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GOD is in the Details and Copywriting is in the Nanosecond

Jul 25, 2008
The famous Twentieth Century architect Mies van der Rohe made that oft-quoted and oft-misquoted pronouncement: God is in the details. He meant that great architecture doesn't simply occur in the big, dramatic shapes of a building, in the sweeping roofs and in the beautiful planes of glass. It takes place in every screw and bolt, and in every joint between materials. It occurs in every detail.

An effective piece of copywriting, (and as I always say, anything you write to persuade is copywriting, whether it's an ad, a brochure, a website, an email or a cat notice on a bulletin board) takes place not only in the details, but in the nanosecond.

The reason is this, and it's a crucial, monumental truth to anyone who writes to persuade: NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOUR AD. Sorry. It's a disturbing realization, I know. No one wants to curl up by the fire and study your sales letter. No one is just dreaming of spending quality time with your brochure. In the words of a poet, people are "distracted from distraction by distractions." Attention Deficit Disorder afflicts individuals for sure, but it is also description of contemporary humanity.

So what's the point, when no one wants to read your gem of copywriting, and their attention span is limited to a nanosecond?

The point is, you have one nanosecond to grab them. You need your first point of contact, opening sentence or headline, to be instantly clear and instantly engaging, instantly relevant and instantly impossible to ignore. Or they're gone.

And the beginning is just the beginning. They haven't signed some sort of agreement with you by reading your opening sentence. You must engage them now, and now, and now. Once they're engaged, you need to lead them along the rosy path of argument cleanly and logically. Nanosecond by nanosecond. If God is where the wall meets the ceiling and the glass meets the mullion, powerful copywriting is where this sentence meets the next, and this thought meets the next.

A fool-proof system known as the Body Copy Formula, which allows you automatically to utilize what I call the hierarchy of communication, is contained in my book Maximum Strength Copywriting. But its central premise is, if you break the chain of persuasion and engagement at any point, you're toast and they're history. It is a peak of intensity that makes flabby writing, dead language, imprecise thinking and repetitive sloppiness, all unforgivable copywriting sins.

If you've been reading this thus far, it proves that I have applied my own rules. Because these thoughts may not be news to you, or they may vaguely familiar but expressed in a way that engages you, or it all may come as some sort of mind-blowing revelation. Whatever the case, you're reading it. You could be doing a bewildering number of other things at this moment, like cleaning out your sock drawer or tending to your coin collection, but you're reading this tract about copywriting, nanoseconds, God, and a hierarchy of communication.

So I hope I demonstrated my point. My intensity and desire to communicate has been unflagging, nanosecond to nanosecond. And the words I have chosen to carry that intention have kept you engaged for, oh, a whole couple of minutes or so.

Not bad in an A.D.D. world. I wish you the same in your marketing efforts and next attempt at copywriting.
About the Author
Paul Wolfe, who has written famous campaigns for dozens of world-class clients like Levi's, Volvo and BMW and was named Writer of the Year twice by Adweek magazine, has just penned the ultimate  copywriting book. Click here MaximumStrengthCopywriting.com and  transform your success and copywriting power instantly.
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