearted tone is fine for some products but you would not use it to promote, say, a product that treats certain health problems. You should never use a flippant or condescending tone and you would certainly not want to create a sarcastic or cold tone in your writing either. Your aim is to always draw your reader in, not repel them. You should invite your reader’s participation and agreement, which can be done by choosing the right words.
Flow is structured through following the standard copywriting rule of AIDA (Attracting Attention, Increasing Interest, Arousing Desire and Making a Call to Action). Using this rule helps to entice your reader into your writing and keep them reading to the point they are engrossed in your words.
We’ve all been in the “flow”, where something has transfixed us so much that we happily forget everything around us. Psychologists and self-help experts often refer to this state as being “in the zone”. You want to recreate this state for your reader in your copy.
This means each of your sentences follows a logical pattern, flowing from one to the next in a graceful way so they are easy to read. Think of one sentence passing the baton to another as if in a seamless relay race. This can be done using terms like: "That's why", "In addition", "Here's how", and so on, so that your reader carries on reading.
Never forget that readers are very sceptical when reading sales copy. They are not trusting of most sales marketing and don’t like to be “sold” to. They are also surrounded by distractions, countless tasks and different forms of advertising. You need to grab their attention and hold it if your sales copy is to be successful.
Begin your sentences and paragraphs with phrases that capture your reader’s attention. Instead of writing “This study shows…” write “This shocking study reveals…” Use attention-grabbing words (“shocking”, “fascinating”, “secret”, “unprecedented” etc.) to create an impact.
To write successful copy, you need to be in harmony with your writing. The aim is to captivate your reader with natural rhythm (as if speaking to them directly), smooth transitions and the correct choice of words. Your tone should reflect the type of writing you want to achieve (serious, fair-minded, humorous and so on). And don’t forget that being “in the zone” when you write your copy, will certainly be reflected in the quality of your work.
As a marketer, you know only too well that you should always be looking at ways to increase your sales. You also know this is an on-going process – you can’t rest on your laurels. To help you, I’ve created a list of ten power-packed actions that will put the punch back into your marketing campaigns. If you use them consistently, you should notice a real difference in your sales levels.
1. Think about your demographics. This means you should spend money on targeted advertising instead of mass media advertising. You can’t sell all things to all people. Don't wasteyour advertising budget on people who aren't interested in your product or service. Advertising is expensive enough as it is – use your money wisely!
2. Make small improvements. Improvements to your product or service don’t have to be significant in order to expand your sales. You can increase your profits by focusing on small details, such as changing text size, colours or graphics, which can all make a positive difference. Be sure to do split testing to see which changes work best.
3. Be flexible. Any offers you make should be flexible. For example, if you have a set price for a product, especially if it’s quite expensive, it’s a good idea to offer payment plans, such as monthly instalments at no or very little extra cost. This will enable customers on a tighter budget to buy your product and they will appreciate that you have taken their circumstances into account. Customers like thoughtfulness and consideration – it is more likely to turn them into repeat customers.
4. Offer a bonus. Everyone likes to get something extra as part of a deal. You could offer your knowledge as a bonus product, for instance, a free 15- or 30-minute consultation or a teleseminar or online video. This will immediately add value to your product.
5. Make it personal. Wherever possible, include the recipients’ names in emails. This will grab their attention (we all love to see our names in print/on the screen). You should consider writing your recipient's name in the subject line – the email is more likely to be opened and read if you do this.
6. Always be consistent. You must keep your web site consistent. Never include things on your web site that are unrelated to the core theme of your site. This will just confuse would-be customers and they’ll lose trust in you. So, for instance, if you sell only weight loss products, it would not be appropriate to then include something unrelated to that niche market. It makes you appear like a random, unprofessional marketer rather than an authority in that niche.
7. Offer gifts. You can attract more subscribers to sign up to your e-zine or e-newsletter by giving them free bonuses like e-books, software, online services, mp3 recordings and other incentives. As you know, everyone likes something for nothing!
8. Put unused space in your e-zine to good use. You can also sell advertising space in your e-zine. Not only will this create an extra stream of income for your business, but it can also create valuable links with other companies and marketers in your niche.
9. Be clear. Make sure that your web site is up and ready for public viewing. That means a fully functioning "About Us" page, contact details and clear descriptions of what services you offer and what actions you want your visitors to take. Ensure the font is legible and the colours are harmonious rather than distracting. You want a clear web site that is easy to read and navigate. Don’t cram too much onto it. And don’t forget to keep it updated with a blog and other news.
10. Plan carefully. You need to carefully plan out your marketing by locating places and publications that your target audiences are likely to be interested in. You should not “spread yourself too thin” and advertise everywhere. And make sure you are consistent with your marketing. One advertisement once in a while in a local directory will not be very successful, if at all.
