In case you are wondering, the articles I wrote were on: the writing formula AIDA; general writing tips that seemed random, yet fitting; and the awkward moments.
Halbert wrote “The Boron Letters” to his son as a tome of lessons in writing, direct marketing and life. He wrote them while in jail at the Boron Federal Prison Camp, indicted for mail fraud. Hence the title, long story short.
Still, the time spent in prison seems to be discounted relative to his legacy, treated as a blip in his copywriting history, for whatever reason.
These letters are also available online for free, so if you Google them (or link here for Chapter 1), you’ll be able to have access to all 25 Chapters that offer cogent advice on writing in general, and copywriting.
So I will be paraphrasing in these next lines some of the takeaways from the final chapters.
I’d like to address three points that can help bring more gravitas to your words and state of being as a writer (or person in general). These points are on:
Are you ready for the notes? Okay, let’s continue. Onward.
On Believability (Chapter 23)
We can make our writing more believable by adding details. Two ways we can do this, according to author Gary Halbert, is to add detail to values and descriptions.
Adding Detail to Value
Words like “some” and “a lot” sometimes work fine, but in other cases, specificity rather than a general numerical term will work better.
A specific value will add to your believability by allowing a person to envision and connect with what is being stated. So instead of saying “Some computers…,” a person can write a specific number like “5% of computers…”.
Adding Detail to Description
If you describe something, a more detailed description renders the item more real and therefore believable, according to Halbert.
So rather than describing a hat — which could be any hat — why not add the color and type of hat, too? For example, “the hat” could be transformed into “a brown fedora hat with a feather.”
On Impact (Chapter 24)
We want our message to have impact. On Medium, this is noted by claps or some type of metric that shows we hit the soul in a real way. And if you are a part of the Partner Program, then being paid also shows our impact.
Halbert defines impact as the impression you or your promotion makes on its intended audience.
An Example of “Impact”
Halbert’s example is from the direct mail industry, which he worked in. After, I will also apply the idea in a broader scope since so many other kinds of writing exist. Chapter 24 uses the following example:
A writer sends out a letter to 1000 different people, with a $1 bill attached to each letter. In the letter, the writer shares how he/she wants to give $1000 to a hospital, but that $1000 won’t go very far in helping.
So instead he/she decides to break the amount up and send a dollar bill to one thousand people. The writer asks each person if they will send the dollar along with one or two dollars to the hospital for more of an impact.
According to Halbert, the promotion led to much more than the original $1000 split 1000 ways, but to millions in donations. This is impact.
I will also note how the physical dollar bill added dimension to the message — imagery in the real. A word picture brought to life. So maybe this helped the message, too.
In a Broader Sense
Now let me bring a more general sweep to this idea.
The idea of impact shows that our ultimate goal is communication, and depending on the circumstance, to sell. Our narrative should be packaged in an interesting way, bringing all of the various elements of the story together.
One way the writer in the example does this, in addition to attaching a dollar bill to the letter, is by sharing the letter’s backstory.
So my question is, how can we bring dimension to our words?
One way, as shown in the example, is to infuse words with our own experience. Infusing words with your experience, or from your perspective, with your voice, can be what allows an everyday message to pop off the page.
Like the songwriter that sings a new version of an age-old narrative, but whose interpretation brings new life and comfort to the words and tune.
On Self-Awareness (Chapter 25)
In Chapter 25, Halbert discusses self-awareness. I liked the idea that he proposed because I think that it can be useful for anyone, writers and non-writers alike.
Namely: I pay attention to myself and when I am off. I drop out of sight and do what is necessary to strengthen myself."
Sometimes re-organizing ourselves away from others can help us to get back into the right frame of mind to place our best foot forward.
In short, now that I’ve finished “The Boron Letters” and shared different lessons over the course of a number of articles, I’d suggest reading the 25 letters, though the language isn’t always “kosher,” fair warning.
Believability, impact and self-awareness are three lessons of note that will be important to have in whatever writing sphere we are in. We want to be credible. We want to have reach. And we want to stay sane in the process.
These three tips can help us to do just that — thanks for reading.