There’s something rewarding about spreading your message through words, be they short and sweet or long and detailed. Sometimes I write serious copy about medical advancements and preventing espionage, and sometimes I write silly commercials about helium-filled pretzels that change voices with every bite. It’s a balance.
If it’s time for you to write copy for your business and the last time you wrote any kind of copy it was called a term paper, never fear! Utilize these tips to make your copywriting process much less daunting and create a finished product worthy of the professional you are.
Know your Audience
Before you begin, ask yourself, “Who is my reader? Am I writing for a client, a colleague, or just the average person on the street?” The answer to the question determines what kind of article you’ll write, be it more technical or casual.
It’s all about Style
What are you writing? Will this copy appear in a press outlet? Perhaps this copy is for a professional journal. These are two very different styles of writing, and each has its own unique writing guide. One is appropriate for casual Friday wearing jeans and flip flops. The other is more a language formal affair. Bring your tux or gown.
For media writing style, use AP Style. Commonly used for newspapers and magazines, AP Style guides journalists on grammar, spelling, and lesser-known conventions like how to write numbers, abbreviations and more. If you’re writing for a blog post, a magazine, website, or newspaper, follow the AP Stylebook.
If you’re writing for a specialized audience such as a journal or professional publication, the MLA is the more appropriate style guide for your project. Dating back to the late 1800s, the Modern Language Association publishes “The Handbook for Writers of Research Papers” as a guide for more formal writing. “The MLA” just flows off the tongue more easily than “The Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.”
If you’re not sure, check with your internal editorial guidelines—which every organization should have—or the publication which will publish your writing to see their preferred style.
Follow the Map
Before you begin, create an outline. Think back to fourth grade and give yourself a roadmap for what you want to include. An outline helps make sure you don’t leave out important details and allows you to organize your thoughts into a logical flow.
Write in Active Voice
Active voice simply conveys action. Typically, the subject of the sentence appears before the verb. In passive voice, the opposite is true. “I want to write copy” is quite a different sentence from “The desire to write copy is what I wish for now.” They convey the same idea, but one does so much more effectively. If a passive voice sentence better serves the message, it’s always okay to include it, but active voice should make up much of your writing.
You Talking to Me?
Yep. As long as it suits the style of your intended outlet, write conversationally, you know, how you talk. It makes the message easier to understand. Save the big vocabulary words and flowery passages for the novel you will one day write after mastering copywriting.
Answer the Dang Question
Now that you know your audience and the style of writing, there remains a problem. That’s the whole point. What is the problem your writing solves? Write out your problem and then answer the question. Write the answer. Seriously. Sometimes people will write and, like many politicians, never actually answer the question.
Shorter is Sweeter
Like a long meeting that really could have been an e-mail, shorter is better in copywriting. If you can say something with 100 words, see if you can communicate it in 50. Telling your message efficiently makes your content easy to understand. Think in terms of periods instead of commas. Short. Sweet. Good.
Define Your Terms
While you are the expert on your topic, chances are your audience is not. If you use industry terms, define them. Explain concepts a reader may not understand. This tip is audience dependent. You’ll define more in an article targeting someone who knows nothing about your product than copy written for someone else working in your field.
“Friendly,” “knowledgeable,” “innovative,” “for all your fill-in-the-blank needs.” These are copywriting cliches and words that cause professional copywriters nervous twitches. Avoid cliches, whether from your industry or the copywriting world. Search for similar words in a thesaurus or define a term.
Tighten it Up
Re-read your copy and make changes before you pass it along for review. See if you can concisely edit a sentence or section. The fewer words, the stronger the message. Adjectives and adverbs are often unnecessary. “That” is a word usually easily removed. For example, “Explain concepts that a reader may not understand” and “Explain concepts a reader may not understand” are the same sentence.
Space it Out
Copy spaced out with headings, frequent paragraph breaks, and subheadings is much more user-friendly. If you use Microsoft Word to write your copy, the Styles tool makes this spacing easy.
Grammar and Spell Check Don’t Speak English
Spelling and grammar tools are invaluable, but sometimes they miss mistakes. Always proofread your copy. If possible, have someone else also read your document. If writing instructional copy, have an individual outside your area of expertise read the article, but avoid “copy by committee,” as too many eyes may muddy the message.
If in Doubt, Let Us Inspire You
At Inspire Agency, we have a team of copywriters waiting to help with decades of experience. We create dynamic content specifically for our clients to help them better spread the word. We always start with the first step in the Inspire Way: Inquire. We don’t blindly write, but take the time to understand who you are and your story, so that we can capture your brand’s soul in your copy. Stand out amongst a sea of press releases with an engaging lead, strong quotes, and captivating narratives. Make your sales sheets and marketing collateral pop while emphasizing your brand’s story. Captivate viewers with outstanding and engaging motion graphic presentations. Let us Inspire you.