If you follow these power-packed tips consistently you will increase your customer base and sales, and also your credibility and reputation as a serious marketer.
As a marketer, you rarely rest on your laurels. Your next marketing campaign is always around the corner. Of course, you want to sell more – and at higher prices – but your prime goal should be to serve your customers in the best way you can, not just sell to them.
You have an obligation to your consumers. So many prospects need help with problems your products or services can solve, but many prospects are very wary about being “sold to”. They are skeptical – and it’s no surprise considering the bombardment of advertising we each face every day.
Persuasion is the key to weakening skepticism. Your marketing promotions need to motivate and engage your prospects. That’s where these 10 powerful copywriting tips can help you.
Tip 1 – Know your prospect.
This is vital. That’s because your prospect is the most important person in your business. Every marketer should know who their prospect is, their hopes and fears and dreams. What are their problems? What do they worry about the most?
You have to know them as well as a close friend. That is the only way you can tailor your products or services to their needs. You can learn about your prospect from visiting online forums dedicated to the problems your product targets. Read the messages and questions posted – it will give you invaluable insight.
You can also contact existing customers with questionnaires, asking how you can improve your service or products. But remember to offer them an incentive for helping you, whether that’s a free gift or a discount on their next purchase.
Tip 2 – Write the way you speak
Good copy is conversational – it’s like you are speaking to a friend. And like all good friendships, they take time to establish trust and respect. You need to spend time with your prospects without selling – simply offering advice, good content on your website and so on.
You must make it sound like you are speaking face-to-face with your prospect. Without trust, you can’t sell them anything. Don’t use difficult vocabulary – keep it simple and sound friendly and approachable, not standoffish and superior.
Tip 3 – Focus on their thoughts
You need to step into the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind. What distracts them over and over again? What are their nagging worries? What problem needs your solution?
Once you’ve followed their train of thought, you have to attract your prospect’s attention with an eye-catching headline that uses at least 3 of the 4 U’s (urgency, usefulness, uniqueness and ultra-specificity). Help them focus on your solution and how it will improve their life.
Tip 4 – Write at least ten headlines
Your first attempt at a headline will never be your best. You need to write at least 10 to get into the flow of producing the eye-catching headline we mentioned in Tip 3.
Compelling headlines can take time to create, but they can make or break your promotion. If your prospect isn’t drawn to your headline, there’s no chance they’ll read the read of your text.
Tip 5 – Have a powerful and punchy first sentence
The purpose of the first sentence is to get your prospect to read the next sentence. And keep on reading the rest of your sentences. The first sentence sets the scene of your promotion and tells your reader what to expect from reading your message. Long-winded sentences will simply make people stop reading.
Your prospects want to find out information fast. They want quick solutions to their problems. When it comes to improving their life, they have little patience, so you need to show them in your opening sentence that you can solve their problem quickly and easily. People are innately lazy – we don’t want to have to put a lot of effort into sorting out our problems. We all want easy solutions.
Tip 6 – Be specific about the benefits
It’s not enough to say a health supplement will give your prospect more energy. You need to be more specific, more compelling. Prospects buy on an emotional level, so instead tell your prospect that she’ll be able to go dancing like she used to…spend the day playing on the beach with her kids without feeling tired…start her own business...
Your prospect will imagine herself doing all these things – but only if she buys your vitamin supplement. She’ll start to believe that you can solve her tiredness and she’ll be persuaded to buy.
Tip 7 – Give proof
All natural health and self-help marketers must provide proof that their products work. You should never neglect this vital strategy.
Customer testimonials help, but they aren’t enough. Besides, you don’t want to wait for recommendations before you start seriously promoting your product.
For example, existing scientific proof can show that the vitamins and minerals in your health supplement provide the benefits you are promoting. Experts in the natural health industry can also back up your promotion, or you can use research trial results to provide proof.
Credible proof uses figures, facts, quotes, charts, predictions, awards and so on. Promise is important, but proof is the clincher – it reassures the prospect and convinces them your product can work for them.
Tip 8 – Offer a guarantee
A money-back guarantee gains your prospect’s trust. It removes all risk and encourages them to try your product in the safe knowledge that they can get their money back within a set period of time if they aren’t satisfied.
It’s important to give a guarantee with a timeframe, such as a 60 or 90-day money back guarantee. The longer the timeframe, the more confidence the prospect will have in the success of the product.
Tip 9 – A clear call-to-action
Your prospects should never feel confused when reading your sales communications. You need to tell them what to do next – in every stage of your promotion.
Remember that people like easy options, so telling your prospect clearly how to order your product will more likely get the result you want – a sale. Make it simple for them and uncomplicated. Place a tear-off order form with your letter. Use lots of action verbs and use the word “free” as well.
