High Impact Copywriting – Is Your Copy Readable?

I’m getting old and as I approach my next birthday, I’m noticing a few changes…

  • I definitely feel more of a draft when I don’t wear a hat on cold winter’s day.
  • Waking up in the morning is typically accompanied by more creakiness than I remember.
  • And when did everything start being printed so small?

If you’re under 40 and smirking as you read these words, you’ll join the club soon.  For the rest of us, I want to use this high impact copywriting article to remind you of a critically important fact…

If your advertising, marketing promotions and content is physically difficult to read, it won’t get read!

Pick up any magazine and try to read the advertisements.  The vast majority use a font that’s so small and difficult to read, most people skip it.

When one of your readers picks up one of your sales letters, postcards, newsletters or visits your web site, are you making it easy for them to read your text or difficult?


The recent redesign of the GKIC No B.S. Marketing Letter is a classic example of making content hard to read.  I’ve heard from many people, including myself, who find their body font choice way too small and way too hard to read and knowing a good chunk of their subscribers are over 40, this is a mistake.

I recently purchased a book on bourbon only to realize after getting it home, the print layout is so small, I could barely read it.


The above is a single-page scan of the book, which is much taller than it is wide and besides the odd layout of a narrow column page, the font is excruciatingly small.

Knowing most bourbon aficionados are probably 40+, I have no idea why the publisher thought it was a good idea to use this layout and I can personally attest to the frustration I felt trying to read an otherwise excellent book.  I contacted the author and he told me he has already heard from his readers about this challenge.

Think about this for a moment.  I purchased this book because I wanted it and the typeface choice almost forced me to return it because it was so hard to read.

What if this was an unsolicited direct mailing or an ad in a magazine?  Do you think I would fight to read it?

Your marketing doesn’t have the same luxury as the book I sought out and purchased and you must do everything in your power to get your marketing read.  Never, ever assume readership (even if it’s something they’ve asked for or purchased).  Always consider the age of your target recipient and use a font size appropriate for that person.

Your job, when you craft high impact copywriting, is to give your marketing pieces EVERY chance of being read and acted on.  Small type and incorrect font choices are your enemy!

In this day and age of staring at smart phones and computer screens all day, a large percentage of the population need some type of vision correction and according to one recent study, this amounts to over 143 million U.S. adults requiring prescription eyewear.

If you are over 40 years of age, you’ve probably noticed changes in your own vision. Difficulty seeing clearly for reading and close work is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. This normal aging change in the eye’s focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time and is an unfortunate fact of life for many of us.

It’s a certain fact a large part of your target market has challenges with farsightedness (e.g. difficulty reading a book) and color blindness, especially if you serve an older demographic. While it’s easy to gloss over this, if you’re serious about response it would be a mistake.

I imagine you consider yourself a student of high impact copywriting and direct marketing (otherwise you would not be reading these very words), but how often do you think about the readability of your marketing?  Not in the context of the words you write, but instead focused on the physical appearance of your marketing?

Trust me.  If you’re not conscientiously keeping your intended reader in mind as you design and lay out your marketing letters, postcards, advertisements, brochures, books, coupons, web sites and emails, you’re not getting the best results because a certain segment of your readers cannot comfortably read your marketing pieces.

“C’mon, are you telling me, Mike, if I simply use the wrong font, I could be adversely affecting my results?”

The simple answer is YES.

If a certain percentage of your market has difficulty reading your materials, the likelihood of them actually reading and responding goes way down.  If fixing these readability issues is easy, why would you take the chance in the first place?  Here are four quick tips for helping your high impact copywriting to be as readable as possible for all your readers:

  • For printed materials, always use a serif font (e.g. Times New Roman, Georgia, etc.) for main body copy. This is what 99% of printed books use because a serif font is much easier on the eye.  Serif fonts are fonts that have the little feet on each letter, which helps the human eye to see it better.
  • Interestingly, for online body copy, you should use a sans –serif font like Arial or Calibri, since the absence of the little feet on a computer screen makes these types of fonts easier to read online.
  •  Be very, very careful of placing any important text on a dark background (reverse type).  You see this all the time in magazines and it’s a huge mistake.
  • Always consider the age of your target audience and use a font size appropriate to their eyes.  I tend to lean on the larger versus smaller side of things when crafting my own high impact copywriting and marketing.

