It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It: Understanding Copywriting


Once upon a time, there were two Buddhist monks who loved to smoke. They were passionate smokers, stealing any chance they could to enjoy a cigarette. It seemed to them that the world would be perfect if they could smoke all of the time. But being monks, they were required to regularly stop smoking for prayers.

This bothered the two monks, and they discussed it with each other. It was resolved that they would go, each to the head of their own order, to inquire about the possibility of smoking during prayers.

One monk came back very upset. His superiors had scolded him most severely. The other monk, however, had gotten what he wanted. In fact, he’d been praised for his inquiry.


The first monk was suspicious of the second monk. So he asked, “What exactly did you say to your superiors?” The second monk smiled and said, “I asked if it was permissible to pray while smoking.”

There is a world of difference between asking whether one could smoke while praying versus asking whether one could pray while smoking. This may not be immediately obvious, but it’s a fundamental lesson you need to learn if you’re going to write effective copy for your business website.

Effective copywriting begins with knowing what your customers want from you. The second monk knew his superiors wanted him to live a life of near-constant prayer. Framing his request in a way that made it seem like he was moving closer to their desired end guaranteed his successful outcome. The first monk kept the focus on himself: his desire to smoke during prayers was seen as selfish and taking away from what the superiors felt he should be focused on.

Before you write any copy, make sure you’re very, very clear on what your customers want from you. All messaging should center on reinforcing the point that you’re the source of the answers they’ve been looking for. Make sure you’re not smoking while praying when they want you to be praying while smoking!

One last thing: this is an old story, and today we know that smoking is actually very, very bad for you. So don’t smoke – even if you’re praying!

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It: Understanding Copywriting
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It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It: Understanding Copywriting
We've all heard the expression "it's not what you say, it's how you say it," and this is especially true for effective website copywriting.

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