The language of free


On the way back from the grocery store, I often take a route that passes in front of a large church. During my most recent trip, I noticed they have a box filled with pamphlets that promote the church. I don’t recall the exact label they have on there, but it was something like “Complimentary”.

This made me wonder: what’s the best way to convey that something is free for the taking? Several phrases come to mind:

– Free

– Complimentary

– Take one

Words like “free” and “complimentary” suggest you can have the item at no charge, but something is missing. Yep, there’s no call-to-action. That’s where “take one” or a similar phrase is valuable. In fact, the most effective approach is to combine a descriptive phrase with an action-oriented one. For instance, “Free – Take One” tells people that there’s no charge for the item, and encourages them to take the relevant action. Compared to using either type of phrase by itself, I bet the combined approach is vastly more effective in distributing free pamphlets, samples and other promotional items.