Recently, I have been doing quite a bit of copywriting. I find there is a lot of pressure to get the copy ‘right’, to make sure it will help ‘sell’ the person, product or company – and all within just a few words.
Reflecting on the leaflets, profiles and website I have been working on recently I have come up with 10 tips which I hope will help with your copywriting.
You can’t rush copywriting. Even if you are writing about yourself or a something you know a lot about, any copy can only be improved with research. This will often include looking at competitors, considering styles of copy you like (and similar to how you want to write) and looking at copy in similar medias, i.e. a leaflet, a website, a directory.
Any good writing takes time. Time to research, time to write, time to edit, time to rewrite, time away and time to proofread.
I think it is impossible to write good copy in one sitting. I need to have a first attempt where I ‘dump’ all of my ideas. Then, I need some time away (at least a couple of hours) before I look at it again to tidy up and rewrite. Then, some more time away before re-editing. And ideally, another break before giving the copy a final proofread
Think about who your audience is. This also forms part of your research (see #1). Who is going to read this piece of copy?
In most cases, it is best to make sure the copy feels personal and is written in first person (i.e. I/We) so that it speaks personally to the reader. Also consider the use second person (i.e. you) so that it speaks directly to the reader. For both, consider if this is appropriate too.
This may seem obvious, but make sure what you write is interesting. The goal of most copy is to catch readers’ attention, but then also to hold their attention. So, think about what your readers actually want to know. What will be useful, essential information? And then, how can you make this interesting and, perhaps, even entertaining or humorous, when appropriate?
It is easy to get focussed on the main body of what you are writing, but don’t forget about your headings, titles and/or headlines. These are often in bold and, therefore, stand out. It is what will catch a reader’s eye! Make sure headings are vivid and clear helping your reader to navigate around your copy. Don’t use clickbait! Headings should inform a reader not deceive them.
6. Plain English
It is my mantra and can never be repeated enough: use plain English. Use short sentences and break up long paragraphs. Be critical about the inclusion of jargon or complex terminology and, if it is essential, ensure you explain their meanings. Writing in a direct way is the easiest method to engage readers and keep their attention. No one wants to feel like it’s a ‘slog’ when reading something. Readers want to gain information quickly and easily.
All copy should have a clear purpose and goal. If you are waffling or not sure why you are writing something, then it is probably not worth writing. You want to be engaging. You want your readers to trust that the information you are sharing is essential and useful, so that they will continue reading the entire text. Having a purpose, also means you probably want your readers to actually ‘do’ something after reading – perhaps getting in touch with you about your business/service or ordering a product. If so, don’t forget to include a call to action – this can be as simple as ‘Contact me with your requirements’; ‘Check out our website for more information’ or, simply, ‘Buy now’.
Like having a purpose, it is no use offering bland information in most forms of copy. Most readers are highly critical and not very loyal. If they can’t find the information they are looking for or a reason to read on, then they will soon be on to the next website, article, or leaflet. To keep them interested, highlight benefits. Keep them hooked in and learning about what they will get out of your business.
9. Varied vocabulary
Don’t sound ridiculous, but don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus. Make sure you are confident that you know the meaning of any word you use. Repetition of the same word looks lazy and can become uninteresting to a reader. Going back to tip 1, this is where you need time…time to reconsider your words choices, consider alternatives and edit as you see fit.
Back up what you say with evidence. Stats can be useful and dates/times too, e.g. stating a business has been running for 30 years, backs up a statement that it is ‘experienced’ or ‘trusted’. Also, consider examples. And finally, testimonials, short reviews or quotes from satisfied clients and customers – go along way. Huge numbers of people now rely on star rating and reviews to help make their decision on a purchase.
There is nothing better than reading about the perfect product, which has all its benefits highlighted, and then for this to be back up by great reviews.
So, what do you think? Got any extra tips?! Let me know!