Be A Better Copywritter
I’m not a writer unless you count school papers. Since we aren’t writing book reports about Abraham Lincoln anymore it’s important to know what your audience expects and responds to. It’s not as hard as you might think but it is work. Here are some helpful tips.
1. Headline Writing 101
Every writer who wants to make an impact online must take this clinic.
There is only one reason your client or prospect will read a single word of the copy you’ve written: your headline. This is where you should spend 70% of your time.
Start with the 4 U’s:
2. Use common spelling
Flourishes and variations of common words distract your readers and pull them out of the story you’re telling (unless your demographic is girls aged 7-13).
3. Avoid hyperbole and fancy words
One of the first lessons I learned as a writer at Copyblogger was to tone down my language.
Good copy cuts like a knife. When it’s action you’re after, avoid big words that make you sound like you’re trying too hard to sound smart or important.
E. B. White said it best,
Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word, when there is a ten-center handy …
4. Put the reader first
It is our job as copywriters to tap into the hopes, dreams, and fears of our audience. This requires research, and the magic of the word “you.”
Proven to be one of the English language’s most powerful words, you can’t lose.
5. Write in a natural way
This is an indispensable tip for all bloggers and copywriters.
You must speak the language of your audience, and do it in a way that conveys you are a real person, with genuine interest in offering your help and expertise.
How else are your prospects going to get to know, like, and trust you?
How else are search engines going to recognize that you have the answers to people’s questions?
Research, research, research. Know your audience inside and out.
6. Work from an outline
Outlines work! Even if you don’t have the energy or time to sketch out a simple AIDA outline, give yourself some idea of the goals you’d like to accomplish.
Even something as simple as a post-it-note with a few bullet points works. Successful writers use outlines. They don’t stifle creativity … but they’re helpful in reminding you to stick to the point.
7. Write with nouns and verbs
This is Copywriting 101 — Precise language convinces; flowery language distracts.
Concise and specific copy moves the prospect along, but adjectives and adverbs are just filler.
The more descriptors you throw in there, the higher the chances are that someone with the attention span of a hummingbird will click away (unless you are describing the features of something technical).
8. Revise and rewrite
Ogilvy is quoted as saying,
I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor.
He would edit his first draft four or five times before showing it to a client, who would inevitably change it again.
9. Do not overwrite
Without clarity your copy is shot. Overwriting is a symptom of under thinking. Good copy is damn hard to write.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
~ Albert Einstein
10. Do not overstate
Superlatives have the power to wreck your copy.
When you overstate or exaggerate your claims (with things like trumped-up testimonials), you risk losing the trust of your audience.
An understated promise often does a better job of capturing reader attention than screaming hype does.
11. Be clear
Shine that display glass.
Do some editing. Then put it down and do something else. Then, come back and edit again.
I’ve found that printing something out on paper helps lessen distractions of a computer screen.
12. Don’t mix metaphors
If a product sings when used correctly, but sinks if used improperly, then it is guilty of being both a songstress and an anchor, and this is very distracting.
Stick to one metaphor or the other, but not both in one sentence.
13. Simplify your language:
Make every word tell.
Delete the words that are just window dressing.