Not many people know this, but there’s a tool hidden inside Microsoft Word that can help you improve the power of almost any piece of copy in minutes.
This little-known copy hack was shown to me on my very first day working at the world’s most successful email marketing company – a $600m-a-year global giant with offices in 18 countries around the globe.
I rarely see this mentioned by other copywriters. Yet learning how to use this tool is almost certainly the most powerful copy shortcut there is – hands-down.
I say that with full confidence. As soon I began using it my copy became much easier to read. My arguments became far more powerful. And I started making way more sales.
It can do the same for you.
I’m going to teach you how to use this tool over two articles, as there’s a bit to cover. Here’s what you’ll learn…
- How to use the tool to develop a ‘sixth-sense’ for whether your copy will work ahead of time…
- How to use the tool to improve any piece of copy you’re working on right now (in just minutes)…
- How, with continued use, this tool can shortcut the time it takes to become a decent copywriter into weeks, instead of months and years…
Let’s get started.
The clever copy hack hiding in MS Word all along
The tool is called the ‘Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level’ test. (From here on, I’ll just call it FK).
You use it to give your writing a readability score. This score is based on the reading level required to understand your words.
For example, if you have an FK score of 12, it means a person would need the reading level of a grade 12 student to get what you’re saying.
I’m going to show you how to turn on the FK tool in just a moment. But first I want to tell you why it’s vitally important – now more than ever – that your writing is easy to read.
If you don’t have THIS, your copy won’t make a single sale
The most valuable commodity you have as a copywriter is your prospect’s attention.
Without it, you have zero chance of making the sale – you can’t sell to somebody who isn’t listening right?
Each time your reader – let’s call him Tom – gets to a point in your copy where he doesn’t understand something, you’ll momentarily lose his attention.
Whenever this happens Tom has a choice:
- He can use some mental power to try and work out what you mean, and then re-focus on your copy and continue reading…
- He can give up reading because he doesn’t want to work hard… or because something else grabs his attention…
If you confuse Tom once or twice, he might continue reading. Any more than that and you’ll lose him quicker than you can say ‘why aren’t I making any sales?’
Here’s the bad news:
In the last 15 years, Tom ability to focus has dropped significantly.
The copywriting greats didn’t have to compete with smartphones. You do.
Did you know the average human attention span has gone from twelve seconds in 2000, to a measly eight seconds in 2016? (according to a study done by Microsoft, Mar 2016)
Are you surprised?
Tom has an INSANE amount of entertainment options these days… Netflix, YouTube, Pornhub… and he can access all of them instantly at the click of a button.
This is something Halbert, Bencivenga, Sugarman and all the other greats never had to deal with. But you do.
This is why – in 2016 – your copy needs to be clearer than ever. You must ensure that anybody who reads your piece ‘gets it’ the first time through… even if they never passed 8th grade English.
Fail to do this and your piece will flop.
Now for some good news:
You’re about to learn how to GUARANTEE your writing is easy to understand, so Tom never has a chance to get distracted.
Why the number 8 might be the most important number in copywriting
As I said earlier, your FK score is simply the reading level your reader needs to be at to understand what you’re written. The ideal FK score is 8 or below. This is when writing becomes easy enough for everybody to understand on first read.
If you have an FK score above 8, you need to work on your copy. Sure, there might be some sales letters out there that have made money with an FK score higher than this, but they’re rare.
How do I know?
I’ve personally checked the FK scores of hundreds of sales letter. I’ve also made a point to put the top sales letters of all time through the FK scanner, including…
- Mike Palmer’s $200m End of America sales letter…
- Several letters by Halbert, Bencivenga and Sugarman, among others (yes, I’ve typed these into Word manually)…
- I’ve also scanned what many believe to be the greatest sales letter of all time… The Wall Street Journal promotion responsible for an estimated $2 billion in sales.
Some of these sales letters have FK scores well below 8. Some a bit closer to 8. But none have FK scores higher than 8.
This is no coincidence. Like I said, this is the ‘magic’ number where copy becomes very easy to understand. It’s what we use as a benchmark in our company. And if you want to write copy that converts well too, you need to make sure it’s below 8 on the FK scale.
A ‘sixth sense’ that reveals – ahead of time – if your copy will make sales
I hope you realize how powerful the tool you’ve just been given is. You now have a ‘sixth sense’ about whether a piece of copy will work or not before your mail it.
If you write a piece with an FK score of 8 or below, you’ll have a good indication that Tom will be able to understand what you write easily. Meaning you’ll have a much better chance at keeping his attention. If your offer is compelling, Tom will gladly open his wallet.
If your copy comes in over an 8, you know this will hurt sales – even if your offer is appealing. So instead of wasting time sending out a piece of copy you know could be better, you can spend a few minutes sharpening it with the tips I’m about to share with you and turn it into something that makes you far more money.
Now you’re starting to see just how powerful the FK tool is right?
Now let me show you how to turn it on.
How to switch on your secret sales weapon
Step 1. Open up Microsoft Word and click ‘File’ in the top left hand.
Step 2. Click the ‘Options’ menu option. And then ‘Proofing’. You should see this:
Step 3. Check the box that says ‘Show readability statistics’ (I’ve marked it with the red arrow).
Step 4. Hit ‘Ok’ and you’re done.
You’re now ready to start scanning every piece of copy you write.
Now for the most important part…
Using the FK tool to scan your copy
When you have the desired file open in word, here’s how you get your ‘FK’ score…
Step 1. Click the ‘REVIEW’ tab at the top of the taskbar.
Step 2. Click the button that says ‘Spelling and Grammar’ in the REVIEW taskbar.
Step 3. Sort through the spelling and grammar mistakes Word says you’ve made.
Step 4. Hit ‘OK’ when you’re done checking them and BAM…
A little window should pop up that looks like this…
I’ve highlighted the FK score for you. There are a bunch of other readability statistics displayed in the box too – a couple of which we’ll talk about in the next article.
Your mission: Use the FK tool erry’day
Now that you know how to use the FK tool, I want you to scan every piece of copy you write.
If you pay close attention to the result. And actively try to get your score lower (using the tips I’ll share with you in article 2) you will start writing more powerful copy – and make way more sales – almost immediately.
I guarantee it.
Till next time…