Choosing the Right Copywriting Style to Sell Your Products Online

What’s the best copywriting style to sell your products online?


It depends on your products and the type of buyers you’re targeting.

One helpful guide I have used over the years is How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy by Herschell Gordon Lewis. In the book, Lewis defines the fourteen main catalogue copywriting styles, and when it’s best to use each one.

Although the book was published twenty years ago, the ideas presented are just as applicable today to selling your products online.

Lewis defines the fourteen copywriting styles as:

  1. Jes Folk
  2. Down Home Personality
  3. You-You-You
  4. Shout
  5. Quietly Upscale
  6. Image All The Way
  7. Touchstone
  8. Narrative
  9. Minimalist
  10. All The Facts
  11. Informational Educational
  12. Snob Appeal
  13. I Am The Greatest
  14. Plain Vanilla

Lewis uses a fictitious Tex-Mex salsa product to show the 14 types of copywriting style.

Jes Folk Copywriting Style

Although the Jes Folk copywriting style is easy to read and entertaining, Lewis warns that readers can get tired of it after a few pages.

I went all the way down to Matamoros to sample this ‘Tex-Mex’ salsa, and danged if it isn’t  hotter than an El Paso afternoon. We don’t call it “Hell-Fire” Sauce for nothin’, and it if don’t give your tastebuds a pretty strong bite, you got us beat before we start.

Down Home Copywriting Style

Lewis notes that this style of copywriting makes readers feel that they are being addressed directly, but it might be difficult to come up with interesting stories for all products in a catalogue.

My aunt Maria vacationed in Mexico and was so excited she phoned me. “I’ve found the hottest ‘Tex-Mex’ salsa I’ve ever tasted,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I bought a case, and I think you ought to have it in the catalog.” Aunt Maria isn’t often wrong, so we made an exclusive arrangement with the small Mexican company that makes “Hell-Fire” Sauce. If you’re brave…or if you love real Mexican sauce…you have to get some.

You-You-You Copywriting Style

This style of copywriting, which addresses the reader by repeating the word ‘you’, is promoted in many copywriting books. Lewis believes it can work in catalogues but becomes repetitive if you have many items to sell.

You think you’ve tasted hot pepper salsa? Oh, no, you haven’t. That is, you haven’t tasted the real salsa until you’ve dipped a spoon into our “Hell-Fire” Sauce and sprinkled a little on your salad. Your tongue will tell you: You never knew a hot sauce could be this good.

Shout Copywriting Style

Shout copy is the easiest to write (and requires many exclamation marks).

A Hell-Fire Deal on “Hell-Fire” Salsa! 14-ounce bottle, $2.49!

Quietly Upscale Descriptive Copywriting Style

According to Lewis, this style of copywriting was popular during the early 1980s when baby boomer yuppies, its main targets, were past their status-seeking phase.

For your next party, this unusually hot sauce with the unusually hot name can be the evening’s hottest topic of conversation.

“Hell-Fire” isn’t for everybody. In fact, we don’t recommend its daily use, because it makes every other sauce seem so tame…

Image All the Way Copywriting Style

This style of copywriting ties a known person or place with your offering, and is less subtle than Quietly Upscale Descriptive copy.

If JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller came to your home, they’d know whether to stay for the authentic Mexican dinner you’ve prepared. “Hell-Fire” on the table means genuine “Tex-Mex” on the palate.

Touchstone Copywriting Style

When copywriting using the Touchstone style, you connect your product to a known base, called a touchstone.

In 1912 the Mexican bandit and folk hero Pancho Villa escaped to the United States. After his triumphant return in 1913 he formed the famous Division del Norte. One of the prizes he brought across the border was a recipe unlike any tasted before: “Hell-Fire.” When Villa became governor of the state of Chihuahua, he served this unique hot sauce to special guests at his dinner table. Now you can serve it to your special guests.

Minimalist Copywriting Style

This copywriting style works well when you have limited space, such as a digest style catalogue.

Famous “Hell-Fire” Salsa–the very hottest. 14-oz. bottle, $2.49.

All the Facts Copywriting Style

Lewis writes that this style of copywriting is based on two assumptions: 1) The more the reader knows, the more likely they are to buy your products. 2) The more you tell, the more the reader will believe you. All the Facts copy is well-suited to business-to-business catalogues and websites, because business buying decisions tend to be more logic based, and the buyer usually needs to justify the decision to another person in the organisation.

“Hell-Fire” Salsa–Bottled in limited quantities in Matamoros, this authentic “Tex-Mex” salsa combines red peppers, jalapenos, green chilli peppers, peeled and chopped beefsteak tomatoes, scallions, and a touch of cilantro. Our peppers are transplanted from their original site in French Guiana to a private orchard outside Matamoros, where parallel climate ripens them to produce the hot capsicum extract. Our master chef Pablo grinds the pepper to a fine powder. Soaks them in brine to “loosen” the flavour, then marries them to the tomatoes in our special sharp vinegar.

This copywriting style might be most suitable for this product if you are selling to chefs and food connoisseurs.

Informational/Educational Copywriting Style

Although this copywriting style might not lend itself well to the sample product of salsa, it can work well for products such as software, garden supplies, electronics, and chemicals.

Cilantro is the fresh leaf of the coriander plant. This delicate fragrant-pungent leaf is one of the oldest spices known to man. When the Romans used finely chopped cilantro to season their bread, the spices had been known for thousands of years. Each 14 oz. bottle of “Hell-Fire” salsa includes both cilantro and…

Snob Appeal Copywriting Style

According to Lewis, the style of copywriting works when snobbery is in vogue. The copy, layout and illustration need to match perfectly for Snob Appeal copy to work.

Only 1,200 bottles…ever, this entire year. Our exclusive “Hell-Fire” Salsa is made from such rare herbs, under such rigidly controlled conditions, that only 1,200 bottles will be available this year. We must limit any purchase to two bottles (subject to availability, of course). Each numbered bottle carries the Seal of Elegance. Handsomely gift boxed for your favorite gourmet who cannot obtain this elsewhere. 14 ounces, twenty-nine dollars.

I Am the Greatest Copywriting Style

This copywriting style speaks for itself. Those who believe it’s the best product will buy, and the rest probably won’t. The challenge is answering the question: Better than what? Discerning buyers want proof that it’s better.

The Best Salsa. In comparisons tests, our Kitchen Board rated this salsa superior in consistency, palatability, and flavor. Unlike other sauces tested, “Hell-Fire” contains genuine tomatoes and fresh spices, producing a greater degree of effectiveness, when applied to both tortillas and salads. $2.49, unconditionally guaranteed.

Plain Vanilla Copywriting Style

This copywriting style might be the right choice if you want to keep it simple and give your readers a break from too much text. Lewis recommends it for multi-product catalogues of household staples.

“Hell-Fire” Hot Salsa–14 oz. bottle. Ingredients: red peppers, jalapenos, green chilli peppers, beefsteak tomatoes, scallions, cilantro. $2.49.

Choosing the right copywriting style for your catalogue or website will depend a number of factors including your industry, products and market. Lewis notes that readers can get bored with one copywriting style if it’s overused. For catalogues, he recommends breaking the catalogue into themed sections and using one style in each section. Although How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy was written before the widespread use of the Internet, you can apply this advice to ecommerce websites as well.

Note: How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy is available online on Amazon. Also, we will be glad to discuss our copywriting services to boost your online product sales.