How using the Gunning Fog Index improves your writing

 copywriting, Marketing, Writing  Comments Off on How using the Gunning Fog Index improves your writing
Jul 122013

I can never get fairy cakes to rise. They come out the oven, lopsided, and barely peeping over the cases. In short, they are an embarrassment. Is it the sifting, the eggs, the mixing, my oven or simple incompetence?

I’ve never got to the bottom of it. Consequently making fairy cakes is demoralising.

It can be like that with writing. You know your writing could be improved. It could have more impact, flow better or be easier to compose, but you’re not sure exactly where the problem is or how to fix it.

And so when you have to write, you end up feeling dissatisfied.

This is where online writing tools can help you find and fix issues with your writing.

Introducing The Gunning Fog Index

Today, I’m going to take a look at The Gunning Fog Index or Chop and Fog as I like to call it. This tool gives you a score for a passage of text you enter.

The score represents the reading age needed to understand the text.

It measures the score using:

  • the number of words in the passage
  • the number of 3 syllable words
  • the number of punctuation marks

What score should you aim for?

As a copywriter, I want to get a message across as easily as possible. I don’t want to write in a way that’s hard to read or doesn’t flow. For that reason I like to aim for a score of below 12.
You might think a reading age of 12 is a bit low.
Let’s take a couple of examples.

Example 1: blog post from Monsanto, a biotech corporation

The May 21, 2013, Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium brought government, business, and civil society leaders together to capitalize on the power of connecting science, trade, and business to end hunger and poverty. At Global Harvest Initiative, these concepts are woven into our policy and investment priorities that can improve productivity throughout the value chain and sustainably meet the demands of a growing world.
The application of new and existing technologies across the agricultural value chain is a significant factor in raising agricultural productivity. Science-based technology, such as seed and fertilizer, and information technology, including better weather models and plant spacing techniques, increase yields through better inputs and better on-farm decision-making.
Many speakers at the Chicago Council event focused on the importance of farmers’ access to science and information technology to sustainable increase agricultural productivity.
Dr. Mauricio Antonio Lopes, president of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), explained that a move to science-based agriculture, including improved seeds and no-till agriculture, helped Brazil increase efficiency and productivity by up to 200 percent and reduce land expansion into sensitive rainforest environments.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation deputy director of research and development Dr. Rob Horsch talked about the importance of working with local farmers to adapt technology to solve local problems. Critically, he also stressed the importance of a feedback loop whereby farmers determine what they need and provide information on how technology worked, which is fed back into the research.
This passage scores 20.6 in the Gunning Fog Index
Monsanto's blog post in the Gunning Fog Index

Monsanto’s blog post in the Gunning Fog Index

This passage scores 20.6 in the Gunning Fog Index
The high score is because there are few punctuation marks and many three syllable words.
A large corporation such as Monsanto, has the resources to hire expert copy writers, editors and PR professionals to ensure that all messages in the public domain endorse the brand position. So it is interesting to ask why such a company would choose to publish copy that has a relatively high score on this index.

Why organisations sometimes prefer to use complex language

It could be ignorance. Maybe the author is not aware that her post is not as clear and simple as it could be. More likely, Monsanto deliberately opts for language that is harder to understand in order to sound authoritative and professional.

Scientists, bureaucrats and civil servants have for years used deliberately dense language to hide their true meaning from the general population. Think Yes Minister, the popular British TV comedy in which Sir Humphrey often confused the minister by talking in circles. It is a form of control.

If you make text hard to understand, the idea is the reader will feel it is beyond their intelligence. The end result is that the reader won’t dare to question the content in case they look stupid. This type of deliberate confusion should be avoided if you want to engage with your readers (and we do).

Does this mean that you should write in childlike language?

Not at all. It is a common misconception that compelling, easy to understand copy is simplistic and “dumbed down.” Let’s take another example that shows how copy can be clear yet grown up.

Example 2: Copy from an email sent out by a charity

Yesterday SolarAid became winners of a £500,000 Google Global Impact Award, following a flurry of activity from wonderful SolarAid fans who spread the word to friends and networks across the world about the incredible power of our solar lights.

