Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659)
I was sitting in a meeting today talking about the redesign of a web site to increase conversion. Someone in the meeting pointed to a section of the web page and suggested we put a bulleted list right there, and then someone else asked how many bullets should be in the list… he replied 5 to 7 is max. I kind of agree with that number so I said 7 max. But later I got to thinking… hum… no, I think 10 is a good max.
There’s really not a maximum number. There’s no rule that says “Thou Shalt Not Create a List of Bullets that Containith More than 10 Bullets“… but that does bring me to my point…
The Best Bulleted List of All Time?
The Ten Commandments is one GREAT bulleted list. Those 10 statements have survived thousands of years. How many people can quote some or all of the Ten Commandments? Even a large number of the people who can’t, maybe even most of those who can’t, have at least heard of the Ten Commandments. How many copywriters can create copy that has that kind of staying power? Can YOU beat THAT control? (for those that don’t know, a “control” is the version of copy or the version of an ad that converts,or generates the most sales, the best).
There’s some debate on exactly how many commandments were on that set of stone tablets that Moses came down from the mountain holding… but I’m going to attribute that to our (meaning human) issues and nothing else.
God didn’t put any fluff in his bullets, he did waste any words: they were engaging, concise, and to the point. For example:
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
No problem understanding where God was coming from, what the point is, and what’s in it for you (or me) is there?
Bullets work. Period.
Bullets work because people skim and jump around and don’t spend time reading every word you write. As mentioned above, most people can quote some or all of the Ten Commandments but not the surrounding text from the Bible? Bullets work!
Fancy vs. Plain?
You can dress up your bullets with fancy graphics like check marks or little diamonds – or you can use the standard dots, numbers, or letters. Another great technique to draw the eye to a set of bullets is to alternate bolding the text (bullet one is bold, bullet two is plan, bullet three is bold, bullet four is plain, etc.)…
What Should Bullets Say?
Bullets can, and should, cover the same things that are covered in your copy, they just do it quicker, faster, and more to the point.
Bullets go Bang with Benefits!
Bullets should stress the benefits of your product or service foremost and its features second. A benefit is what results from a feature: for example “Spend More Time with Your Family” or, “Eat Desert without Any Guilt“. You may be saying… hum… You shall not murder is not a benefit or a feature… and you’re correct, but God was selling eternal life and salvation – a little different from the things we sell.
How Long is Too Long?
I’ve worked on sales pages that have bulleted lists that were too long. If you have a large number of bullets, break them up into groups so that you don’t fatigue the reader. (I don’t have any facts or figures to support this claim, but my guess is that fatigued readers don’t buy, they move on.)
Don’t forget bullets when writing. Bullets reemphasize your points, as well as, pull in readers who are just skimming the text.
Until next time,