Gray Walls Will Kill Your Message

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Most Active Rain bloggers already know this – but I had to mention it today because I’ve been noticing some posts from new bloggers who don’t.

One of the “rules” of copywriting is to avoid building gray walls.

Building them is one of the fastest ways to kill your message – because nobody will be reading it!

This “rule” applies to everything from blogging to writing prospecting letters, e-mails, postcards, and newsletters. And in fact, it applies to letters or emails written to family and friends.

What’s a gray wall?

  • It’s text with no white space. the gray wall

  • It’s sentence after sentence, run together with no place for a reader to stop and take a mental breath.

  • It’s copy without a place for a reader’s eyes to rest in order to “keep their place” in the text.
  • It’s text that runs from one idea into the next with no break for that mental gear-shifting that’s necessary to follow the writer’s train of thought.

  • It's copy that looks like this image....

Create a break each time you bring up a new point, but if that point demands too many words, find some breaking points within it, just to make it easier to read. If you study copywriting, you’ll learn that most experts say the maximum number of lines without a break should be 7. I personally prefer no more than 5.

Make skimming easy for your audience - so they'll read what you have to say.

Today, people are in a hurry. They want to skim your message to see if they're interested before they take the time to read every word. Since that's impossible with a gray wall - most will choose to simply delete it. Or, in the case of printed materials, simply toss it in the round file.

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Rainmaker
1,377,119
P.J. Virgilio Jr., Realtor 408-568-6578 Selling homes in the Greater San Jose area and South through San Martin, Gilroy
Keller Williams Realty Silicon Valley - Gilroy, CA
San Juan Bautista and Hollister as well!

Marte,

Excellent post..... I have been guilty in the past myself.

Patrick

Apr 18, 2011 08:22 AM #1
Rainmaker
1,387,443
Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty
Waves Realty - Melbourne, FL
Florida Space Coast Homes

Marte...I have never heard the term Gray Wall...but it is really true. I rarely real a blog post written this way.

Apr 18, 2011 08:31 AM #2
Rainmaker
1,402,493
Vickie Nagy
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate - Palm Springs, CA
Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen

Great post! I know that I have recently reformatted some of my 'stock' emails into shorter paragraphs.

Apr 18, 2011 08:33 AM #3
Rainmaker
786,727
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate

Marte,

I just don't understand how folks can make such a fundamental mistake.  I don't beautify my blog some people do, but at least I give the reader a break in my text!

Apr 18, 2011 09:52 AM #4
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Patrick - at least it's in the past!

Jeffrey - Maybe that's a copywriting term.

I used to have a couple of acquaintances who wrote personal emails that way. I felt like I HAD to struggle through them in case they asked a question or told me something they'd mention later. But it wasn't fun!

Vickie - Good for you. Consumers are always looking for reasons NOT to read messages - so don't give them even one.

Apr 18, 2011 09:52 AM #5
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Mike - I know. It's as if those writers never did any reading!

Apr 18, 2011 10:28 AM #6
Rainer
147,092
Coleen DeGroff
eXp Realty - Gainesville, FL
Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL

Hi Marte - I've never heard that term "gray wall" before, but I totally agree!  Breaking up text to give the reader some breathing room with white space means there is more chance your message will be read.

 

To make your blog post more interesting, inserting an image or two is also a good idea. I love using iclipart.  GREAT source for clipart and photos and pretty inexpensive as well.

Apr 18, 2011 10:31 AM #7
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Coleen - thanks. I'll check out iclipart. I'm always looking for something - and even bought software once with clipart. Unfortunately, every time I tried to use it, my computer froze.

I think gray wall must be a copywriting term - I've heard it so many times that it didn't occur to me that other people hadn't! And here I'm the one who warns against using jargon!

Apr 18, 2011 12:54 PM #8
Rainer
147,092
Coleen DeGroff
eXp Realty - Gainesville, FL
Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL

Marte - go to iclipart.com

I think I pay $35-$45/year to use their images. Not a bad deal at all.

Apr 18, 2011 02:36 PM #9
Rainmaker
248,047
Matt Grohe
RE/MAX Concepts - Des Moines, IA
Serving the metro since 2003

Marte: Great advice. Some posts have a lot of information, or otherwise have merit but suffer from poor spacing and thoughtless layout.

Apr 18, 2011 04:55 PM #10
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks Coleen!

Matt - Yes, the good information is hidden - behind the wall!

Apr 18, 2011 06:07 PM #11
Rainer
106,897
Elizabeth Byrne
Keller Williams Realty - Arlington, VA
Arlington Virginia Real Estate

Marte, great advice. I am new to ActiveRain so I always appreciate any suggestions that may improve my posts. Have a great day.

Apr 19, 2011 01:54 AM #12
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Elizabeth - Thanks, and welcome to Active Rain. I firmly believe every serious real estate professional should be here!

Apr 19, 2011 11:09 AM #13
Rainmaker
889,037
Gail Robinson
William Raveis Real Estate - Southport, CT
CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT

Marte - I hadn't heard of the term "gray wall" either, but the concept is one that I'm careful about.  I always try to break up my writing into paragraphs that aren't too long.  I use iclipart as well and I try to format the text in an online HTML editor to make it larger and more attractive.  I don't always take the tiime to do the latter, but I always put an image in my posts and put at least 10 pixels above and to the side of the image to create enough white space.  Debe Maxwell recommends 20.

Apr 19, 2011 03:26 PM #14
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Gail - I need to get over there to icipart. I don't always get images into my posts because it takes so long to find them. Maybe that would be the solution.

I've been trying to use an HTML editor - but struggle with it. Sometimes cut and paste just doesn't want to work, so I find all my formatting was for nothing when the text ends up all in its tiny form.

Apr 19, 2011 04:27 PM #15
Ambassador
2,134,645
Respect Realty LLC
Respect Realty LLC - Milwaukie, OR
Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate

This is one of the things I really hate about the new Facebook layout, they no longer allow paragraph breaks. It makes it very hard to read sometimes.

Apr 26, 2011 07:17 PM #16
Rainmaker
1,531,575
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Todd - I noticed that too. I haven't been using Facebook long enough to realize that it was a new layout. Seems like they'd know better than to make a change like that!

Apr 26, 2011 08:37 PM #17
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Rainmaker
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Marte Cliff

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