Thank you for your support to help us win this award. We have been overwhelmed by the involvement of so many SolarAiders, old and new. Your enthusiasm and passion for SolarAid kept us going when the going seemed tough – we couldn’t have done it without you.

SolarAid will use the half a million pound prize to get 144,000 solar lights into rural Tanzania and recruit 400 school leavers to create a new generation of solar entrepreneurs. The support pledged by Google to the four Award winners will help SolarAid raise its profile, gain more supporters and ensure the injustice of living without clean light gets onto the world radar.

All this takes us a giant step further towards our goal of eradicating the kerosene lamp from Africa. If you’d like to share the excitement and watch the change unfold click here.

We’d also love you to spread our appreciation to everyone you asked to get involved – so please forward this message along with a BIG THANK YOU from SolarAid. 

Light is a basic human need, just like food, shelter and water. In the words of African-American civil rights activist, Ella Baker: “Give light and people will find the way.”
Stay with us while we lead an initiative that will literally light up millions of lives. 

Many thanks,
Pippa Palmer
Copy from Solar Aid email

Copy from Solar Aid email

This passage scores 9.139. That means it’s suitable for someone with a reading age below 10 years.

The piece is compelling and clear. It isn’t simplistic or dumbed down. Breaking up longer sentences has helped keep the score down. The writer hasn’t avoided 3 syllable words (it would be folly to try). They have just used them sparingly.
The writing convinces us through it’s simple, clear message with verifiable facts and figures. The passion behind the words comes through loud and clear.
The Gunning Fog Index highlighted the different reading ages needed for these two passages. They also show, in my opinion, which piece is more engaging.

How does that help your writing?

1. It makes you think about writing more clearly and simply. Used regularly, you will form better writing habits.
2. It shows you the 3 syllable words you’re using. Are there too many? Can you exchange some for simpler words?
3. It highlights over long sentences. It’s easy to chop a sentence in two and lower your score.
4. Adding a short sentence now and then makes the copy more interesting.
5. You can achieve a score below 13 without dumbing down.
Writing tools don’t do the job for you but shed light on writing habits. They’re fun to use now and then. When you find a good piece of writing, run it through the index.
Once you know how it works, you can use it to improve your writing, knowing you’re making your copy more readable. Unlike my fairy cakes, you can then feel pleased with your results.
If you’d like 1:2:1 coaching or a critique of your writing, please email me for a quote.

Advice on being a freelance copywriter – 10 things I’ve learnt

 Business, copywriting, Marketing  Comments Off on Advice on being a freelance copywriter – 10 things I’ve learnt
Jul 052013

I’ve been self employed since 1996 and running my marketing, copywriting and training business since 2008. Time, I thought, to reflect on what I’ve learnt.

Behind the scenes what have I learnt about keeping sane and solvent?

1. Like your own company

Seems obvious, but you’re going to spend an awful lot of time on your own. Just you, the computer screen and maybe your favourite playlists. If being on your own for hours at a stretch fills you with horror, then maybe stick to employment. If on the other hand you crave to be ‘far from the madding crowd’, then the freelance life might suit you very well. There are downsides to spending long hours in your own company.

2. Procrastination (the freelancer’s closest friend)

Ah, my dear old friend. Procrastination and writers go together like fish and chips. Procrastination is putting off what we need to do today, in favour of some totally non urgent task like de-cluttering the corner cupboard.

It may take the odd holiday but in my experience Procrastination will return to mess up your day and make you feel rotten. Deadlines usually see it off. It’s most likely to show up when you’ve been on your own for too long, when you’re either too busy or not busy enough. I don’t think you can ever banish procrastination for good.

In fact accepting its existence is probably essential for sanity. You learn to manage it and minimise its impact. Know your enemy.

Tiredness, being stale, being stressed give Procrastination the perfect working environment. So it helps to keep rested and have plenty of external input. One way to do that is to get out to networking events.

3. Networking (a “must do” for freelancers)

At my first ever networking event, I was so scared, I approached the entrance to the hotel, stopped, returned to my car, and had to make a second attempt at entering. That was in Llandeilo at The Cawdor. Going into that room full of strangers to try and “get business” was horrible and way outside my comfort zone as an organic farmer and farmers’ market stall holder.

