Is your writing tired and boring? Are you looking for a killer copywriter? It’s time you discovered the secrets to making good copywriting great.
Whether you are writing your website, marketing materials or a simple email, copywriting is critical to getting your message across effectively. Good copywriting makes a connection with the reader, arouses emotions and provokes a reaction. It can also bring your product or service to life.
The number one rule of copywriting
The first rule of copywriting success is that it’s not all about ‘you’. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your business is or what a brilliant product you have. Your writing is about the reader and what’s important to them. So before you start writing, imagine that you are the reader. Try to understand their needs and wants, and write your message in the context of that information.
The best way to do this is to highlight the WIIFM – ‘what’s in it for me?’ Whether your audience is a customer, shareholder or other interested party, they will want to understand what the benefits are for them.
Understanding your audience will help to determine ‘what’s in it for me?’ What does your typical reader look like? Are they male or female? What age are they? Why would they be interested in your product or service? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, do your research first.
Ten tips on how to become a killer copywriter
Anyone can become a killer copywriter when they know the tricks of the trade. Here are my top 10 tips to help you write copy that sells.
The best way to write great copy is to imagine that you are talking to someone. Write like you would talk – use plain, conversational language with emotion.
Work out the three key messages you want your reader to remember. Most people aren’t going to remember more than three messages – so make sure your writing supports and reinforces your top three points.
Avoid ‘weasel words’ at all costs. People using weasel words often don’t know what they are talking about. (Hint – stay clear of ambiguous words and phrases like ‘innovative’, ‘value-adding’, ‘transformation’ and ‘synergistic’.)
Change your language from “we offer” to “you’ll receive”. Remember it’s all about the reader and they want to know ‘WIIFM’.
Don’t overwrite your message. Keep your writing crisp and concise by avoiding long sentences and using short paragraphs. Each sentence shouldn’t be longer than 27 words. If your sentences are long, read them out loud. You’ll soon be able to work out where to insert a full-stop.
Keep it simple. Always use a short word in place of a long word, and a plain word instead of a technical or fancy one. For example use ‘across’ instead of ‘traverses’, ‘achieve’ instead of ‘accomplish’ and ‘cost’ instead of ‘expenditure’. It’s simply easier to read.
Always write in an active voice – it gives a sense of action and immediacy. Passive voice can make the copy seem slow and boring. For example ‘the tree was hit by the car’ is not as direct and clear as ‘the car hit the tree’.
Use humour if you can. Humour creates a reaction and interest in your message. It might not always be easy to find the funny side of your message, but it’s worth trying.
Check grammar, spelling and punctuation. There’s nothing worse than reading something with a typo or incorrect punctuation. First tip – always use a spell check. Second tip – have someone else proof read your work.
Finish your message with a call to action. It entices the reader to think about taking action and makes clear what the purpose of the message is.
Using these 10 tips will help you improve your copywriting skills. It takes time and practice, and it’s important to be in the right frame of mind. There’s no point sitting down to write something when you are tired or angry – it will be reflected in your work. And if you’re still not happy with your writing, then hire a professional.
Renee Hancock is a marketing and communications specialist whose experience spans finance, government, education, not-for-profit, telecommunications and law. She has consulted for two of Australia’s most prestigious public relations agencies and now works in-house for a leading financial services organisation.