This time it's personal

Using empathy to engage your readers.


Remember those heady days when mail merge was first available for PC users? You do? I’m not sure I believe you. No matter. If you truly are that old, you’ll recall the excitement. At last you could write 'personal' emails ... or do I mean 'personalised'? Is there a difference? You bet there is.


Personalised copy

"Dear Mrs Protheroe

As a highly professional HR Consultant, I am excited to be able to offer you a 25% introductory discount on our amazing range of printer consumables.”


There are at least 3 things wrong with this single sentence. But that's for later.

Our main concern is the confusion between personalised and personal copy.

‘Personalised’ is what mail-merge gives us - the ability to drop in words or phrases specific to each reader,

as in the little example above.


And what does our nifty bit of mail-merge work tell our reader?

“Hey you! I’m so clever! I know your name and I know what you do for a job!”

This is a world away from ‘personal’ copy.


Personal copy

Instead - how about this?

“Has this ever happened to you?

You’re ready to print out the first draft of that all-important document you’ve been working on for hours, when your printer groans to a halt, because – you guessed it – you’re out of toner!”

Even if, unusually, your reader has never suffered this inconvenience, what matters is that she or he could have done.

The reason this morsel of copywriting works is that it develops empathy with the reader.

So - being personal really matters but it’s different from being clever with mail-merge technology.

Get inside the minds and hearts of your newsletter reader and they’ll love you for it. They really will.


Never be amazed

Those three things wrong with the first slice of copy –

  1. Who’s the ‘highly professional PR Consultant’? You or your reader?
  2. ‘I’m excited to …’ You know what? No-one cares. No-one gives a flying fig if you’re excited, delighted, or utterly discombobulated about your offer. It’s not about how you feel. It’s about how it might make your reader feel. Much more about this right here.
  3. Not ‘amazing’. Please! Never ‘amazing’! The most over-used word of the millennium. If you want to communicate that your product or service is 'really rather good', then sit down with a nice cup of tea and your online synonym dictionary and find a better word. There are plenty out there. And if you still can’t find one … ask a friendly copywriter.


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Jun 21, 2020
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