These days, I enjoy networking. What was once intimidating is now a chance for human contact! If I haven’t been out for a while, it’s a great pick-me-up. This is especially true as the opportunities to network online increase. While that’s great for making contacts across the world, it’s not so good for alleviating isolation.

The thing with face to face networking is try and relax and focus on finding out more about the people you meet there. You soon forget about yourself. Being more relaxed once you do talk about your copywriting services you come across much better and invariably opportunities turn up from just getting out there and talking to people.

Getting over your nervousness will come with practice. If you really find it painful, get some books on the subject or attend some sessions on networking. That brings us on to self-promotion generally.

4. Self-promotion (a hard task for freelancers)

Many copywriters, hate the marketing side of life. I’ve pondered this many times and thought maybe we should have a Lonely Hearts Copywriters Column. Those that love crafting the copy could team up with those that love winning the work and support each other through the two stages.

I’m fortunate that during my days as an organic farmer I tackled my own demons about selling after attending a day course called Seductive Selling put on by FARMA (the farm retail association).

There we examined our prejudices about sales people, like the stereotypical pushy used car salesman. No-one wants to be that person surely? Instead we started to explore how selling can be seen as solving people’s problems. Suddenly you become helpful and useful. From the point of view of solving problems, it is far easier to offer those services without making yourself and others cringe.

It’s something we do in sales copy, look for the problem the product or service solves. So do the same with your own services.

Which brings us to your core skills.

5. Learning

As copywriters, our skill is finding the words to engage a specific target audience with products or services and persuading them to buy.

People come to copywriting through many different routes. I did a diploma before I set up as a freelance. Although I’d been involved with selling in person and in print in our organic farm businesses, I didn’t have any formal training.

After school and college I thought I never wanted to sit another exam or do another assignment. I was in my late thirties when I did that copywriting diploma. And I loved it. Loved getting back to studying. It’s easy to think, once you’re set up as a freelancer that your learning days are over.

You’d be wrong.

The digital landscape is constantly changing. If you write for websites you need to keep up to date with changes in search, customer behaviour and use of digital devices. Writing is a skill that takes practice to fine tune. However without further learning and feedback you don’t know whether you are practising good or bad techniques.

For me, I’m in danger of becoming a course junkie.

Every year I aim to do at least 3 or 4 day courses and a 1-2 month part time course as well. You don’t have to focus just on writing courses, explore related areas you enjoy. Why not sign up for courses on photography, video making, web design, illustration, coding or art history? They will all inform and enrich your copywriting giving you and your clients a better result.

And learning is one of the great joys of life:-

  • It refreshes your brain
  • Helps release creativity
  • Creates new skills
  • Develops existing skills
  • Gives you another mental environment where the goal is education not commerce
  • Introduces you to new people

When you’re just starting out, it can seem impossible to find the time and resources for learning but do it anyway. Listen to free webinars in the evening, get books from the library. It will build your business far quicker in the long run. Another thing that will help you get established more quickly is finding a supportive group

6. Support groups

Isolation is a recurring theme in the freelance life. For me it is something I love and hate. I love the quiet space of my office where I can concentrate. Yet too much isolation and I start to go stir crazy. Cabin fever sets in and I crave outside stimulation. That’s where support groups are useful.

When I first set up, I joined the Carmarthen Women In Rural Enterprise (WIRE) group. I looked forward to those monthly meetings, not only to learn from the speakers but also for that chance to share the successes and challenges we faced each month.

The other dominant theme in the freelancer’s life is cash flow.

7. Cash flow – a challenge for freelancers

The flow of lucre. The ebb and flow of our bank accounts can make or break our week. I’ve been self employed so long now that I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a monthly pay check turn up regular as clock work.

I know for those in regular employment, the insecurity of the freelancer’s life is one of the biggest reasons to stay put. You can’t get away from it. It’s a challenge. Even when the money flows you have one eye on the future, aware that this contract or project will come to an end.

Financial insecurity to me means not knowing where next year’s income is coming from. Like procrastination, it is something you may never entirely eliminate. So perhaps you shouldn’t try.

Rather embrace the buzz and adrenaline pump that the insecurity gives you. After all it’s what makes you get out to the next networking event or send the next email marketing campaign. A few will only be freelance for a period of months or years, perhaps while rearing children. It is a stop gap before returning to employment or a stepping stone on the way to building an agency or creating a larger enterprise.

