Anyone can lay out a good ad. Anyone. You don’t need years of graphics arts or marketing instructions. All you need to do is to remember some simple tips that can turn a drab, mediocre ad into a powerful order-pulling masterpiece.

First of all, there are two ways to build an ad. Either fill it with text, or leave plenty of open space. Both ways are good, depending on the type of product or service you’re selling, and the crowd you’re trying to reach. If you’re selling a product directly from your ad, and it requires a lot of explanation or description, pack that ad full of text. This will create a block of grey text which will not stand out to the eye, so you’ll need to put a strong black border around your ad. If you’re trying to solicit responses, which you’ll follow up with more information, cut the text in your ad to a minimum. The white space in your ad will draw the eye, so you won’t need as strong a border. You still should put a border around the ad, but a thin double line will do, so as not to attract attention away from the message of the ad.

Here are a few pointers about the wording of your ad:

Make sure it follows a logical progression. Start with a headline emphasizing the benefit the customer will get from your product or service. For example, “Increase your business’ profits and lower it’s costs!” Follow up with a subheading hinting at what will follow in the body of the ad (“Secrets of a professional marketing consultant revealed!”). The body text of your ad should tell just a bit about your product, but should concentrate on the benefits your customer will receive. Personal benefits, not features, are why people buy products and services. End with your contact information, how prospects can either contact you for more information, or how they can order your product or service.

Spice up your layout with a bit of graphic art. Clip art is widely available at office supply and art stores. It should be easy to find a book of art that will apply to what you are selling. Cut the selected art from the book and paste into your ad. Don’t overdo the art, though. Use only one graphic at the most. More than one looks unprofessional.

What follows is the biggest, most important tip I can give. When laying out your ad, USE A RULER! The worst thing you can do is use an ad that has crooked text that is off center. So many people try to do their own ads by “eyeballing” it, which will only yield unprofessional results. A good idea is to get some layout boards, also available at office supply or art stores. This is cardboard that has a blue grid printed on it that will not reproduce when copied.

Use rubber cement to attach your blocks of text. Typewritten is ok, though computer laser-printed or “rub-down” text is better looking. Check at the office/art supply store for rub-down text. Attach or draw your art and borders. Remember to emphasize benefits, keep things even and straight, leave white space if applicable, and use art sparingly as a compliment to your ad. If you follow these suggestions, the quality of your advertising will improve vastly.