How to rivet your readers with "primal" ad copy

PerryMarketing Blog98 Comments

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Today I’d like to share one of my fave copywriting secrets. This secret helps me connect with you and other readers on an emotional level. It keeps you hanging out in Planet Perry long after you’ve abandoned the other haunts.

The secret is this:

Don’t make people think. Except when you really want them to think.

In sales, making people think is generally a no-no. Stir peoples’ hearts ’til they open their wallets, right?

But I do make you think. The other day a customer said, “When you get an email from Perry, you know it’s going to take some work to follow where he’s going.” Heck, in Maui I spent the first hour talking about Fibonacci numbers.

If I didn’t make people think, I wouldn’t have so many members who earn high-six and low-seven figure incomes. Nobody ever said business is easy – not if they’re telling the truth.

But the reason I can get away with this is….

You never have to waste your brain power dissecting my sentences.

Almost everything I put out reads at the 5th to 8th grade level (age 10-13). The lead article in USA Today this morning reads at Grade 9.4. New York Times: Grade 9. Huffington Post, 9.8. This article you’re reading now, 4.5. An average 9 year old can read it just fine.

If you want to be welcome in peoples’ email boxes, you need to pay attention to this.

I made you a Free tool at

Bookmark the page!

…and I use it all the time. You can paste your text into the box and see the grade level instantly.

When your copy reads at a 5th grade level, it’s primal. Gut level impact. It sails right into your reader’s brain and sticks. Your reader spends his brain cells digesting your ideas, not your sentences. One of the reason Gary Halbert’s copy was so seductive was, it seldom read above 6th grade and often 3rd or 4th.

"So many options for growing my business, but what should I do NOW?" Tell me your most pressing business problems and I'll show you your BEST next step.

Right now I’m writing a new book about very complex ideas in biology and it’s never above grade 8. Which means when the book comes out, people will understand what I’m saying.

You achieve this by….

  • Never using a 4 syllable word when a 2 syllable word will do
  • Using short simple sentences that get right to the point
  • Making your paragraphs short and punchy

Keep your copy in the Grade 4-7 range, and even white papers and tutorials below 9. You’ll buzz past the competition and only you will know why. Since age = grade level + 5, you’re ensuring that any 14 year old can understand what you’ve written.

Now there’s one more secret that will help you write great copy. It’s the “You to Me ratio.”

In copy, you should always talk about your reader (“You” – “Your”) more than you talk about yourself (“I” – “me” – “my” – “we” ). 1.5:1 is good. More is even better.

It’s much easier to listen to somebody who’s talking about YOU than somebody who constantly talks about themselves. It’s more fun and it’s less work. Many times you can twist a sentence around and speak from the reader’s point of view. See? Just did it again.

The You:Me ratio of this message is 1.8:1. Which is one reason why you’re still reading now.

Enjoy this tool, and do your friends a favor – tell others about it too:

Perry Marshall

P.S.: You can use this tool for email subject lines, tweets and Facebook posts too. I recommend Grade 4. Today’s subject line, “How to rivet your readers with ‘primal’ ad copy” is Grade 3.7.

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

98 Comments on “How to rivet your readers with "primal" ad copy”

  1. Very interesting, Perry. But, the Title: “How to rivet your readers with “primal” ad copy” is at the 3.7-grade level or 9-10 years old?

    I’m pretty sure I would not have understood the words “rivet” and “primal” nor the phrase “ad copy” at the age of 9 or 10 without looking them up.

    Looking forward to testing your tool, though. Thanks for making it available.

    1. I’m not writing to reach 9 year olds; I’m writing to reach the inner 9 year old of a 40 year old person – who understands words like “rivet” at a primal level.

  2. Hey Perry,

    You have quite an amazing article and I have tried using your free tool, and what I can say that, it’s the best tool cos it keeps you on grade.

    Keep up the good work and am grateful landing on your article.


  3. I have used your tool to determine the reading level of texts for my student library. I have to type in the text, since the books are in print, not online. I was wondering how much of the text is needed to get a reasonably accurate reading level?

  4. Got this piece of Info from Rich Schefren, great tool. Thanks for investing your time in creating this tool. Love your Work. It is definitely helping me create more impact.

    Above text has a Grade of 1.3 and You me ratio of 2:1

  5. How to Rivet Your Readers With “Primal” Ad Copy. Grade 3.7? The average third- or fourth-grader doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘primal.’ It isn’t just about reading; what’s important is UNDERSTANDING what you read. But this WAS a good read! And I like the grading tool. Although I scored 8.4 on ease of reading (and that’s perfectly OK; my audience is age 16 and older), I scored 3.5:1 on the You:Me ratio on my 3-page “pitch” (I’m selling an idea). Now THAT’S what I’M talkin’ about!

  6. Wow! I learned something truly enlightening with this tool today. Always put full stops (periods for my American friends!) at the end of every bullet point. Otherwise the tool reads the block of text as one sentence. I got a grade score of 42.3 for a list of bullet points. Added full stops and it dropped to 6.8. I never used to like using full stops at the end of every bullet point but I’ll be using them from now on if that’s the difference they make. Great tool, thanks Perry :-) If anyone knows a way to get around this or if I’m missing something I’d love to know, thanks

  7. Perry, Your article are very active. I wanna be a writer but now hardly facing “Writer Block”. I am a Textile student but with uncertain future. My father died 5 months ago and I had a good job. But unfortunately, last month our company was broken down. I need to support my mother and younger brother at this moment when I am unable to support my own study. Can you please help me to stand against “Writers Block”.

  8. Perry, it’s not until I read this, that I understood why your articles are so effective. I can just sit back, read and take it all in. I don’t have to fight to understand what you’re saying; everything just flows. I’m going to try and apply this to my own writing. According to your tool, this comment is perfect for a 5th grader – so that’s a decent start!

  9. btw. Perry, while I was having a blast rewriting my posts, I remembered anohter tool I used this year:

    it was on Chitika, under Labs. I don’t think it’s still there (forgot my password) – they might be selling it, but it’s worth looking for.

    It’s called ScrollStats and shows how many readers read how much of your text on any page you test.

    So it shows smth like 20% or readers read up to here, another 40% up to here and so on.

    I used it for free and when I looked for it later, it wasn’t there.

  10. Perry, I just want to say another big thank you! Apart from being very useful, this tool is such a fun. (Almost as marketing DNA test. Big thank you for that, too, in case I forgot to say thanks last time)

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