* = Not really

We've all seen the ads, articles and commercials. Something like "Get one month free!*"

Of course, the month isn't free and before we even read whatever foot note we're supposed to read we know that the little star means "actually - not really".

So why do so many companies use this tactic? Does it really work?

If you're writing an ad, or a promotion, or describing something on your website and you find yourself putting a * in the text somewhere I think that's big trouble.

Instead, why not just say "Get one free month when you pay for two months" or "Get $5 off the book as long as you're a member of our book club."

Whatever the purpose or the promotion, it shouldn't be necessary to put that little star in there so much. And, you'll likely find that you're writing is better and the description of your promotion is clearer, more concise, and may even be more effective.

Next time you're inclined to put a * somewhere, just remember it means "not really" and try to describe what it is that you actually want to promote.