Good copywriting is an expert blend of craftsmanship, expertise and boldness. Do it well, and you can create a trustworthy brand people know they can rely on.
Do it poorly, and not only will nobody know what your company and product are all about, they won’t care. To make it big in the copywriting world, here are 25 do’s to help your content do its job, and do it well.
The importance of proofreading your content can’t be stressed enough. Double-checking grammar, spelling and sentence syntax is absolutely crucial in building trust with the reader and making you look like you know what you’re talking about.
2. Proofread again
We can’t stress proofreading enough – even when you feel like you’ve proofread your copy to death, do one final check before posting or sending to your client. In 2013, a Real Business study showed that 59% of consumers won’t use a company if their website or marketing material contains errors. That’s a massive chunk of potential revenue all over the wrong use of ‘your’.
3. Adapt your tone of voice to fit the brand
To create a cohesive brand and online presence, establishing an overarching tone of voice and then ensuring all of your copy is written with it is imperative. This will ensure all of your brand’s products and marketing campaigns are consistent and help you avoid making rogue style choices.
4. Research, research, research
Just as proofreading is essential in good copy, so too is solid research. In order to be a reliable source, your copy should be absolutely bulletproof. Build a research vault in your mind – the more facts you’ve got under your belt, the more you’ll have for next time.
5. Keep it simple
Unless you’re writing for an overtly technical purpose, you can leave the heavy duty jargon at the door, in favour of a more approachable, colloquial and clear voice. It won’t matter how technically correct your copy is if your audience can’t understand what you’re saying.
6. Spend extra time on your headlines
It was David Ogilvy, known as the father of advertising, that said, ‘On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of the dollar.’
Headlines act as the face of your copy and are the first things readers will encounter. They need to be snappy and enticing if you want people to continue reading, so spend time crafting a winner.
7. Prioritise content
Always put the important content at the top and the less important – but still necessary – at the bottom. Lazy readers will appreciate this, and it ensures the crucial bits are seen. If it doesn’t add value, the rest can go in the bin.
8. Tell a story
The best copy takes readers along for a ride, and as a result, it tends to stick better in their minds. It’s more personal and unique and grabs our attention faster than tech specs or endless adjectives.
9. Avoid large chunks of text
Bulky paragraphs are both unsightly and intimidating to a reader, so stick to text blocks that are light and two to three sentences max. If you can break the text up with bullet points and subheadings, even better.
10. Know your audience
You’ll need to know your audience inside out if you want to effectively communicate with them. What age range do they primarily fall in? Are a large portion of them male or female? Both? Understanding this will help you craft a message that’ll resonate, and speak your readers’ language.
11. Stay client-focused
It’s natural to want to spend time talking about the company or the product specifically, but the best copywriting focuses more on the client. Where possible, use ‘you’ statements over ‘we’.
12. Always include a call to action
You should always end content with a call to action where possible – encourage readers to learn more, click here, follow this, retweet that. CTAs give readers a next step to follow through with.
13. Stay away from clichés
Clichés not only sound like placeholders for actual facts, but they’re also incredibly vague. Instead of saying something will ‘make a world of difference’, say exactly what the product or company will do.
14. Be as specific as you can
Piggy-backing on top of the cliché-avoidance, your copy should always be as specific as possible. Wherever you can, insert facts, examples and exact numbers – ‘879 supporters’ sounds more reliable than ‘hundreds of supporters’.
15. Don’t be afraid to break the rules
This probably sounds counter-intuitive, seeing as we’re constructing a list of copywriting rules, but if you can spice up your copy in a reasonable way, do. Rearranging traditional syntax or starting a sentence with ‘and’ isn’t wrong if it works, and will make you stand out, but in the right way.
16. Always follow the style guide
If your client or employer has a style guide, always follow it. This goes in line with using a consistent brand voice – making sure your punctuation matches can go a long way in making your copy look professional.
17. Stay current
Staying on top of business and style trends isn’t just good career practice – it’s essential for successful copywriting. You want your copy to sound savvy and up-to-date so that readers can rest assured that they’re getting the best on the current market.
18. Stress benefits over features
Above all, consumers want to know what the product will do for them, rather than the particulars, like the circumference of a hoover hose or how slow a lawnmower can go. Your copy should reflect this, focusing more on how whatever you’re selling can make their lives easier or better.
19. Use active voice
Statements using active voice are typically snappier and stronger than those using passive voice. The active sentence ‘We’ve sold more than 10,000 kettles’ sounds much better than the passive ‘More than 10,000 kettles have been sold.’
20. Avoid rhetorical questions
While rhetorical questions can be useful at times for making a point, more often than not they’re distracting. A big rule of copy is always getting your reader to say yes – with rhetorical questions, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll say no.
21. Steer clear of ‘will’ and ‘can’
Saying you ‘can’ do something, or you ‘will’ be there should something go awry sounds both flaky and lacking in confidence. These are called ‘weasel words’ for a reason. You want to build trust between you and your reader so sounding assertive will reassure them that you and/or your product are the right ones for the job.
22. Never give false information
If this point sounds obvious, good. Never, and we repeat, never, knowingly provide false information in your copy. There’s no faster way to lose readers and potentially throw yourself into legal turmoil. We always urge copywriters to err on the side of caution – if you’re unsure of a fact and can’t find a source to back it up, it’s best to leave it out.
23. Include quotes where possible and relevant
Like it or not, people will tend to trust a product more if it’s backed by an endorsement. If you can include a quote that’s relevant and persuasive from a real customer or client, it’ll give your product an air of legitimacy and confidence that even the best copywriting can’t provide.
24. Don’t talk down to customers
Another gem from the David Ogilvy backlog states, ‘A consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence, and don’t shock her.’ Insulting or patronising your customer isn’t charming, and will likely turn them away. Treating readers with a little dignity and respect goes a long way.
25. Proofread one last time
To hammer this home one last time: proofread, proofread, proofread. And repeat.
Master these rules, and you’re on your way to copywriting success. Get in touch with us to see how we can help with your brand’s copywriting.
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