Being freelance has given me more time with my children and allowed me to live on a remote farm on a Welsh hill side. I prefer working on my own, collaborating with others on certain projects but without the shackles and responsiblities of managing staff and a bigger business. As a one woman band, I can adapt my business and change direction at will.

It’s true, I may not enjoy that adrenaline buzz of insecurity into my sixties and seventies. That’s made me consider other forms of income like online courses and e-books. Allowing me to earn from my knowledge, even when I’m asleep. It’s early days but I’m encouraged by my husband’s success with his electronic Free-Range and Organic Poultry Handbook by Stephen Merritt.

There are plenty of challenges to the freelancer’s life but let’s focus a little more on the upsides.

8. Do something naughty  but nice in the middle of the day

As a freelancer living in an age of excellent mobile communications, it strikes me that we MUST take full advantage of being mistresses of our own time. Nothing demonstrates your freedom more than doing something naughty but nice in the middle of the day. Taking off for an outdoor swim, a coastal walk, a run, bike ride, visit to an art gallery, an afternoon film or simply high tea in a grand hotel, are things you SHOULD do as a freelance copywriter.

They all come under the heading of getting CREATIVE STIMULATION but really they are about saying, as a freelancer I live with financial insecurity, manage procrastination, suffer long periods of isolation and so this is my reward. If you’re not already doing it, be bold and plan in an afternoon a week to go off and feed your brain. Don’t forget to relish it and feel smug about all those desk slaves in the offices you pass. Sunny days are particularly good days to unchain yourself from your computer!

Another perk of the job is creating your own work space.

9. Create your own work space

I began my freelance career using my laptop on my dressing table in the corner of my bedroom. Today I have a beautiful office space separate from the house. In here are books, paintings, furniture, rugs and ornaments I’ve chosen. You may not start with a dedicated office but a writer’s room is surely something we all dream of? So start making it happen. Even if you work on a desk under the stairs, stamp your personality on that space.  You don’t need a writers room to write good copy, but it’s a great perk if you can get one!

10. Develop a hobby

Writers are curious people and as such often have many interests but no specific hobbies. The freelancer’s life can mean it’s hard to switch off, especially if your work space is at home. An utterly absorbing hobby is a good antidote. One that takes you out of your writing space and out of your head. Preferably something physical. It could be gardening, a sport like sailing or canoeing, or craft or sewing. Perhaps, travel, cooking or volunteering. Or it might be something madcap like sky diving, charity fun runs or circus skills.

As well as giving you a complete break it gives you a focus for your earnings. You’re writing to fund your next project, trip or piece of equipment.

These are 10 things I’ve learnt so far.

Would I change the freelance life?

Every now and then I wonder about returning to an office based job. The camaraderie and life of an office can seem appealing when you’re alone and short on inspiration. Yet I know, deep down, that I have an amazing occupation that gives me opportunities I could never have dreamed of.

It allows me to work from my farm with clients and colleagues all over the world, yet generally be here when my children come home from school. It has the scope to develop in so many different directions, so there’s no chance of getting stale.

In the last few years, I’ve developed workshops for rural businesses to help them with copywriting, email marketing and creating digital content. This has developed another set of skills and brought me into contact with some wonderful people doing amazing things. I’ve visited some fabulous venues and enjoyed excellent local food!

So on balance, no I wouldn’t change it. What about you? What have you learnt from working on your own?

Jun 262013
What's your tone of voice?

Are you shouty?

Do you ever feel shouted at by advertisers? Some TV adverts take this to extremes with over excited chaps and girls bellowing into the camera promising you super clean kitchen surfaces, increased sex appeal and more. Annoying isn’t it?

Why would advertisers do this? Mainly to get attention but secondly to adopt a commanding tone that will compel you to listen and act. They use volume to be more insistent.

Without the benefit of sound, the words we write on the page, have to find another way to grab attention and compel the reader to act.

One of the techniques copywriters use is to adopt a specific TONE OF VOICE.

What is the tone of voice in copywriting?

It is the feel and sound of your copy. Below is a list of words that can describe the tone of voice. Usually we need several of these words to capture exactly the tone we want to use.