What are your thoughts on the “readability” of the marketing you interact with?  Am I over-emphasizing something that doesn’t have a huge impact in the bigger picture or what?  I would love to have you weigh in on this fascinating (at least I think so) aspect of marketing response.  Leave your comments below!

About Mike Capuzzi

Mike is a publisher, Amazon # best-selling author, and coach for business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders looking to stand out from the competition by authoring, publishing and leveraging short, helpful books. He is the author of 19 books, including two Amazon #1 Best Sellers. Learn more about his publishing opportunities at BiteSizedBooks.com.


  1. Mike Hill on January 21, 2014 at 10:24 am

    My current pet peeve is gray fonts. Your article above was very legible. I hope this comment will change from gray to black when it’s posted. Is there a reason I find so many articles, from a variety of sources, using gray vs. black? Thanks for the article!

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Mike – I hear you. In a site like this (WordPress) it is part of the theme design. As a matter of fact, I had to get my web guy to fix this for my site, since the default color was a gray and hard to read in my opinion. Black text on white is the most legible combination out there!

  2. Ronnie on January 21, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Mike, I think you are right. Most advertisements today appear to be more interested in the visual aspects of the ad. If no one reads it what does it matter if it looks great. Layout is important, but not as important as the message.

    The other thing I have noticed today is that so many writers want to show that they are up with the latest really cool words. Most of the over 40 crowd does not have a clue what your talking about. I can’t tell you how many people have watched some of the new car commercials and ask “what’s a hash tag?”

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 11:16 am

      Ronnie – I LOVE IT! Thanks for the laugh and you are so right! Just the other night I was asking my wife.. “what’s a hash tag?” I still don’t get it. I have had several recent experiences (with both myself and my consulting clients) that re-affirmed the TRUTH that the average business owner/consumer is not as up-to-date and hip with so many of the things that Madison Avenue and the media promote as being “normal.”

  3. Paul on January 21, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Firstly, don’t get me started on the GKIC Newsletter haha. There is no doubt if we tax our viewer’s eyeballs they will choose to not read. This is the era of pithy and easy to consume. Attention spans are at a all time low and no matter how awesome we think our nifty mico worded spew is, people will choose to not read.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 11:20 am

      Paul – as much as us “old-timers” want to fight it, you’re right in many respects, the way people have consumed information is changing. This is important to remember especially as a relationship is just beginning (e.g. a web site optin, first-time visit, etc.). Short, sweet and to-the-point and then let the more interested folks move along your marketing funnel.

  4. Ray on January 21, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Same with websites. So many websites have very small text which makes it difficult to read, also many use gray, probably becuase they use wordpress like Mike.

  5. Harry Koenning on January 21, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Very good point. Also, if a writer chooses to use a word that I would have to look up in a dictionary, then they stand a good chance of either losing my attention or failing to get their message across. Sometimes these word choices are words that definitely would not come up in daily conversation. Why risk it.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Harry, if you study the great copywriters, you will see they typically preach writing marketing and sales copy as if you are writing to a 9 year old. There is a time for flowery, verbose writing, but not for your marketing and sales copy.

  6. Richard on January 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I’ve also heard skimmers only read the larger captions and headings and go back if anything catches their eye. I , like you, hate to admit to having any trouble with small type, but seriously, if I have to squint or look very closely to read text, it might not get attention. Now, where did I leave that magnifying glass…

  7. Ron Geddert on January 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks, Mike. This is a pet peeve of mine–so many ads that are unreadable because of the font choice and/or size. What a waste of people’s marketing dollars!

    The one thing I question, though, is the need for serifed fonts in hard copy publications. To me, simple is better; I’ve always hated serifed fonts. Love Arial and Calibri. If I have to go serifed from now on, Garamond is much more palatable than Times New Roman. I hope that passes the test.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Ron – while there is no “gotta do it this way or else” rule with relying on using serif fonts for print body copy, you cannot easily shrug off the countless studies and real-world marketing tests conducted over the years regarding typography and how your choice can affect readability. One of the BEST in-depth studies (and it’s a book in my library) is Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes by Colin Wheildon. I think you can get it on Amazon.

  8. Sandra on January 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I am well over forty and really farsighted. Half the time I have to increase the size in Chrome to read text online. Just a note, the text in the comment section is a very light gray. So if I screw up the writing I am pointing my finger at you.

