An online devotional for writers
The last will be first. (Matthew 20:16, ESV)
When I first started down the copywriting road, I thought the PS in a letter was a throwaway.
Then I found out that nearly 4 out of 5 readers – a full 79% – look at the PS first. As in before the first paragraph, according to legendary direct marketer Ray Jutkins.
That stat adds a whole new slant to the principle that “the last shall be first.”
Jesus coined that phrase as a wrap to the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. A vineyard landowner hired some workers first thing in the morning. He added to his staff at noon, at 3 PM, and again at 5 PM. Then at 6 o’clock in the evening, the shift whistle blew and the landowner paid everyone the same amount.
When the early hires complained, the landowner called them out. “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” he asked (Matthew 18:15, ESV).
The lesson, of course, is about sovereign grace. The landowner had the right to choose how to conduct his hiring practices; God has the authority to extend grace.
In applying that principle to writing, I have learned that the copy I write doesn’t belong to me. It’s merely a tool to help my reader make a decision. And once a piece of copy is in the reader’s hands he has the right to start reading wherever he wants.
Four times out of five, he will start at the end of a letter, rather than the beginning.
These days I work to understand his habits and avoid the tendency to write the PS as a throwaway.
Because the last part of my copy will likely be the first part he reads.
A faithful copywriter understands a reader’s inclination to read the P.S. first.
Thank you for research that teaches me the habits of my readers. Let me be diligent to write the P.S. in a way that my reader needs.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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