Tip 10 – Offer a gift
Everyone likes a gift, a free premium. Your prospect will feel like she is getting extra value if you offer a gift with her sale. And they will especially like the fact they can keep the gift even if they ask for their money back later.
It increases your credibility and your prospect is more likely to turn into a repeat customer. And it will create good testimonials that you can add to your next sales letter.
A free gift can be a health booklet, an extra bottle of vitamins, a free teleseminar…just as long as it’s relevant to the product you’re selling.
Of course, there are lots more copy tips that will increase your sales, but if you use these 10 power-packed tips, you’ll be guaranteed to sell more products, and more often.
Every marketer knows that they have only a few seconds to attract a prospect’s attention – and hold it. But what can you possibly say in a few seconds that will grab their attention? What few words can you use? The task can seem overwhelming.
Rather than worry about the enormity of the task ahead, use the 4 U’s to help you structure your copy in such a way that it will capture your prospect’s attention and keep them reading.
Although the 4 U’s were designed to be used for headlines, you can use them anywhere in your marketing communications. So, let’s see how they can help your marketing copy.
Most people search the Internet for information or solutions to their problems. They want to find out things. This means your message has to be useful. Or, to be exact, useful to your target audience. Your message has to be relevant. Your reader wants to know fast that you can help solve their problem.
In order to do this, you need to know your prospect very well – his beliefs, fears, motivations, insecurities, deepest wishes, likes and dislikes. You need to create a conversation that is similar to the one going on in his head.
For instance, if you market a natural product or report for treating acne, you would mention how your prospect will gain confidence and feel attractive again without resorting to dangerous medications or topical treatments with many unwanted side effects.
If you do this, the prospect will understand that you care about his welfare and what’s important to him. He’ll know that you want him to feel good about himself and he will think of you as a credible source of information and solutions.
This is sometimes the most difficult of the 4 U’s to implement. To stand out from the crowd, your product or service has to be unique in some way. This is more important than ever.
If your product is genuinely unique, that’s great. But otherwise, you need to present it in a way arouses your prospect’s curiosity. If you are selling a product aimed at boosting people’s confidence, you need to state why most other programs on this topic aren’t effective because of one crucial missing piece. Your prospect is likely to have tried other products in the past and had that experience also. They’ll be eager to read on to find out what your product can do for them where other products have failed.
This “U” is the most powerful attention grabber. That’s because everyone wants a fast solution to their problems. We are probably more impatient these days and feel we have less time. Your prospects want answers now. They want solutions that are easy and fast, and a guarantee that they haven’t wasted their cash or time.
You have to make the reader feel that it’s essential to read your message right now. You could, for example, say that your product is available at a discount for only two days. Or that there is a limited number and sales are on a first-come-first-served basis. You could offer a teleseminar to your subscribers on a subject you know interests them and say it’s only available at a certain time that evening. The same goes for a video presentation. Do whatever you can to make your prospects feel they will miss out if they don’t listen to, read or watch your message.
The last “U” helps you to connect with your prospect in a more meaningful way. It enables you to show your reader that you are on their wavelength and understand their problem, that you know how they feel and how their problem affects them. This creates trust in your reader.
If you were promoting a weight loss product, you could tell your prospect how they can easily lose weight in a few weeks and be able to walk briskly without their knees hurting or getting out of breath. You highlight the many benefits of weight loss – health, feeling attractive and confident, living longer and so on.
Specificity is crucial because is increases the value of your copy for the reader and makes your copy more compelling to them. To be ultra-specific, you need to make sure the content of your copy matches your audience. For instance, if you market your weight loss product specifically at women over 40, you need to focus on their unique needs. And you need to continue to highlight the specific benefits they’ll receive from your product.
It’s a good idea to use as many of the 4 U’s as possible in your copy, but you certainly don’t have to use every one. Pick the ones that are most relevant and fit in with the product and the message you want to get across. Then weave them into your copy so that your reader stays interested in your words, your message and ultimately buys your product.
We all know that first drafts can be scary. Very scary. It's just you and the blank page...
Procrastination and writer's block can set in...you start to doubt yourself and your ability – especially if you think your first effort should be as perfect* as possible.
Luckily, Demian Farnworth, Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media, has come up with ten rules for writing first drafts of copy:
These rules have been put onto a poster, which you can download here (PDF form) and then hang somewhere near your desk.
(* The quest for perfectionism is likely to kill your creativity, not to mention your confidence. Inactivity can set in – for a very long time. This is terrible for any copywriter or marketer, where action is everything. So kill your desire for perfection. For good. Then barricade your door and get writing.)
The Key Blog
Hello and welcome to The Key Blog! This is where you'll find information and tips on writing, proofreading, and the English language in general. Feel free to use the articles in your own e-zines, blogs or websites etc., as long as you include the resource box. Thank you!