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.