Words that describe tone of voice 
formal jokey newsy
intense laid back in your face
authoritative down with the kids precise
insistent matey grammatically correct
serious lively  modest
confident refreshing  thoughtful
commanding energetic knowledgeable
hectoring whimsical educational


How does it leave people feeling?

The tone you choose should reflect a mix of your business image, your personality (if you run a micro business) and crucially how you want your customers to feel. Let’s look at a few examples to see how this works in practice.

1. Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks uses a fun, playful tone of voice in the copy

Innocent Drinks uses a fun, playful tone of voice in the copy

The tone of this copy is FUN, IRREVERENT, FUNKY and FRIENDLY. By making a point of not taking themselves too seriously they encourage you to relax and enjoy the product.

IRREVERENCE is brought in by phrases like, “helping people live well and die old“. The story of how the brand was set up, plays on that DEVIL MAY CARE attitude that is appealing to people who feel stuck in a rut,working 9-5.

They use irreverence to avoid making their “quest to make natural, delicious, healthy foods...” from sounding too heavy.

This deliberate swing away from formal, serious copy also makes them seem like a “nice” brand run by regular guys who probably like to go surfing on the weekends.

It is designed to make us feel comfortable, encouraging us to let go of our suspicions and tap into our playful side. The image that the tone conveys is attractive. We want to be those free and easy guys for a day.

In an age where trust in corporate brands is thin on the ground, this tone says, “hey we’ve nothing to hide, why not come over and join us!”

The call to sign up to their email list, continues the light hearted, playful tone.

“sign up for love, friendship, a weekly newsletter but no pocket money”

Let’s take another example from an ethical clothing brand here in Wales.

2. Howies

Howies ethical clothing, tone of voice example

Howies ethical clothing, uses a simple, straight forward tone of voice

The tone here is MORE ERNEST, LESS FRIVOLOUS than Innocent Drinks. There is a strong ethos behind this company and they want you to know that it drives what they do. So although the tone is FRIENDLY, they aren’t trying too hard to be cool and funky.

The copy uses SIMPLE language, keeping the tone DIRECT and STRAIGHTFORWARD. This too gives you confidence that this is an authentic brand with people behind it, who genuinely care about the wider world.

It is quite serious and will appeal to people who have a serious commitment to the environment as well as active adventures. There is clearly no room here for being overly chummy, gimmicky or using very Americanised language.

This company has recently been bought back by its founders and the tone of voice represents a return to its roots. The tone reflects a company that wants to stay focused on its core aims and core customers and not get distracted by shiny objects along the way.

And our last example, comes from the office of our leader.

2. Number 10 Downing Street


Simple impersonal language on Number 10 website

Simple impersonal language on Number 10 website

The tone here is deliberately impersonal but uses very simple language. Its purpose is to provide information and educate readers on the role of The Prime Minister. The tone is educational. What reading age do you think this copy is aimed at?

Why does it matter?

Tone plays an important role in delivering your message. Tone is used to provoke a response in the reader.

Larger companies have brand guidelines which will include tone of voice guidelines. Typically they’ll say something like this,

“How we sound,

Confident and commanding,
but not arrogant.
Lively and refreshing,
but not contrived.
but not overcomplicated or know-all.
Consistently grammatical, accurate and precise.
Energetic and witty,
but not ‘yoof’ or pretentious.
Conversational and personal,
never stuffy or corporate”

Looking at these guidelines you can see that the company want to inspire confidence in their products and associate their brand with a fun and lively experience.

Wouldn’t every business like to sound like that?

For a small rural business we can take some clues from this but perhaps make it simpler.

If you’re a one woman band, the first thing you need to check is that there is a good match between the tone of your copy and your manner in person. If you write like a 1950s school teacher but in person you sound like a children’s TV presenter (or vice versa), you’ll make people uneasy. They’re left confused. That erodes trust.

If you are very enthusiastic in person then add urgency and excitement to your copy by mixing in short sentences, exclamation marks (but don’t go mad) and using phrases to sweep you reader up in the excitement, such as, “Don’t you just love a Sunday roast?”

How do you express tone of voice?

