I’ve not been on a copywriting course. I don’t read every single tips and tricks article that gets published around my area of expertise. My success stems from three things:
– Engage the reader, getting an understanding of what the reader needs
– Always keeping in mind what I want the reader to do as the result of reading what I’ve writing
– An instinct for making words work
These tips comes from my instinct. They just make sense.
1. Tell a story. Story-telling for brands is high profile right now. But everything we write about our company and our products and services should tell a story. That’s obvious in a case study. Start by setting the scene, explain the challenge, describe the solution, and make it a happy ever after tale.
A mailshot is the same. Start strongly, tell the tale convincingly and clearly, and end strongly with a call to action.
2. Get into the rhythm. As copywriters we’re all about getting readers as easily as possible from the start to the finish. Great copy has a rhythm that helps with that. The way the sentences are constructed make it easy for the reader to just flow through it. Think about varying the length of sentences. Keep paragraphs short so the writing isn’t too dense.
If I’m writing a really short piece of copy like a mailshot, I read and re-write until that rhythm is working. It often means taking out words in one place and adding more in another. Sometimes it’s the matter of just a single syllable that’s getting in the way, so swapping synonymous words in and out helps.
3. Take out the blocks. As a freelance editor I discovered many years ago that publishers all agreed. Capital letters in the middle of a sentence, let alone a word, get in the way of the flow. As a journalist I came across numerous companies that popped caps into the middle of their name or the name of their products. Bad plan. People expect a capital letter to start a sentence, so if they’re speed reading they’ll have to stop and look again to make your copy make sense.
4. Consider your punctuation and particularly consider your semi-colons. I loathe semi-colons in anything other than learned papers and literature. If you’re copywriting and you feel the need for a semi-colon, think again. A full stop might do the job much better. Some clients aren’t too keen on my use of commas. They feel I put in too many. My view is that you write in the way that the audience needs to read. If there aren’t enough commas the sense is harder to follow. Added to that they may run out of mental breath before they get to the end of the sentence.
5. Go back and cut your sentences in half when you’ve finished. Not all of them. Just the ones that have got too convoluted. One idea to a sentence is a useful rule.
About the author: Kathy Lawrence
Kathy Lawrence has been doing the words thing as Wrightwell Editorial Services for over 20 years. She’s worked with direct clients and agencies large and small on a huge range of marketing projects across most industries. She’s also co-founder and content director of When They Get Older (www.whentheygetolder.co.uk), a web site providing help and tips to the children of ageing parents.
Meet Kathy on LinkedIn or visit her site at www.wrightwell.co.uk
Finally, an article that’s b******t free, with no gimmicks. I am just setting out myself as copywriter and proofreader. I have not ‘done’ a copywriting course, just like you, Kathy. I have been an English teacher for fifteen years and don’t want to pay a company a large sum of money to be taken through a course which I greatly suspect will either be what I already know or what I disagree with. (Yes, I’m an opinionated person!) The points you have covered here have given me heart. Thanks, Kathy!
Thanks great infirmation. I am a new freelance writer and learning something new every day is my motto.
A great article. Thank you. Your comment on punctuation – specifically semi-colons. A device I enjoy using instead is the hyphen. It’s a great substitute. For me the function of the two devices is pretty similar, but a hyphen is ‘prettier’. It has the effect of breaking up the look of a sentence.
Thank you all for you comments and I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed it. As for dashes – yes, I love them too and use them far too often. Good luck with your writing everyone.