Copywriting can be so personal. What someone likes someone else doesn’t. It’s a creative process after all and creativity tends to bring out subjective tastes.However it’s possible to move past the subjective and apply basic principles of good copy.
Contained here are some tips to help you take something away to improve your copywriting. Writing is an ever evolving pursuit. There’s new insight that comes from doing it all the time. The worst part is looking back over old copy and cringing, but that could just be me.
Anyway, here are some tips for you…..
1.Know your audience
Really seek to get under and into their skin. Use empathy to truly know the person you’re writing for. That’s right, write for one person. In his book Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday also stresses the need to write for one person. When you clearly have one person in mind you can focus every word like it's just for them. It’s true that unless you write for one person you’ll end up writing for no one.
2.Know your purpose
What do you want your reader to get out of the piece? Understand how you’re going to help your reader. Know whether you intend to educate, sell or both. Do you need someone to take action after reading? Keep your purpose top of mind as it will guide your writing, help to keep you honest and on track to deliver your best. Being clear on your purpose sets the direction for what you want to say and share. It helps you appreciate how you are going to deliver to your target audience.
3.Where are you sourcing your background material?
If you don’t plan to write the first thing that comes into your head then you’ll need to do some research on the topic you’re writing about. The research could involve primary research via interviews. How many interviews will depend on the depth of the topic you’re writing about and whether you require few or many points of view. Otherwise it could take the form of secondary research such as trawling Google or going to a library for background information.
You can also combine the two, a mix of primary and secondary research for a richer, more informed piece. The better the research the better the piece generally.
4. What’s your position?
Know your angle. You might have a unique view to share or seek to add value to your reader in a way no one has done before. Don’t be afraid to be controversial if your topic calls for it. However, don’t do it just to be sensational if you don’t truly feel strongly about a certain position. Creating a stir for the sake of it can put your reader off.
Keep in mind the angle you start out with might change as you delve more deeply into the research process and uncover new insights. If there’s a better angle be open to changing your direction. Whatever you do just keep on point.
5. Work your headline
No matter how good your copy is, if the headline fails to ignite your reader’s interest then it’s unlikely they’ll read the rest. Pay attention to crafting a headline that provides a hint of what’s to come and even creates some intrigue. People are naturally curious so if you can play to their curious side this will be a good start for your headline copy. Spend time crafting your headline too. It shouldn’t be considered a quick after thought. It might take quite a few attempts before you decide on one you’re happy with. I know this first hand. It takes time.
Titles of up to ten words are effective as they can be explanatory and convey the essence of the piece. Avoid fear based titles if you’re simply being sensational and your article doesn’t follow through. Instead consider using a question, one which creates intrigue and that you can deliver on.
A subtitle is optional. Sometimes it’s a handy device to reinforce the message you want to convey in the material. It supports your title to quickly hone in on the topic area and make it clear what the reader can expect. You could also create a few subtitles with a view to using them as micro content for your chosen social channels. Your subtitle can come in handy for your meta description to support your SEO effort too.
6. Write well
This can’t be underestimated. At the most basic level this means avoiding grammatical and spelling errors. Don’t insult your reader by showing you can’t proof your work. I admit, mistakes can sometimes find their way through, which is forgivable. It’s best though if the piece shows that care was taken to deliver the best writing possible at that time.
7. Tell stories
Who doesn’t love a story? People are drawn to stories which transport them to other places because they engage that part of the brain that keeps us interested. Stories work because they have the ability to connect with us emotionally rather than rationally. Once you have an emotional connection you have a greater chance of influencing your reader. Watch this TED talk by Andrew Stanton, filmmaker behind Toy Story and Wall-E. https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story
8. Edit and then edit some more
This is more than checking for typos and grammatical errors. It concerns the need to remove what’s not necessary or create the best structure for your writing. Often if you’re too close to what you’re writing it can be hard to remove sentences you slaved over. In that case, get someone else to edit for you. It’s a worthwhile investment and someone else won’t have the same attachment as you to your copy.
9. Use space
This isn’t a usual tip but a worthwhile one. Check if your writing looks like heavy blocks of copy. If all your paragraphs follow the same pattern it could create a visually unappealing look to your words and make it joyless to read. This is where it helps to use dot points or shorter paragraphs in amongst your longer paragraphs of text. Consider too how you can use headings to break up your points and inject more white space between your copy. If you’re truly thinking about your reader then you want your writing to tick the box visually too. Design matters.
10. Avoid clichés or nothing words
Don’t use them because they take away from an otherwise well written piece of text. Clichés are tired. Avoid them if you want your writing to have a bit of colour. And avoid words that don’t mean much as they fail to connect with readers. Business weasel words tend to be nothing words that get thrown about too easily. They tend to be phrases that are over used. Unfortunately they make your writing look lazy. A better alternative is to use metaphors.
Although this wasn’t intended as an exhaustive list, it was intended to help you master a few basics to improve your copy.