ProTip Tuesday #10: And or But?

This week’s ProTip is a subtle-yet-effective tip for making your copywriting more persuasive. It is also a way to make negative things feel lighter and keep the reader reading or the listening listening. It is the subtle art of “and” vs. “but”.


When we make a two-part sentence we often use “but” in the middle. For example:

“I like you a lot but I think we should be friends.”

Doesn’t sound like a good situation, does it?

As soon as anyone hears “but” in a sentence it cancels whatever you just said or wrote before it, and the listener assumes it will end negatively.

This happens in a lot of languages.

However, notice that the tone of the same sentence changes when we replace “but” with “and”:

“I like you a lot and I think we should be friends.”

Now it sounds like something with potential for a future! The first time you read that sentence you probably assumed it was a break-up scenario, but why would you assume that? Clearly this was someone who just met a new friend!

See what I mean?

Unfortunately, users read slower than they listen, so when they read "but" they just stop reading. If you’re trying to sell something, that’s a problem because the reader can’t agree to something they haven’t read.

In general you should try to phrase everything in a positive way all the time.

If you must use negative copy remember that “but” cancels whatever comes before it, so here are the rules:

If you START with something POSITIVE use “and”.
“Q3 profits are up 38% and…”

If you must START with something NEGATIVE use “but”.
“Q3 profits are lower than expected but…”

People hear what they want to hear, so we’re just giving them a little help. :) Both methods increase the chance that the reader will continue reading and remember the positive things more.

And that is the art of “and” vs. “but”.

Have a great week!


If you liked this ProTip, try ProTip Tuesday #11: Show Them What to Click.

Or Go to the ProTip List!