shampionŭt na tiĭdliuinks na bŭlgarina pri mŭzhete

Let’s talk testimonials…

Most of the time, customers are terrible at giving testimonials.

As a magician, I’d chase up brides – knowing that I’d gone down a storm – looking for some killer words I could add to my site.

What I hoped for was:

“OH MY GOD! John was AWESOME!!!! My Uncle Dominic was laughing so hard he coughed up a lung. John was amazing. We’ve already filed for divorce, so we can get married again and book him for wedding number 2. I’m only sorry Uncle Dom won’t be there… RIP”.

What I got:

“John’s tricks were really good. Even I – a part-time lifeguard – couldn’t tell how they were done.”

With testimonials like this, you’re forced to do a bit of trimming here and there to make ‘em a bit more punchy.

But… there’s “trimming” and then there’s “scalping within an inch of its life.”

“When it comes to puncture repair, Sandra is second to none. She knows her stuff and she’s the unsung queen of the Birkenhead cycling world…”


“Sandra is second to none… She’s the unsung queen of the Birkenhead cycling world…”


“Sandra is… the… Queen of the… world.”

I was thinking about this when reading James Clear’s newsletter a few weeks ago.

Here’s what appeared in his newsletter on January 7th:

… and here’s what appeared a few weeks later:

Sneaky, huh?

What do you reckon – scalping or trimming?

I’m in the “scalping” camp.

(There’s a sentence that might come back to haunt me)

Why? Because even though it’s only a few words, it changes the meaning and feel of the sentence.

I can say I’m “working to become the Bulgarian men’s tiddlywinks champion…”, but that doesn’t give me the right to announce myself as “the Bulgarian’s men’s tiddlywinks champion”.

Trouble is, “meaning” and “feel”, word-wise, are quite soft and loose.

(Like, ironically enough, “soft” and “loose”)

So let’s firm this up a bit with a rule:

Trim quotes ONLY if you’d be happy showing the reader the uncut version too.

If you can’t show them the original quote without squirming… you’re a scalper.

Stop it.

Truth is, effective copy isn’t like cracking a safe…

… you don’t need to create a specific, complex, magical combination of words.

It’s a “feel” thing – your words give your customer a “feel” for what you can do for them.

So don’t feel pressured to “scalp”.

Trim, yes. Scalp, no.

Oh… and while you’re looking at words to use on your website, you might like my latest video, where I finally answer the all-important question:

“Should I talk in the 1st or 3rd person on my website?”

If you watch it, let me know what you think.

I hope you have a Cornish pasty for lunch today that tastes great, but afflicts you with gusty and malodorous farts all weekend long.

Or, as a scalper would say:

“… have a… great… weekend…”

John Holt

P.S. About the subject line…

Once I asked the question: 

“I wonder what ‘the Bulgarian’s men’s tiddlywinks champion’ is in Bulgarian?”…

… it was pretty much a foregone conclusion…