Compelling writing in advertising is all about what isn’t written but rather felt, implied. It’s the meaning and sub-meaning, and the sub-sub-meaning of both that matter. So, when you hire a content writing agency or a freelance writer for your website and other platforms, it’s important they know how to influence your target audience. And since wisdom comes from all types of random places, here’s what a random elevator ride taught me about creating better, more influential content.
The Power of “And”
A random dad taught me that.
I was staying at a family hotel with vintage wooden everything. Being a lazy millennial, I took the elevator only to witness some fine parenting. A dad was taking his little boy down to the pool. The boy was complaining about wearing a swim cap and kept taking it off, saying, “I have it, but I don’t want it!” The dad simply said, “You have it and you don’t want it, so you will wear it as these are the hotel rules.” The boy froze, and so did I. It was profoundly simple, true, and effective.
The power of replacing “but” with “and,” so you can acknowledge the truth but focus the attention on the resolution — I truly had a lightbulb moment, so I did some digging.
The Science Behind It
It’s deeply rooted in behavioral psychology.
There is a branch of behavioral psychology called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Its goal is to help people cope with stress, live in the moment (whatever that means), improve their relationships with others, and deal with conflicting emotions. In that sense, a “dialectic” refers to the idea that two truths or statements can both be true at the same time, even if they seemingly oppose one another.
Instead of placing them as rivals and dividing them with a “but,” you can put them in the same basket (with an “and”), and make things less black and white. It is scientifically proven that for people, solutions often lay in the gray area, and DBT has found a way to create a buffer between extremes.
Awesome, but what does it have to do with copywriting?
Presenting a copy that doesn’t pit two truths against one another but rather integrates them, erases conflict in the reader. It begs them to ask the question, “So?” and look for a solution. And, if you’re there to give them the answer from the get-go, you’re suddenly two steps ahead of others.
How to Use It to Your Advantage
The answer is pretty simple,
Each time you’re about to use “but,” replace it with “and,” then add “so,” and let the magic happen.
Let’s look at some examples to help you understand the idea.
“I am in love with you, but I can’t stay.”
We are conditioned to focus on what follows after the “but” and ignore what came before it. You’ve surely said “I’m sensing a but coming” at least once in your life. And for good reason. That’s how most people speak, and it’s your chance to stand out by altering your expression. “But” ends the dialogue, it leaves no room for negotiating the statement, it invokes a different response in the other person.
If we use the “and” strategy, the example from above will change like this:
“I am in love with you, and I can’t stay.”
Replacing “but” with “and” shows both statements are equally important and true. I both love you and have to leave you. It doesn’t say I don’t love you enough to stay. Do you begin to see the difference?
And if we add “So,” it all comes together:
“I am in love with you, and I can’t stay, so I need to start looking for an apartment.”
I don’t imagine someone actually wants to be on the receiving end of that conversation with a lover. But, if those truths must be spoken, doesn’t the “and-so” framework make things sound more elaborate? It opens the conversation and allows you to explore opportunities. It also gives you an immediate solution to the situation, and it just hurts less when you hear it.
Being able to provoke just the right emotion in a person through content is Marketing 101. So, let’s look at a marketing-oriented message you would like to get across. Say you want to advertise your dating app (yes, Valentine’s may be over, but the topic of dating is evergreen). Which message would sit better do you think? The main character saying:
I want to date, but have never been asked out!
I want to date and have never been asked out, so I joined your app name, and it turned my life upside down!
The flow and focus are different, so it’s up to you and your content writing agency to decide which approach appeals more to your target audience. Either way, it’s a fresh perspective that can come in handy.
Since I’m on Vacay
… I’ll be wrapping this up.
It’s been both enlightening and liberating doing this “no but-s, only and-s” experiment. And I know we’re often tempted to go with a “but,” be it for dramatic effect or just because, yet I encourage you to at least give it a try. It might help you find solutions to problems you didn’t phrase properly. I’d love to know how it worked out for you, so feel free to come back and share your experience. All of us at 411Writers are giving it a chance, too!
If it seems difficult to apply just the “and” instead of the “but,” you can always use, “and it is also true that” to convert sentences.
Here’s an example from my own experience, it might resonate with some of you as well.
I get so angry with life’s injustices, and it is also true that I easily fall in love with every little moment of the day.
The only way to deal with grief is to experience it fully, and it is also true that grieving can tear you apart.
I am sensitive and confident.
Alright, I’m still on vacay, so catch you later, alligators!
Till next time,