Copywriting is a key skill, not just for people who work in sales and marketing, but for small business owners, product specialists, designers and SEO specialists. Understanding what goes into making good copy can really help the profile of your business in a competitive market.
1. Keep a Swipe File
A swipe file is a document or folder of other people’s work that you like. Whenever you see great copy on the internet take a screen shot. If you see it in a magazine take a photo with your phone. You should never steal other people’s work and pass it off as your own, but having a swipe file is unmatched for inspiration or when the dreaded writer’s block sets in. As your swipe content grows you can split the documents by preferred criteria i.e. industry sector, product type, or the medium used. It’s an immensely powerful resource to have.
2. Limit Distractions
Go to a meeting room or a room in your house where you know you won’t get distracted. Turn your phone off and log out of your email. Having an hour dedicated to getting down what you want to achieve can save twice that amount of time going forward. Some people find listening to music stimulates the creative process. If so put your headphones on and get cracking.
3. Use The Active Voice
The active voice is when you have the subject (e.g. person) mentioned first, followed by the action taken (or verb) associated with that subject or person.
- Active Voice:
- David won 3 awards at the Golden Globes.
- Passive Voice:
- At the Golden Globes David won 3 awards.
The active voice is easier to read and has more impact.
4. Write Clear and Concise Headlines
Never entice people into your copy with a misleading headline, it kills trust and readers will disengage instantly. Keep the headline on topic and use it to promote the benefits of your product or service. Using numbers in headlines is known to pique people’s interest. This doesn’t always have to be in the ‘10 things …’ style, it can be data driven, for example: ‘We Analysed 52 Leading [insert industry sector] Websites And Here’s What We Found.’
5. Avoid Colloquialisms
In the digital age the number of people reading what you’ve written in a different language is far greater than it was in the past. Using colloquialisms can confuse readers who are reading translated text. For example, if you manage an e-commerce site and you want to describe the feeling of what it’s like for a customer to be missing your product, using a term like ‘cold turkey’ is not going to translate well into other languages.
6. Avoid Sarcasm
Sarcasm rarely works well in advertising or marketing copy, and will almost always come across as either insulting the intelligence of (or the views of) your readers. Avoid it unless you are 100% sure the audience will understand what you’re saying.
7. Personalise Your Content And Use Benefits Not Features
Refer to your customer as ‘you’ or ‘your’ and use benefits instead of features when writing about your product. Compare the two following fictitious pieces of text:
- People find the Cormack iPhone case the best on the market.
- Personalised With User Benefits
- Your Cormack iPhone case will be stronger, more durable and lighter than 93% of iPhone cases on the market. Why? Because it uses aprothene material as standard.
8. Don’t Round Off Numbers When Dealing With Data
When dealing with data, exact numbers are more authentic. If you have data regarding 127 customer profiles, then say 127, don’t for 120+ or round it up to 130. It goes back to principle of trustworthiness and coming across as credible to potential customers. And if the data doesn’t have the impact you need, don’t use it in copy.
9. Proofread At The End
Don’t waste time fixing typos and grammar issues during the initial writing process. You shouldn’t even waste time on this when you’re editing your copy. Get the information down as it occurs to you, get the message on-point, and ensure the flow and pace of the copy works too.
10. Don’t Rely On Spellcheck or Grammar Checking Software
Spellcheckers hide errors. When you come to proofread they will invariably miss typos. To a spellchecker ‘punch bowl’ is correct: but so is ‘punch bowel’. Grammar checking software is also not as sophisticated as people assume. Read your copy in both directions to cut down the errors and make sure somebody else reads it wherever possible.