Ways to use Numbers in your Copywriting

Rules about writing abound.

For a start, there are all of the spelling and grammar rules to learn and abide by. Then there are the style guides covering everything from numbers to the correct way to write “wifi”. The common rules regarding numbers are:

•    Never start a sentence with a numeral

•    Write out single-digit numbers (including zero)

•    Write “percent” in full instead of putting the symbol

Having such clear rules regarding numbers indicates their importance in how readers perceive writing. However, there are even more ways to improve the presentation of numbers in writing so that they are used to their greatest effect.

Why is using numerals in copywriting a good idea?

–    Numerals are a shortcut for your brain as they are easy to scan.

–    Most people mentally translate words to numerals without even thinking about it

o    twenty-two plus 3 = 22 + 3

o    nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine = 9,999

o    three-for-two deal = 3-for-2 deal

Numerals stand out from the rest of the copy so they can be used to draw a reader’s eye to a specific part of your copy.

How to improve the presentation of percentages and monetary values

Numerals make monetary values, particularly for very significant sums, much simpler for the brain to process.

–    Four-thousand dollars versus £4,000/£4K

Even for smaller sums, it is more common to see 2p instead of two pennies.

The more a customer has work to understand a text, the more probable it is that they will switch off and navigate away from the page.

The same goes for writing a percentage out in full. However, sometimes it is good that percentages seem less real and vaguer. If you want to change the perception of bad news, then saying “1% of customers request a refund” will look like an insubstantial amount compared to “1 in every 100 customers”. There is a reason that you tend to see the latter presentation of numbers when a company is highlighting how many people like the product.

Percentages tend to sound scientific and detached, so when you want to stress positive news, make it relatable. “9 out of 10 women would buy this hairspray again” sounds much more convincing than “90% of women surveyed would buy this hairspray again”.

Do the maths for your reader

Readers should not have to work in your text, do any calculations needed for them to boost the readability of your copy

George Loewenstein, a behavioural economist at Carnegie Mellon University, examined the itch that comes with a perceived knowledge gap back in 1994. This gap is when we want to know something but don’t know it, and a good example is including calculations in the text.

Some people are blessed with the ability to do calculations quickly, but for most people, it is not so easy, especially if they are reading your copy when they are distracted or tired. So, where possible, avoiding creating a knowledge gap by ensuring you have done the calculations for your reader- even if you do not enjoy maths!

Specificity is key

Chip Heath, Stanford Business School professor, and Dan Heath, a corporate education consultant, have done much research into the power of specificity in business copy.

They found that ideas “stick” in the brain when they have details which make them concrete, rather than open concepts. The best way to do this was to use specific facts and… numbers!

A supermarket could have an advert with examples of products where customers save “7p” or “£3” instead of advertising a general sale where they can save “some money”. You often see this on sofa adverts as well!

Put the cost into perspective, saying how much it would cost per week so the customer can compare it to their current expenditures. A typical example of this is demonstrating an annual or monthly subscription is the same price as a takeaway coffee or Netflix subscription.

However, if you are talking about how much money a customer can earn or build in interest, then calculate the sum annually or monthly. The same strategy goes for the time that you can save. For example, if you are selling an automatic invoicing business, then you could say it saves 30 minutes a week or two hours a month or, even better, 24 hours in a year. That is an entire day that the person can spend doing something else!

Saving a percentage on an upgrade sounds greater but putting that 20% into exact numbers gives the customer a better idea of the benefit.

The next point sounds superficial, but it works. If you want to make numbers seem bigger, put in a decimal point.

£9,000.00 versus £9,000

£11,300.31 versus £11,300

So, if you want to make the value seem smaller then lose the decimal point.

Spend £5 a week/Spend £5.10 a week

Numbers give power to your copy

Numbers improve the reader’s perception of the product or service you are selling in your copywriting. They are a powerful tool to demonstrate the efficacy of what you are selling, making the reader more likely to buy it!

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