Fact Wrangling

It’s not enough merely to understand the difference between primary and secondary research. You then need to decide what to do with it and how to present it.  This is where a lot of newer copywriters feel overwhelmed or bogged down.

It helps to break this process down into four components:

  1. Hard fact
  2. Anecdotal information
  3. Your interpretation of your factual and anecdotal data
  4. Your final evaluation

Any good piece of copy is usually a mix of hard fact and anecdotal information.

  • Facts add authority and invite the reader’s trust
  • Anecdote adds color and human interest, piquing curiosity or empathy
  • Interpretation has you examining probabilities and implications – seeking more proof of the most likely possibilities
  • Final evaluation occurs when you decide on your strongest position and best angle

How It Works in the Real World

A fact is a piece of information that has its own objective life and can be proven.  When you uncover a core fact, it can’t be changed by anything you think or feel.

Example:  “A horse is a quadruped”.  This can be proven.

Anecdotal information is what someone else tells you about a particular horse.

Example:  “I just buried a horse that had a horn stub, right in the center of its forehead.  Part unicorn, it was…”

Interpretation consists of weighing the facts you know about horses versus the anecdote to theorize possible explanations, directions to follow – and angles.

Example:  ”Was it a rare species of goat?  Is my source pulling my leg?  Did the animal even exist?  Maybe it had some physical abnormality?  Did anyone else see it?”

kid with kidYou’re close to making a final evaluation here:  You decide on a couple of strong possibilities and go find supporting evidence – photographs of the horse, people who saw it.  You decide you need more primary data.  You locate and interview a vet who once examined the animal.  He tells you in his expert opinion, the `horn’ was simply abnormally granulated, hardened scar tissue from an old injury.

Final evaluation allows you to come up with the position you are going to take:

  • If you are writing for a tabloid, you won’t bother interviewing the vet, but instead will take a sensationalist, 100% anecdotal angle:  “Last Unicorn Unearthed in Wisconsin!
  • If you are writing for a fact-based equine magazine, you will lean heavily on your interview with the vet and write an article entitled:  “Wounds and Granulation – What Vets Say You Should Do”.
  • If you are writing for a children’s pony magazine, you might present a sentimental piece:  “Why Betsy Will Always be My Perfect Unicorn”.

When you keep this system of evaluating your data always in mind – fact, data, anecdote and interpretation – it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a sales letter or a short story: Strong, informed research will show you the way and gain the trust of clients and readers alike.

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Filed under: Sales Copywriting