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The PS: The Last Bit of Copy Shall Be Read First

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

An online devotional for writers

A Word From The Word

The last will be first. (Matthew 20:16, ESV)

A Word For Writers

When I first started down the copywriting road, I thought the PS in a letter was a throwaway.

The PS: Online devotional for writers, #freelancers #ChristianWritingResources based on Matt 20:16 with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips

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 Wise Word

A faithful copywriter understands a reader’s inclination to read the P.S. first.

A Word To Pray

Gracious Father,

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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