February 15th, 2007 by Bob Bly
Alan Shawn Feinstein, one of the deans of mail order in the pre-Internet era, once ran a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline:
“Yours Free — My Gift to You.”
But JW, a subscriber to my e-zine The Direct Response Letter, thinks “free gifts” is bad writing.
“Free gifts … is there any other kind?” he asks.
“JW, your argument is that ‘free gift’ is redundant — like ‘armed gunmen.’
But, tests prove that in direct marketing, omitting the word ‘free’ and just saying ‘gift’ actually depresses response.
“I teach in business writing classes to avoid redundancy … but I am not sure that’s always good advice.
“The reason for redundancy is that some people need to read a thing several times before it sinks in….”
Where do you stand on this issue of good grammar vs. good selling?
Is “free gift” bad English … or just effective marketing?
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