What I Learned About Copywriting From Corrupt African Soldiers

It was the dead of night and I blearily stumbled my way out of the cramped and smelly bus. I stretched my arms up into the hot, sticky African air and scanned for somewhere to relieve myself.

I was perhaps halfway between Dakar, Senegal and Bamako, Mali. The air tinged with the smell of smoke from the burning fields, clearing ground for the next planting.

No obvious latrine in sight, I found my way to a scrubby tree and took care of my business with a deep, satisfied sigh.

Moments later, a machine gun was at my back, a man grabbed my wrist with an iron grip, forcing me away from the bus with a heavy rhythmic cadence to his unintelligible words, leading me toward a dilapidated building across the road.


Not good. This is not good...


Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, especially without explanation or understanding. I certainly was not pleased with this turn of events at the time. If someone, for example, visits your website and the copy is unnecessarily assertive (unless that fits your niche) or vague and unclear, if you aren’t using the right tone, you will trigger the same thoughts in your prospective clients: Not good. This is not goodGet me out of here!

And they will leave. Because you (probably) don’t have a gun pointed at them.

You need to draw the reader in, make them WANT to come with you because it is interesting, entertaining, informative….


All my senses were on high alert, my mind raced, palms sweaty, what is going on….?

The gunman walks me behind the building, to where I am sure to meet something terrible. Am I going to be held for ransom? Beaten? Raped? Will anyone from the bus recognize I’m gone? How will they contact my family? At least I had already pissed or I might have lost it.

And there, spray-painted on the wall in red ink with a shaky hand: “Urination Intertictaire! 3000 cfa”

Are you kidding me? That’s it? A $4 fee for pissing? The sign was BEHIND a bloody building ACROSS THE STREET!  What the hell!?!?!

I grudgingly paid the gunman the fee, breathed a massive sigh of relief that I was not shot, beaten, raped, or (egregiously) robbed, and continued on my merry way towards the musical sands of Timbuktu...


It all ends well, which is nice, but the whole incident could have been avoided with clearer messaging and transparent communication. The point here is obvious:




Or you risk confusing people and pissing them off (pun intended).




If you have an action you want your prospect to take (or not take?), make it really obvious. Email opt-in? Buy Now? Learn More? Click Here? Clarity.




Make it impossible to misunderstand.

Put it right in front of them. Not behind a building across the street. And not buried in a series of links in the bowels of your website.

Get this wrong and not only will they not engage and leave your site forever, but they could very well be annoyed at you for the rest of your life. And you will have made the world a slightly worse place by creating one more annoyed person.

So get it right, use your copy to draw the reader in, whatever way is most appropriate to your situation. Use stories and metaphor. Get the prospect to come along with you, don’t force them with annoying pop-ups and underhanded tactics. And do it all with an eye for clarity.


If you do it right, you’ll have brought the reader one step closer to the core of your business.

One step closer to liking and sharing your content.

One step closer to them telling their friends about you.

One step closer to being a customer.


If your writing feels like soggy cardboard and you’d like some help CONTACT ME and let’s see what we can work out.


Jeff Kimes