This is a simplified and modernised version of the classic letter by Gary Halbert responding to the question on how someone with no experience can write an ad. I adapted it somewhat to the modern age, e.g. replacing handwriting with typing up into a document, and replacing typesetting with making it into a post or landing page.

There isn't anything to it. Just do all this work. It'll take ages. Good luck, see you on the other side. Here we go...

  1. Read all these books and ads. This will take you forever and cost you over $200. Don't read anything else. Don't take notes. I'm still doing this.
  2. Copy out all of the ads (at least the ones listed), word for word. Type it up on your computer, in a document, and save them somewhere. Here's my archive (coming soon).
  3. Take one ad, typeset it and make it look pretty. Choose a format that's relevant to the ad. For example, here's one I did (I couldn't help but modify it a bit, to include brown people.). You could make a landing page. Publish it and make it go live on a site.
  4. Re-read all the books and ads. And this time, take hundreds of one-line notes into a doc! Make each page its one note. (Resize the page and/or font.)
  5. Go through all the material and copy out all the headlines into another doc (again one page per note).
  6. Go away for a few days. Take a brief vacation.
  7. Read and re-read every ad that has already been written about the product, taking notes.
  8. Read and re-read every ad about every competing product, again taking notes.
  9. Learn everything about your product you're trying to sell. Read it, use it, test it. Again, you guessed it, take notes, one per page.
  10. Go away for another few days (I love these bits!). If you have any ideas, don't say them and don't write them down.
  11. Read all the notes/cards on your product or service, shuffling through the cards.
  12. Read all the other notes/cards, shuffling through the cards. He encourages you to say "Hmn?" once in a while.
  13. Start writing out some 'dumb' headlines.  Then write some that make more sense, that sound pithy. Eventually you will get the headline you're looking for and your mental floodgates will open.
  14. Immediately start writing the ad and don't stop. Forget form, grammar and spelling; keep writing while the floodgates are open. Don't stop until you're done.
  15. Go away for a day or so. Cool off.
  16. Come back and re-order it. Put it in this order: attention, interest, why you're believable, proof, benefits, how to order, instruction to order.
  17. Check spelling and grammar and tighten up copy.
  18. Read it aloud. Find out where copy doesn't flow well, editing it and rewriting as necessary.
  19. Edit it again. Simplify language to short sentences, short paragraphs, everyday English, subheadings. Make it easy to read.

And... you're done.

Did you do all of it? Did you really take those vacations? Lucky you!