1-2-3-4 formula for high quality copy - ShyamGovind.com

A simple checklist to ensure high-quality copy: 1-2-3-4 formula

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Today, we talk about an interesting formula called the 1-2-3-4 formula. Here is why it is important.

One of the common queries I get from my clients is, “Shyam, how do we assess the quality of any copy before we publish it?”

It is a great question.

Assessing the quality of a copy through A/B testing or simply after publishing has an opportunity cost. You will have to miss out on a few or many conversions that would have happened if the copy was great the first time itself.

What we need here is a sort of a checklist, which tells us that the message in the copy has most things it needs. This is where the 1-2-3-4 formula comes in. In summary, it is a list of 4 questions that must be addressed in every copy. These questions from a copywriters’ perspective (“I” in the questions) to the reader (“you” in the questions) are:

  1. What is the offer?
  2. What’s in it for the reader?
  3. Who is the seller?
  4. What’s the next step?

Any copy, irrespective of the purpose, should answer these fundamental questions.

1-2-3-4 formula in copywriting to writing a persuasive copy.

Let’s explore this further.

1-2-3-4 formula: 1 – What is the offer

The first question to answer in a copy is if the offer is clearly defined and communicated. The reader should be able to understand what the offer is, within a few seconds of looking at the copy.

Let’s take an example. What do you think is the offer in the below copy?

Source: Ramit Sethi

The copy offers an “80/20 guide to finding a job you love”. The headline itself makes it very clear. There is no ambiguity on what the reader is getting from this copy.

2 – What’s in it for the reader

The next question in the checklist for a great copy is the proverbial “What’s in it for me?” question.

Let’s put our example copy to test on this question:

Source: Ramit Sethi

Our example copy brilliantly answers that, with a clear paragraph stating: “In this video, you’ll get”

3 – Who is the seller

Next question a copy must answer is about the who the seller is and what is his credibility?

Let’s see if the copy we took up answers that question:

Source: Ramit Sethi

And it does. The first line after the heading, introduces the seller and builds the credibility. It states the name, Ramit Sethi and introduces him as the New York Times bestseller of a personal finance book.

4 – What’s the next step

Final question a copy must answer in the 1-2-3-4 formula is what should the reader do next to avail the offer? i.e. the CTA.

In our example copy, the last section of the page has a clear CTA. You can view the actual landing page here.

Source: Ramit Sethi

The end of the copy in our example has a clear-cut Call-to-Action that tells the reader what he needs to do to take the next step.


Using the 1-2-3-4 formula can help you ensure that the copy has all the important elements covered.

Please note that this checklist only ensures the bare minimum that any copy should have. It does not mean that the copy will convert well. There is more to a great copy than just the main elements.

However, this formula will ensure the message in the copy covers all the important aspects that must be conveyed to the reader. So, it can definitely identify a bad copy.

Simply stated, if a copy doesn’t pass the 1-2-3-4 formula – it needs a relook.

I found one Copyblogger article that explains the 1-2-3-4 formula pretty well. You do not need to read any other article. In fact, this article is all you would need to understand this and implement it in your next copywriting exercise.

Apart from this, we have covered popular frameworks like AIDA, PPPP, PAS, SSS, BAB, and FAB. They are worth reading.

Further reading on SG.com

You can check all our copywriting-related blogs here. Another useful copywriting formula is the Forehead slap method to write more effective copies.

Video explainer

Until next time,


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