NB: Ernest Hemingway's "FOR SALE: BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN." is widely heralded as the greatest six-word story ever written. However, it's always struck me that it's a poor piece of sales copy – those shoes are never going to sell. Here's how I would have helped given the chance.
I took a look at the ad you wrote: FOR SALE: BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN.
I have a few issues with it.
1. Concise is good, but we’re writing an ad not a telegram. You have to make the audience want the shoes. Don’t be afraid to add some colour.
2. Speaking of which, what colour are they? Blue? Pink? That’s an important detail.
3. As are size and material. Are we talking newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months? Plastic, leather, felt? Don't make your audience work for it.
OK, that gets us to something like this:
FOR SALE: BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN.
Can you see that’s already working better?
4. So you’ve got me interested, but what’s going to swing it is the price. $6.99? Sounds competitive.
5. I know you like concise, so I’m going to suggest a cut. Do you really need that ‘For sale’ at the beginning? Is it not obvious from the context? Especially when you add the price. Let’s see:
BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN. $6.99.
6. We’re pretty close here, but every ad needs a call to action:
BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN. $6.99. CALL ERNEST 07491 0921830.
7. OK, there’s one last big problem to overcome. NEVER WORN is a great product benefit, but you’re underplaying it. Can we flesh it out somehow?
BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN – WE HAD A BOY! $6.99. CALL ERNEST 07491 0921830.
8. See how this has more personality now? Is there any way we can push it further? Get a bit of the real Ernest in there? Remember, people buy from people.
JUST THE CUTEST BABY SHOES (PINK FELT, 0-3 MONTHS). NEVER WORN – WE HAD A BOY (MILO, HE'S THE GREATEST)! $6.99 – MILO WILL ACCEPT NO LESS! CALL ERNIE ON 07491 0921830.
OK, we have an ad.
Now can you send in John Steinbeck – I have a few problems with his Hannah Montana Used Wardrobe Accessories treatment.