Monday, October 26, 2020

Copywriting: How to Polish Your Copy

Polish your copy to make it shine.

The Importance of a Rewrite 

Ernest Hemingway said, "All writing is rewriting", he knew exactly how hard it was to master the craft of writing, and how important the rewriting stage was.

Let's take a look as some important points that will be covered in this post:

Description - Are you serving a purpose with your descriptions? Is everything explained plainly in your copy?

Individual Words - Have you chosen the right words in your descriptions?  Are your words easy to understand, or could you have used other words?

Phrases - Could you have used single words instead of a whole phrase? Is your wording obscure?

Sentences - Have you structured your sentences in a simple way? Are you using the passive voice? 

Paragraphs - Do you use a new paragraph for a new idea? Are your paragraph breaks at a clear point in your copy?

Pace - Is your copy pace consistent throughout the text? If your pace changes is there a good reason for this?

Order - Is the order of your copy organised?  Are you covering the main points of the product first, and the sub points later on?

Duplication - Is each part of your copy adding something unique in terms of advantages? Have you repeated the same point more than once in your copy?

Focus - Is your theme clear throughout your copy? Does your headline feature throughout your copy?

Length - Have you stuck to your points succinctly?  Have you given your readers information to get them to where you want them to be?

Make it Plain - Keep your language clear and plain.

Let's get started.

Simple is Always Better

1. Uncomplicated words are fundamental

When we start learning to read and write we always start with the easy words, and these words stay with us throughout our lives.

2. Clear words are dependable

You can depend on clear straightforward language that is fuss-free.

3. Easy words are truthful

Trust is built through persuasion, which is why easy words come across as the most honest.

4. Straightforward language is the clearest

Research has shown that readers see writers who write simply as more intelligent and not less.  By writing in clear language you help to solidify ideas into the minds of your readers.

5. Uncomplicated words are easier to understand

People grasp simpler language more quickly, showing the writer cares about the reader.  

6. Easy words are universal

You reach a wider audience if you use simple language.  Which means that a reader is more likely to take action, which is the endgame for all copywriters.

Your audience will never know how many rewrites have been done to produce an easy-to-read piece of copy.  

You might be thinking that it's easy to write simple and clearly off the bat.  Messy first drafts are the order of the day when it comes to copywriting.  Words will start coming in no particular order and will sound really mixed.  Every copy has the job of making the complicated look effortless.

You need a clear mind to write simply, and a deep understanding of your subject matter.  That means you have to do thorough research on each product.  Gathering enough knowledge to know what will benefit the reader.  Being able to say enough to convince the reader to buy the product.

With each key headline introduce an essential element about the product.  Developing the idea through each paragraph.  You only need to express things once.  Making every word count, and not overdoing it by using too many sentences.

When you edit your copy look at it the same you would if you were pruning a rose bush.  Only leave in the valuable stuff.

Writing short and pithy sentences are even more valuable for copy online.  Because of the limited amount of space you may have to get your message across. 

A good guide to go by is using too much punctuation in a sentence, even once punctuation is excessive.

Choose words that are familiar, and not ambiguous, this is particularly useful to people who use English as their second or third language.  

Variety is the name of the game, which means good copy should contain a variety of words, and sentences, otherwise it'll come across quite dull to the audience.  

Kill Your Darlings (Get Rid of the Things You Love the Most)

Simply put this means that you shouldn't fall in love with your ideas.  This rings true more than ever in the copywriting process.  When you come up with ideas you just have to include them in your text.  As time rolls on your convincing yourself it has to stay, even though it's not in the brief.  Which is why you need to "Kill your darlings."

The endgame is to please the client not yourself.  If your copy isn't doing the job of persuading the reader it's got to go.  

Your perspective starts to dim the longer you work on a project.  That's why sometimes it's a good idea to show your copy to someone trustworthy you know and ask them to show your "darlings".

If you feel like your copy has ticked all the boxes of the brief, then chances are they have.

If your creativity kicks in and you feel you have an idea that meets the pitch perfectly, then you need to fight for it. 

Stay Tangible

When you're writing copy it's easy to start at ground level writing all of the real advantages a product has.  But if you're working on the project for too long you start adding things that have no tangible benefits at all, and you start writing things just to make the audience feel good. 

All products benefit people in one way or another.  Your problem is, are you writing something worthwhile for the reader?

