“Off-White Paper” #5 – WPI

The concept of WPI, or word-per-idea” ratio, was introduced to me by Chris Trelease at Sturner & Klein Telemarketing, where I was a phone jockey during graduate school. And yes, I was one of those people who called at dinner time for magazine renewals. WPI is simple: to convey a thought in simple, direct language, leaving no room for doubt as to what is being conveyed. This seems to be an alien concept to many selling to the government. Letters and space ads are often filled with pompous, self-serving platitudes. When Colmar Corporation conducted our first survey of senior Federal IRMs (IT managers) on what they liked and disliked in the mail and other ads they say, verbosity and “blue sky” were high on the list. And I assume you’ve attended a few seminars (certainly not mine) or keynotes where the presenter takes 2 days (or what seems like 2 days) to confuse the attenders on what should be a simple point. Remember the “Where’s the beef?” commercial? Hershell Gordon Lewis, a deservedly famous guy in direct marketing, put it this way: watch out for ads that “make people go, ‘Huh?'”. They’ll flip the page, throw out the mail, or otherwise move on to more profitable ways to spend their time. Know what you want to say. Figure out a simple way to get the point across. Write it down. Have someone else look at it (I ALWAYS know what I’m saying, but I can lose sight of the goal). Listen to their feedback. Practice. Enough said. It’s a simple concept. Use it. And thanks, Chris. Copyright 1998, Amtower & Company