    Most online sales letter have large enough fonts, but load the page with a bunch of crap that makes it hard to read. I would include excessive highlighting, load of dumb arrows, italics, and glaring bright images. If your page looks too cluttered for me to focus on I will click off. I don’t need headaches from reading your text.

    By the way most of my over forty crowd knows what a hashtag is…(many of my under 30 friends don’t) we know people read on their mobile devices, etc. We gave up the damn rotary phone years ago… we move on. Anyway thanks for an insightful article.

  9. Richard Sherry on January 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    This is a classic example of where the marketers need to impose themselves on the designers. I recently reviewed a website for a network referral group that I’m a part of. Very prettily put together by a web designer. But the message was so unfocussed! I spent 2 hours going over some of the things you talk about Mike, but I’m not convinced prettiness can be trumped by usefulness.

  10. John Walters on January 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Wow! I thought it was just me with the new GKIC NO BS letter format. Even with my glasses that I have to use to read anymore, I have to have bright light to see the text…oh!, not to mention the reflection on the paper! The great thing is that I don’t have this same problem seeing the text with the Mike Capuzzi productions..

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Hi John! I sure hope I don’t make these mistakes .

  11. Jim Edholm on January 21, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Mike –

    It ain’t just the size of the typeface that gets me with No BS Marketing/GKIC letter. It’s the length of the paragraphs.

    I love Dan and would read his 11 pages if I had to use a microscope (but you can’t get me to read more than a fraction of the other writers in the new-and-now-a-rag GKIC newsletter), but it does bother me when he puts those page-long paragraphs in. Particularly in the parts of the newsletter where there aren’t any columns. When a piece is page-wide and 4-6 inches long, you have to put your finger on your place in the text if you stop to breathe, much less take a sip of coffee.

    I prefer your style of short, punchy sentences and paragraphs.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Jim – as an alumni of my copy design workshop you attended in Philly, you know the right way to lay out your copy for maximum readability. Thanks for the note.

  12. Marte Cliff on January 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I so agree – with both the post and the comments. The size needs to be right, the color needs to be black (NOT gray) and the copy needs to be broken into readable bites. I try never to go over 6 lines – and I want white space between paragraphs.

    Something that puzzles me – when I try to comment on a blog and the typeface is too small, I make more errors. Typos seem to multiply like rabbits. Now, why is that? My keyboard stayed the same.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 21, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks for the note, Marte.

  13. New Friend on January 22, 2014 at 2:05 am

    I cancelled my subscription to the GKIC newsletter after they switched to this new format. Shame, because I really love Dan’s insights and teachings but not only is the layout horrible (all that space taken up for a header?!) but I miss the funky clip art and various fonts. Also, the smell of the newsletter is horrible — very toxic like it was printed with really bad ink.

  14. Brett Thornthwaite on January 22, 2014 at 4:43 am

    Great stuff you are giving – keep up the good work. On a non marketing note – I too love my bourbon and was just wondering if you could give out the book details & where it might be available (I’m in Australia). Much appreciated.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 22, 2014 at 7:42 am

      Brett – thanks. The book is by Clay Risen (American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit). It is currently out-of-stock, but they are printing more. I have contacted Clay and invited him to join me on a webinar to discuss his book and the bourbon business. Probably will happen in February.

  15. Don Haney on January 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Reading your article and the comments reminded me of a quote that I read a few years ago. “If you have a business and you do not advertise, it is like winking at a pretty girl in a dark room. Nobody will know that you are winking at her.”

    It is the same thing with writing. If nobody reads it, then what is the point?

  16. Mike on January 24, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Great article Mike! You always over deliver with good, valuable information that is applicable.
    Appreciate your hard work.

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 24, 2014 at 8:11 am

      Hey Mike – long time, no talk! Hope you are well. Thanks for the note.

  17. Lance Campbell on January 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Mike,
    So I am reading the classic ‘Ivanhoe’…except now the 700 page book is only in paperback and 400 pages. So you can imagine the font size. I too almost returned the book but instead I actually borrow my wifes glasses to read it. Annoying!
    Hash tag by the way is when the label of your hash browns accidentally gets stirred in when cooking. 🙂

    • Mike Capuzzi on January 30, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Thanks Lance – appreciate the clarification !

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