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When you were coming up through school, you might have heard of something called the “K.I.S.S.” rule.

K.I.S.S., which stands for “keep it simple stupid,” is a well known principle in a lot of fields, including sales copywriting.

Basically, the idea is that you should never make something more complicated than it needs to be, unless you’re willing to let your reader get bored and wander off to someone else’s site (or book, or newspaper article, or whatever).

The reason the K.I.S.S. principle is so important in copywriting is because whether or not you follow it will have a direct effect on your conversion rate.

Readers are, in general, an impatient bunch. If you confuse your readers, you will not be able to hold their attention for very long. If you cannot hold your reader’s attention for very long, you won’t get them to read (or respond to) your call of action. And of course, if nobody’s reading your call to action, nobody’s buying your stuff (or signing up for your list, or joining your political party, or whatever).

In copywriting, the K.I.S.S. principle can be applied in more than one way. The following are three places where keeping it simple can keep you from looking stupid:

  1. Word choice. You never want to bore your readers with overly technical vocabulary, unless you absolutely cannot express yourself without it. However, do not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of simplicity. As Einstein once said, everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler
  2. Page  Layout. At first glance, this might appear to have nothing to do with copywriting. After all, isn’t the page layout something for graphic designers to worry about? That may be true, but good copy nevertheless has a certain type of layout, specifically, a simple, straightforward one. Do not write long paragraphs. Include a lot of numbers and bullet points. Leave a lot of white space on the page, and write in a relatively big font. A page filled with a boatload of text will intimidate your readers, and intimidated readers = no sales.
  3. Content. Don’t deal with overly complicated topics in your sales copy unless you absolutely have to. There are exceptions to this rule (I’ll deal with those in a minute), but in general, you don’t want to get too much into heavy duty theory or technical specifics when selling to people.

Follow the K.I.S.S. rule with regard to word choice, presentation and content, and your pages will convert. However, there are a couple of exceptions to the K.I.S.S. rule you should know about. If you know these exceptions, you’ll be able to identify opportunities to strategically break the rules above to great effect. In no particular order, these exceptions are:

  1. You can use technical vocabulary if it is “in vogue” or trendy. For example, right now, a lot of customers in the bodybuilding supplements niche like to know that any products they buy have certain ingredients (e.g.  “creatine monohydrate”). When writing for these customers, you might want to use the technical terms for these indredients to lend yourself credibility.
  2. If you’re a credentialed professional, such as a doctor or a lawyer, using technical jargon can enhance your image as an educated professional. If you’re in business as a doctor, lawyer or accountant, it is acceptable to use some technical language in your copy for this reason.

As the saying goes, rules are made to be broken. Follow the K.I.S.S. rule as a general guideline, but don’t become a slave to any rule, unless you’re willing to become formulaic and boring.