Once you’ve chosen the words that describe your business personality, your own personality and how you’d like people to feel, then it helps if you can wrap that up in a role. You might choose:

  • teacher
  • guide
  • leader
  • role model
  • coach
  • activist
  • campaigner
  • father figure
  • busy mum
  • organiser
  • networker
  • influencer
  • safe pair of hands
  • rabble rouser
  • style icon
  • best friend
  • counsellor
  • fixer
  • muse

Some of the roles are closely related but they have a slightly different tone. For instance a teacher tends to tell people how to do things whereas a coach will help people find their own solutions. Once you find out about tone of voice, you start to recognise when it has been deliberately applied.

Look out for different uses of tone of voice

Now you know what you’re looking for, you’ll notice the tone of voice on all sorts of platforms. Not just on websites, in emails, blog articles and on Facebook but also on your favourite radio and TV shows.

In the UK, BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans’ Breakfast show has a distinct tone. It is upbeat, positive and energetic. This is reflected in the language and delivery. Chris takes the lead but all the presenters speak a little more quickly and with a little extra energy and enthusiasm. There’s a relentless emphasis on the positive which works for the 9.8 million weekly listeners.

So how do you balance friendly with professional?

Balancing a friendly tone with a professional image

Many brands want to engage their customers and so copywriters and marketing experts encourage them to avoid using language that makes them distant or corporate.

So instead of saying,

“We deliver first class management consultancy services to clients across the UK”

A copywriter might suggest,

“Our clients from Scotland to Southampton, London to Llandeilo, find our services improve profits and staff morale.”

The second version is more personal but still professional. By starting with “our clients“, it is putting the customers first, literally and implying that their needs are paramount.

Corporate language has had a bad press and for good reason. Government departments that deal with the public for instance have no excuse for being distant or corporate. That sort of language is a barrier.

However for some businesses, being distant and corporate is reassuring for their customers. If someone is going to spend £100K with your firm of architects then they probably aren’t looking for a matey tone in your communications.

There are many ways to strike the wrong note. Take this example, which is not only matey but rather boastful and could be a turn off for your clients.

“You don’t want to waste your time trying out other management consultants. Save yourself the bother. Call us. Our clients think we’re simply the best. Bet you will too!”

Can you feel how the tone jars with the job title? Do we want our management consultants to be this matey? It suggests a laid back attitude, perhaps a little careless with the details. Not what we want from our highly paid consultants.

If you find yourself being persuaded to use a matey tone that feels uncomfortable then follow your instincts and stick with a friendly but professional tone.


Do you need help with your business writing?

You can book me for 1:2:1 coaching (in person or by Skype) or contact me to register your interest for a copywriting workshop.

Here’s what delegates said on a recent copywriting workshop.

“Would I recommend Juliet’s copywriting workshop, How to create engaging content? Yes! It offers a lot of good advice for different communication platforms. Informative and good examples used.”

Esther Apoussidis, Coffee Continental (Blackwood and Cardiff).

“I find writing content challenging because I felt I was rusty and I need to be confident that I am doing things the best way. The best thing about Juliet’s copywriting workshop, How to create engaging content, was the personalised help and tips on helpful tools.

I also liked the structured pointers and drawing out of ideas. Would I recommend this workshop? Yes, Juliet is a very good tutor and made the workshop relevant to our needs. Many thanks!”

Sally Edwards Hart, Operational Manager, Cardiff Venues and Tourism Services



Are you “fun”? asks copy writer, John Forde

 copywriting  Comments Off on Are you “fun”? asks copy writer, John Forde
Jun 042013

I’ve been getting John Forde’s Copywriter’s Roundtable emails for quite a while now and wanted to share his words of wisdom on the subject of “fun”. Here it is! I’d recommend you sign up – it’s one I always read.
Battle-tested Copywriting “Shortcuts” That Work:

June 4, 2013

Are You “Fun” Enough
For Your Customers?

The Secret to Selling Yourself as a Copywriter:

Are you “fun”? 

“So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.”

– Robert Frost

We talk here, Cupcake, about a lot of different ways to motivate people to do things… read things… and buy things.

Let’s see… “needs vs. wants”… resident emotions… social motivators… fear and greed… the list goes on.

And it’s all good stuff, really.

But let me ask you, how often has yours truly talked about getting people to want more, give more, and be more… just giving them a chance to have “fun?”

