I was inspired to write this blog post after seeing this brilliant bit of copy on the Mailchimp website’s homepage:
SEND BETTER EMAIL.
SELL MORE STUFF.
It got my attention, it made me smile and I LOVE the simplicity of it!
This is what good writing – good copywriting – is all about. Now, I am no advertising guru, but I have spent a bit of time this week thinking about what makes writing ‘good’. It is subjective, but to me, what makes it readable? And if I find something I like…why do I like it?
So here are my five tips for good copy:
1 – ‘Perfect’ length
No rude thoughts, please!? …moving on…I was going to call this first tip ‘short and sweet’, but that’s not actually good advice. It is no good keeping your copy really short and simplistic if you aren’t managing to capture the essence of what you want to say or covering everything you feel is essential. Don’t waffle. Do edit critically and harshly. And within your writing, keep the sentences short. But if you are writing some website copy or a blog post and a paragraph or two will add value to what you are trying to say, then keep it.
2 – Clear message
This relates to not ‘waffling’! Whatever you write, take a look at it and ask yourself two questions: “so what?” and “and?!?” – even add the sarcastic voice, if it helps! The idea is that everything you write has a clear purpose and goal. Good copy gives solutions to problems. It answers clients’ questions. It guides and informs the reader.
3 – Strong structure
Even the shortest paragraph needs a well-formed structure. Read the MailChimp advert again. Would the sentences have the same impact the other way around? Think of writing as holding the reader’s hand and guiding them on an entirely new journey. They have never been here before; they don’t know where you are going to take them next…so don’t shock them! Each paragraph should seem like a natural ‘next step’. Lead them through your message in a logical way. Don’t be afraid to use headings and subheadings.
4 – Plain English
Those of you who follow this blog will probably be familiar with my love of simplicity when it comes to writing. Jargon and fancy words can be impressive…but for every one person who is wowed by their use, at least three others are completely alienated. Being an expert or professional in your field is something to be proud of, but I think being ‘good at what you do’ is the ability to share your passion and knowledge. Essentially, this means explaining your business, products or services in a clear way. Invite your readers in to your world by making it accessible to them.
5 – Proofread
Sorry, but this had to be here! You HAVE to proofread what you write! Better than that, ask someone else to proofread what you have written. At the very least, run a spellcheck!!!! It sounds so obvious, but don’t assume. My best advice for proofreading is always to read aloud. This particularly helps to identify long sentences, especially when you realise you have been reading for a while and not taken a breath! Read slowly and carefully too, as this helps to make spelling and grammatical errors stand out.
…that was my first top tips post – Let me know what you think!