Saturday, March 26, 2022

The 17 Copywriting Axioms

Legendary copywriter and entrepreneur Joe Sugarman passed away March 18, 2022 at age 83.

He was a genius direct response copywriter, best known for refining the craft of advertorials, and for his best-selling product: BluBlocker Sunglasses. 

For today's marketing writers, his book The Adweek Copywriting Handbook is considered a "must read" featuring advice such as:

“So your first sentence should be very compelling by virtue of its short length and ease of reading. No long multisyllabic words. Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.”

Since you're reading this blog, you most likely already own The Adweek Copywriting Handbook . Now get a copy of Sugarman’s Advertising Secrets of the Written Word

Joe Sugarman - 17 Copywriting Axioms
Joseph Sugarman (1938-2022)

Here’s a tease of what you’ll get in the book: 

Sugarman’s 17 Axioms of Copywriting.

1. Copywriting is a mental process the successful execution of which reflects the sum total of all your experiences, your specific knowledge and your ability to mentally process that information and transfer it onto a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service.

2. All the elements in an advertisement are primarily designed to do one thing and one thing only: get you to read the first sentence of the copy.

3. The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence of the copy.

4. Your ad layout and the first few paragraphs of your ad must create the buying environment most conducive to the sale of your product or service.

5. Get the reader to say yes and harmonize with your accurate and truthful statements while reading the copy.

6. Your readers should be so compelled to read your copy that they cannot stop reading until they read all of it as if sliding down a slippery slope.

7. When trying to solve problems, don’t assume constraints that aren’t really there.

8. Keep the copy interesting and the reader interested through the power of curiosity.

9. Never sell a product or service, sell a concept.

10. The incubation process is the power of your subconscious mind to use all your knowledge and experience to solve a specific problem, and its efficiency is dictated by time, creative orientation, environment and ego.

11. Copy should be long enough to cause the reader to take the action that you request.

12. Every communication should be a personal one, from the writer to the recipient, regardless of the medium used.

13. The ideas presented in your copy should flow in a logical fashion, anticipating your prospect’s questions and answering them as if the questions were asked face-to-face.

14. In the editing process, you refine your copy to express what you want to express with the fewest words.

15. The more the mind must work to reach the conclusion successfully, the more positive, enjoyable or stimulating the experience.

16. Selling a cure is a lot easier than selling a preventative, unless the preventative is perceived as a cure or curative aspects of the preventative are emphasized.

17. Telling a story can effectively sell your product, create the environment or get the reader well into your copy as you create an emotional bonding with your prospect.


Advertising Secrets of the Written Word: The Ultimate Resource on How to Write
Powerful Advertising Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters and Mail Order Entrepreneurs

Available on Amazon

Monday, March 21, 2022

Yes, Writers. Use the Passive Voice.

Yes, writers, use the passive voice.

I know you've been told not to use it, but sometimes, the passive voice can be your friend.

I use it when the action (or the target of that action) is what I want to emphasize.

For example:

The nation's premier civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was signed into law on July 2, 1964.

I could've said: "The US president signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2, 1964 as the nation's premier civil rights legislation" ... but I wanted the "star" of the sentence to be the Civil Rights Act ...


My bike was stolen last week. I had to walk to work until I could get a new one.

I could've said, "Somebody stole my bike last week" ... but I wanted the attention to be on my bike and that it was stolen, not an anonymous thief.

Using the passive voice is a matter of style, not a grammatical error.

That being said, don't overuse it. The passive voice can make your writing wordy with complicated sentence structures. And overuse can make your writing flat and uninteresting

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

One Tough Mama

My mom kicked down the door.

My mom kicked down the door

She was a nursery school teacher. During a fire drill, the exterior door she was supposed to take the kids through was locked.

She didn’t have a key.

So, she kicked it down.

The school told her she’d have to pay for damages.

“The fire alarm was going off and I had 21 kids to get out of that building. That door shouldn’t have been locked. That’s on you.”

“But it was a drill. There wasn’t really a fire.”

“I quit.”

“We’ll pay for the door.”

That was a while ago. She’s 95 now.

And still a badass.


It’s International Women’s Day. I’m celebrating my mom and all women who kick down doors.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

War and Pull Ups

The slight man looked out of place wearing suit pants and a tie while doing pull ups.

I thought I would be the only person into the school weight room, but math teacher Israel Borenstein was there.

Doing pull ups.

I didn’t have any classes with Mr. Borenstein, but everybody knew of him because he was fasting in protest of the war. 

A war halfway across the world.

That was an odd concept to me. As odd as seeing a teacher doing pull ups. 

In a tie, no less.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” he asked as he dropped to the floor.

Damn. I was busted. And tongue-tied.

“Why is it that you want to exercise instead of studying?”

I had no idea what to say. I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“You’re on a hunger strike, right?”

“More of a fast.”

“To protest the war, right?”


“But what good is you being hungry gonna do?

“Maybe help people to think differently about war.”

“By not eating?”

“If they were bombing San Francisco, would you feel like having a nice meal?”

“Uh, I guess not.”

“Well, that’s how I feel about the war. People being killed this way makes me lose my appetite.”

I expected more, but he turned, picked up his suitcoat from the weight rack, and headed out.

At the door he turned and said, “If you need to burn off steam in here to clear your mind for study, I understand. If not, go to class.”

Although it was his first year at the school, he left part way through. I don’t know why.

This was our only interaction.

Mr. Borenstein, one of the better teachers I've encountered.

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders. The team applauded as Byron held up th...