Because, before you reply, I think the answer is… never. And honestly, I don’t know how I missed it.

After all, don’t we all like to have a little fun, once in awhile? Of course we do.

Maybe even more than once in awhile.

Which is why I was surprised to come across a motivational idea that’s been around now for a few years, if not longer.

It’s called “Fun Theory.”


“Girls,” said the oddly dressed 1980s philosopher and chanteuse, Cyndi Lauper, “just want to have fun.”

She was, according to this theory, at least half right. Because it turns out gender doesn’t have much to do with it — we all like a good time.

How obvious, you might say.

Yes, but if it’s so obvious, then how come so many of us have missed so many opportunities to get more done by… making things more fun to do?

For instance, here’s an example:

It turns out, there’s this trashcan. It looks like the other trashcans nearby. Except, inside it has a sensor and sound system.

Drop in a piece of trash, and it triggers the system. Your garbage sounds like it’s falling a hundred feet or so before it hits bottom.

What happened?

The rigged bin collected over 158 lbs. of trash, nearly double the amount tossed in the un-rigged, regular bin nearby.

Here’s another good one…

Behavioral scientists want to see if they could get more people to forego a subway escalator and, instead, take the stairs.

So they made the stairs look — and sound — like a piano keyboard. Each step played a note.

What happened?

The escalator got lonely, as young and old alike — in fact, 66% more people than normal — opted to take the steps instead.

And here’s one more…

Surely, you’ve seen those green bins for sorting and collecting recyclable glass bottles.

I don’t know what happens with these things in the States (or if they even have them), but when we’re here in Europe, we see many people cruise right past. Glass, it turns out, is just a pain to sort.

But what if you add arcade sounds and lights, and a game where you get points for dropping bottles in the right slots at the right time?

When someone tried it, locals crowded around, cheering for each other and waiting for a turn to dump their own glass into the box.

Nearly 100 people used the “arcade” bottle bank in a single evening. And the regular bottle bank nearby? In that same span, just two patrons. Two.

If all this sounds familiar to you, that’s probably because you watch more TV than I do — this was, apparently, a big ad campaign put together by Volkswagen a couple years ago.

Their point was, people would do things more readily if you up the fun factor — even if it’s something they might have hesitated to try before.

In Volkswagen’s case, the “fun” was driving a new line of eco-friendly and fuel-efficient cars.

People will not, VW reasoned, just drive the cars because it’s the “responsible” thing to do.

Rather, they’ll drive the cars willingly only if they actually enjoy doing it. Focus on the fun.

Again, you say… obvious.

And again, I counter, then why do so many of us try to sell stuff by focusing on what’s so boring?

Or worse, why do so many of us… try to sell so much boring stuff, period?

My point is this: Often the thing that’s missing from a pitch… or a product… is just this fun factor. Plain and simple, your prospect doesn’t feel excited about what you’re saying or selling.

So try simply asking…

What would my prospect find… fun?

Be careful here, because it’s easier to find the wrong answer than it is to find the right one.

You could, for instance, try to force your version of “fun” on the prospect… rather than appeal to his or her sense of what makes for a good time.

If you’ve ever dragged a kid into a wine store (depending on the kid)… or your wife into a guitar shop (depending on the wife)… you know what I mean.

You need to start inside the prospect’s mind, first and foremost. From there, you can make the connection to what you sell… or say to sell it.

This might mean something small, like the “take this quiz” trick often used by master copywriter, Gene Schwartz.

Or maybe it’s something bigger, like showing other customers having a good time using the product… or even redesigning the product itself, so it delivers more of a good, rich “feeling” experience and not one that’s just a bundle of lifeless features.

(In info products, for instance, that might mean something so abstract as a much richer, deeper relationship with the readers… using humor, stories, and personal details… that’s “fun” for a lot of readers, more so than info by itself).

You get the picture — be fun or die!

P.S. Here’s one more example…

A local speed camera used to just snap pictures of your face when you zipped by too fast.

But someone had an idea, what if it snapped everyone’s picture… and rewarded the good drivers with a chance to win some of the fines that bad drivers had to pay?

They called it the “speed camera lottery.”

In the tested span of time, drivers slowed down overall by 22% — from 37 km/h to 25 km/h, on average.

