Faces that leap out of crowds

So you’re writing a sales letter. And because times are tight, you’re doing it yourself. Even though you’re no copywriter.

You write the whole thing in Word. In 11 point Times New Roman or Arial on single spacing. Because that’s how your copy of Word defaults your draft.

Here and there you stick in an underline or a bold.

If you’re really smart, maybe you even lift the size of the headline from 11 point to 12 point.

You write and write and write until you’re happy that you’ve made your killer pitch.

But you’ve not. Not yet. Come with me.

Let’s go back to the start.

Take the headline up in size. If the body of your letter is set in 11 point, see how the headline looks at 16 point, 18 point or 21 point.

Now, change the font on the headline.

Nothing says it has to be the same font as the body of the letter: some fonts are actually designed for headlines, and others for body copy.

Try using a font and weight of font (ie how bold the version of the face you use is) that give that headline some impact.

If you have few fonts on your machine try sans serif faces like Helvetica Bold or even Arial Bold. If you have a fuller range of fonts, try something black and grotesque, like Franklin Gothic, Grot 9 or Futura Bold.

Better still, if you’ve got a condensed version of these faces, try that, and take the font size up another couple of points.

How’s it looking?

Bit too ‘in your face’?

Fair enough. Let’s try a serif face. Times New Roman, or Georgia maybe. Or, if you have it, something like Caslon or Century Schoolbook. Again, if you’ve got a bold cut (version), use that.

Get some ‘blackness’ (visual density) into your headline.

Oh. And centre it.

Now…let’s see. Those subheads.

Get them up in size, as well. If the body size was 11 point, they’ll probably look about right at 14 point. Centre these, as well.

Now how’s it looking?

Now get rid of all those double returns between paragraphs. They’re putting so much air through your letter it’s not looking important enough. Use the ‘Format>Pragraph’ menu options to add a few extra few points ‘After’ each Return, instead. You just want enough space between paras for the eye to see clearly that it is a para break.

Hmm. Now. Font for the body of the letter. Think about your tone. Clean, contemporary, neutral? Well, Ok, try it in Arial or Helvetica or whichever other sans serif text face you have.

Professional? Intimate? Authoritative? Try it in Times or Georgia or another simple, classic serif.

Maybe you should even take a look in Typewriter or a similar monospace font. Sometimes those still say ‘this is a spontaneous, unencumbered communication’.

Check the inter-line spacing. Try one and a half instead of one, paricularly if your letter is brief. If you’re feeling really confident, you could set an exact number of points. Try about one and a third times whatever point size the type is.

What else? Indents. Have a look at indenting the first word of each para just a little bit. Sometimes it looks old fashioned: others it helps make the letter seem more personal.

The point is that all these parameters, the typography of your letter, will dramatically change its tone, its voice, its impact and its effect.

You don’t need designers. You don’t need anything but Word and a few minutes of fiddling.

The results may well increase the response to your letter dramatically.

You’ll be amazed to find that the content of the letter accounts only for a part of its effectiveness. The styling accounts for the rest.

It’s not aesthetics or whimsy. It’s psychology.

Split test it and see.