Choose Your Tone: Part 2

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Choose Your Tone

Tone is key to successful copywriting

In the first part of this study in tone, we looked at what tone of voice is and why it matters.

Now, let’s explore tone by taking a deep dive into two classic sales letters – Fly Fisherman’s Trout Spoken Here and the American Express classic, Quite Frankly.

3 Bullet Overview:

  • Fly Fisherman: Trout Spoken Here
  • How to draw your prospect in
  • Knowing your audience

How to say hello to a fisherman

Fly Fisherman jumps right in, pronouncing:

Trout Spoken Here


So, let’s unpick this, line by line.

Well, firstly, if you don’t care about trout, think bass is a sort of guitar, salmon is a colour and bonefish sound disgusting, you won’t be reading any further. You’ve wasted less than 5 seconds. You may not even have got past trout. A millisecond wasted.

But, that’s OK because Fly Fisherman hasn’t lost anything either. This person was never going to subscribe to their magazine.

However…what if things went a bit differently?

What if someone reads that with a little grin because they know the secret language of those who speak trout? They read the next line.

Bass. Salmon. Ahh, yes, the correct prospect thinks. I know all about those little beauties as well.

Bonefish. Aha. That’s more unusual. The non-fishing type is unlikely to have heard of that. These people must know something. I’ll read a little more…


These aren’t conscious thoughts, of course. It all happens on a subconscious level, and this reader is, if you’ll excuse the pun, hooked.

What has the tone contributed?

The tone is no-nonsense. Short and practical; only key words are used. The patient fisherman doesn’t waste words. He knows chatter scares the fish.

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Drawing the fisherman into deeper waters…



What do we make of this? Well, the tone is speaking to the devotee. Words like crazy, victim, and incurable madness tune into the idea these men are drawn to fishing.

It’s something beyond their control, they’re helpless. But, notice it’s not negative. It sounds fun, special. Again, this copy speaks to the fisherman who loves his hobby. It’s not a chore. He’s drawn to something bigger than himself. It’s a powerful emotion to tap into. Ask religion.

The offer is in there, too. Upfront. These men won’t read three pages of copy to find out what’s in it for them. They don’t waste time; they have fish to catch.

Can you see who the letter is talking to? Good tone will tell you everything about the prospect because the ability to use the correct tone comes from deep knowledge about the prospect.

As you read, you can see this man coming into focus. By the end of the copy, you can see him clearly. And you like him. You want to experience what he does, see what he sees, stand with him when he’s hip deep in California’s Hat Creek, or watch his clever, artistic fingers working ostrich or peacock feathers into lifelike insects. And, if he is you, it’s even better. Because you sound great.

bringing your customer into focus

The writer really knows his audience

There’s no obligation. But we will throw in a FREE CREEL if you accept our subscription offer.

See how this is handwritten? That’s what I call an optical tone. Down to earth, honest, personal. And the offer is on target. I had to look up what a creel was (it’s that large basket used for holding fish) but the fly fisherman will know.

Only now do we get to the letter itself.

Fellow Angler: it begins…

By now the man who is still reading is definitely a fellow angler. Think about what he knows about the person who’s writing to him:

  • They know their fish
  • They know about that wonderful “madness”
  • They know the kit required
  • They’re upfront and personal

The scene has been set for a beautifully descriptive and gentle letter of long, ponderous sentences and vivid detail that encapsulates the patience, skill, and art of fly fishing. It takes the reader on a glorious tour of America, invites them into a secret group only offered to the worthy, and subtly extols the timeless virtues of man.

Honestly, I love this letter. It’s like analysing poetry. That’s why a whole chapter of my book is dedicated to it. We’ve just analysed the first 49 words. Imagine what you could learn from the rest.

Part 3 is going to explore a very different tone used by an equally effective letter- Quite Frankly by American Express. Watch this space!

Coming up in part 3

choose your tone
choose your tone