Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing

The most important letter I’ll write this year

In my job, I get to write a lot of letters. Maybe you do, too.

Over the last 20 years or so, I have, I think, developed certain skills that help me write good ones. But recently, I have been struggling with a letter.

It is to just one reader. And I know quite a lot about him. But the trouble is, he gets millions of letters this time of year and I want to make sure mine stands out.

I thought for this use of MoM I’d simply share my latest draft with you. It goes like this…


Dear Father Christmas,

I hope you are well.

I have tried very hard to be good this year so I hope you will be able to bring me all the presents on my list (which is coming shortly). I have stuck to writing short sentences. I have avoided the passive voice unless it was found to be absolutely necessary.

I have thought hard about my readers (you know, Santa, you) and tried to use a tone of voice that would reflect the way they think about themselves.

And I have always concentrated on the end-result. Oops, I mean the result. Sorry! So here’s my list.

I would like…

A new copy of How to Write Direct Mail Letters that Sell by Drayton Bird. Mine wore out.

Lots of characters set in Courier – you know how effective it is.

A specially big pair of scissors to cut all the waffle from my copy.

A bumper box of full stops so I can get shorter sentences into all my writing.

Dr Gargleblaster’s cliché eradicator with the special setting for business jargon.

An automatic seat tilter that goes off every half an hour and stops me writing for four hours at a stretch.

A big shiny number ‘3’ to remind me that groups of three things, words especially, have a magical effect on people.

A ray gun that zaps anyone who sends me a letter beginning “As a valued client…”

A selection box filled with short, simple, non-sugar-coated, Anglo Saxon words. Quick, cash, easy, risk…that type of thing.

A lovely black and yellow bee to remind me that bee stands for benefits.

I hope you are well.

Much love,


Christmas Quiz time

I thought that, rather than lecturing you any more this year, I’d give you the chance to win something.

In this case, a very nice bottle of white Burgundy or a very good book – Ogilvy on Advertising. (Just specify your preference when you enter.)

The quiz is simple. One question drawn from each of this year’s 12 MoMs, plus a tiebreaker.

Send your answers to me with your prize preference by 5.30 pm UK time, 31 December 2005. I’ll pick a winner from the pool of correct answers and publish the result in January 2006 MoM.

Good luck!

Q1 January
What’s the first thing a good proposal should do?

Q2 February
How many bullet points and words should you aim for on a PowerPoint slide?

Q3 March
Who lost her head over Courier?

Q4 April
What is the third step to error-free copy?

Q5 May
Which ‘colourful’ animal needs to be retired from copywriting?

Q6 June
What emotion was I talking about?

Q7 July
Give an example of good press advertising imagery.

Q8 August
Who should you go and ask about your customers?

Q9 September
What is the one inescapable fact that a lot of b2b copywriters forget?

Q10 October
What was one of my suggestions for a new type of conference headline?

Q11 November
What is the sixth technique for effective presenting?

Q12 December
Which number do I want Father Christmas to bring me this year?


Complete in 12 words or fewer: ”Writers deserve to stay in the balloon because…”

And my point is?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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