Easy on the Verbs

Description is a good thing in copywriting, the only problem is the way you use it.  You need to be more selective when it comes to choosing your adjectives and adverbs.  The most commonly used adjectives such as 'simple', 'new' and 'unique' hold the most value when it comes to articulating the important benefits of a product.  Throwing in a little sensory detail doesn't do any harm either, like 'tender steak' instead of just 'steak'.

If you're struggling to find the right words use a thesaurus.  Sometimes we forget how many words there are to choose from that will help to describe what we want to say.

Top copywriter Tony Brignull says "Treat adjectives and adverbs as if they cost £500 each".  To use this measure ask yourself if you would pay to leave in each adverb and adjective used in your copy.  If you would, that's great, but if not turn them into verbs.

The Debate Over Long and Short Copy

Long-copy followers would tell you that longer is best.  On the other side of the fence are the microcopy producers, or short copy disciples who create content for social media platforms who are avid users of short copy because it's more in tune and akin to current times.

You could argue it's more about making progress and moving with the times.  That long copy is old hat, and short copy is in.  Some would even argue the attention span of people has reduced significantly and that's why short copy is the best.  

These days both are going strong, and for the most part people like to read what interests them the most.  Your audience's attention span is valuable and should therefore never be wasted.  These days people don't spend their time telling advertising companies that their adverts are too long.  Writing long copy can be useful especially when it's something interesting or worth reading.  There's no such thing as long copy if it keeps your reader absorbed from the get go.

All you need to know is that your copy needs to be long enough to get your readers  to where you want them to be, which is buying the product.

Pacing Your Copy

Fiction writing is a good example of how pacing is used in writing, using a faster pace for thrillers, and a slow lingering one for a romantic novel.  

The pace you choose all depends on what you want to achieve, and the experience you want to generate. If you're writing about a fast food chain you want something snappy and straight to the point.  But with a high end restaurant you might want to say something at a more measured speed deliberating over the more relaxed experience. 

Using that opportunity to create a particular kind of mood or ambience.  This kind of copy is used in charity advertising where a particular circumstance is used to ask the audience for help.  If you can keep the reader's curiosity, their empathy will start to deepen and your call to action will become more powerful.

Find Your Rhythm

Most people don't speak in a monotone drone, they'll use certain syllables, or place more emphasis on certain words.  If you listen closely you can hear how their voices change for loudness and the use of longer vowels.  They'll also pause between certain, which is where punctuation is used in writing.

When you read something, you're listening to the words in your head as if they're being spoken to you.  If you want to sound more persuasive to your reader you need your words and sentences to sound right.  When you're writing in conversational style it needs to sound the same as everyday speak.  To the reader your copy should have a pleasant pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.  Giving your reader a nice mix of long and short words, just enough to let them draw breath as they read your copy.

Make Your Words Rhyme

Psychologists have found that people see rhyming statements as 22% more accurate than non-rhyming ones.  Which is why you often see it in advertising slogans.

Once you pop you can't stop.

A memorable rhyme from Pringles perfectly describing a common belief of what might emerge when you eat something good.


Use Alliteration in Your Sentences and Copy

Most major brands have used alliteration in their copy at one point or another over the years.  

Here are a few examples of brand names, sports teams, and characters that all use alliteration:

  • PayPal
  • Range Rover
  • Circuit City
  • LA Lakers
  • KKR
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Tic-tac
  • King Kong
  • Peter Parker
  • Bruce Banner


Alliterations aren't essential to your brand, but they will help carry your message further if you can include them in your copy.

The reasoning behind this is to do with the use of repetition.  Repeated and regular linguistic cues are one of the best ways to create big, predictable results.

Use a Fresh Set of Eyes to Check Your Copy Over

Mistakes become harder to see the longer you work on a piece of copy.  It's not the job of the client to pick up on things you might have missed.  This is why you have to check your work meticulously to make sure you haven't missed anything or left anything out.

Often it's best to have a hard copy print out to check for any mistakes you might have missed.  It also helps to leave a little time in between writing your copy to check it over.  

If you can't get someone you know to have a look through it for you, hire a professional proofreader to do the work for you.

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2 comments:

  1. I love that this guide both keeps it simple yet hits on so many important ways to refine and polish our writing! Well done.

    ReplyDelete

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