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Writing Lesson From REI

REI is running its Labor Day sale, and the flyer I received from them contains gems of persuasive writing. In a two-page spread of tents and sleeping bags, notice how REI sells in just a few words:

  • For a tent: “Meet your family’s second home. Taut and weather-worthy, the 4-person dome pitches easily so the kids can help and then be off exploring in no time.”
  • For another tent: “Lighten your backpack (not your wallet) with this award-winning 2-person, 2-door tent.”
  • For a sleeping bag: “Warm night? Place the side with less insulation on top. Cooler night? Flip it. You’ll love the roomy fit and zip-open quilt option, not to mention the low price.”
  • For another sleeping bag: “If cold-weather camping’s your bag, or if cool nights feel cold to you, nab this temp- and budget-booster.”
  • For a screen house: “Bye bye, bugs. Sets up over your picnic table or lounge area for shade and no-see-um mesh protection.”
  • For an insulated pad: “Set your alarm, because you’ll sleep like a log on this thick, insulated pad.”

Here’s what the copywriters at REI do well:

  • Focus on just one or two key benefits that will grab their readers.
  • Use you and action verbs (lighten, place, set, flip) to put their readers in the outdoors using the REI equipment.
  • Use short, crisp sentences.
  • Use simple, specific language that paints a picture.

REI is one of my customers for business writing classes. They know the value of good writing, and they invest in business writing skills. Although I can’t take credit for their copywriting department, I can certainly admire their work. Don’t you?

If you are in the U.S., I wish you a happy, long Labor Day weekend. If you are elsewhere in the world, enjoy the beginning of September.


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

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