Clever, yes?


Are you looking for a way to “escape” the 9-to-5 rat race? Do you feel chained to your desk – at a job you don’t like – by the reality of having to earn money?

Most of us trade our time for money.

We may make a very nice living doing that … but we are never truly free as long as we punch a time clock – or have a boss telling us what to do.

We have to get up early in the morning every day … commute in the cold and dark … and put in long hours making money for someone else.

But now, Bob Bly has discovered a safe, sure-fire way for you to completely retire – within 18 to 24 months from today – even if you haven’t saved a dime for retirement.

In his new audio program, “The Internet Marketing Retirement Plan,” Bob will show you how he did it.

Wouldn’t you like to be in a position where you can do anything you want each day – rather than having to get up early and commuting to work every morning?

To discover the 3 simple steps to building an online “retirement income” just click here now:


Here comes summer. Summer means beach.

It also means unveiling all that hard work you did over the winter, building a healthy store of flab.

(I find I’m very good at that.)

For most of us, that’s not fun. Worse, though, is actually doing anything to get rid of said flab.

Fortunately, I happened to be in the Apple app store poking around… and found some pretty good examples of today’s principle, turning the not-fun into fun.

Just in case you’re interested…

* Nexercise:

Here’s a cool idea. The more you move and lose weight, this app “pays” you. That is, you can earn gift certificates to Amazon, etc. or build up credits that you can cash in for donations to charities and more.

* Gympact:

This is kind of the opposite idea. You put up cash to start and lose it if you don’t exercise. The good news is, you can get money back — from the other non-exercises — when you get up off your rump and move.

* Zombies, Run:

You pay for this one ($4), but it might be worth it if you find running boring… but need to run. Because… zombies. As you run, the app plays a “mission” in which you’re chased by the undead.

* Teemo:

Ever want to challenge your brother to a race up Mount Everest… or your office mate to trek across the desert? Maybe not in real life, but in this app, it’s possible. Compete with your friends in adventure-fitness challenges.

There are more out there, but that’s certainly enough to pick from. Now all you need to do is download one and give it a try…

THE MISSING LINK: Your Instant Fitness Plan

Speaking of fitness apps, here’s just one more. This one has helped users lose 21.6 million lbs.


The CR, full of rich creamy goodness…

With ample enough portions to share with friends…

And yet…

Almost always, 100% calorie free. Still, chew on this: All the above is © 2013 by John Forde.

BY THE WAY, if you ever want to reproduce one of these CR articles in a blog, in an email, in a book, on a milk carton… or on one of those banners they hang on the back of airplanes at the beach… GO AHEAD!

You’ve got my blessing.

Just promise you’ll make sure you’ll include a link back to my website and encourage your readers to sign up for $78 worth of free gifts.

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Klout innovation will power search engine results

 Article writing, SEO  Comments Off on Klout innovation will power search engine results
May 092013

Klout innovation will power search engine results.

This is an interesting post from @markwschaefer, discussing a new development from Klout. Klout measures online influence and has been testing creating and rewarding Klout experts. Would be of interest to any web writers who post regular, original, topic specific content.

It’s not clear exactly how this is going to work, but worth following as it unfolds.

Mar 252013

A fabulous day learning about the digital lives and works of some splendid women

I wanted to record my impressions of our fabulous Mostly Women Doing Digital event in Swansea on Saturday.

In response to the theme JUST DO IT, running through the day, I decided to have a play with alternative formats. So I recorded my thoughts on Voice Recorder on my phone while walking the dogs on a blustery Sunday March morning.

Seemed like a good idea at the time!

I apologise now for the huffing and puffing (me and the wind). Jess Hughes did stress the importance of good quality audio during her talk about video. Will DO BETTER next time.

Here’s my windy audio! Please add to my suggestions for improvement: eliminate wind and huffing noise and make it shorter.


Reflections on Mostly Women Doing Digital





Topics were:

  • Kids And Our Digital Future
  • DIY Blog/Site SetUp And Design
  • Blogging Globally
  • Content Writing For Fans
  • Why And How Video Is Vital
  • How The Web Gave Me A Job
  • Public Life, Big Numbers and Social Media

And here’s links to everyone’s digital spaces: