What Makes Good (and Effective) Copy?
This week we continue our series on copywriting by taking a look at what makes good copy. There’s no easy answer to this because of the many different types of copywriting. Obviously, if you’re writing copy for a magazine ad it will look much different than if you’re writing a blog post for your company’s website. In addition to various types of copy, there are also different techniques for writing good copy.
We’ve boiled it all down to these 7:
1. Grab your reader's attention
This is one piece of advice that you see given to copywriters again and again. Legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman is loosely quoted as saying that the purpose of a headline is to get the first sentence read, and the purpose of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read, and then so on until you lead the reader to the offer you’re presenting to them. If you can’t keep them reading past the headline, you’ve wasted your time with the rest. We’ll take a closer look at writing attention-getting headlines next week.
2. Keep it clear and simple
Be concise and avoid jargon. You want it to be easy for your audience to read the copy and understand it. Make it too wordy and they may miss the point - and you’ve lost a customer. As Strunk and White tell us in their Elements of Style (an EXCELLENT resource for anyone writing copy), “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready, and able.”
3. Be conversational
The writing should be natural and convey that you have an interest in helping your audience. Write as if the person is sitting across from you and you’re just talking over coffee. Earn their trust and build rapport by being natural and allowing them to see that there is a real person behind the words.
4. Know your audience
Think about your audience. Listening to what customers are saying can be a huge help when you’re writing copy. They may have specific needs that they feel are not being met in the market, and you have your chance to grab their attention and show them that you can help.
5. Answer your readers’ questions
This goes back to knowing your audience. Anticipate questions your readers may have and try to answer them. What might their objections be? Counter these objections and convince your audience that you can help.
6. Use present tense
Avoid passive voice in your copy. It can be confusing and difficult to read. Instead, opt to use active voice. Traditionally active voice is subject + verb + object. See the examples below:
Passive: The moon was jumped over by the cow.
Active: The cow jumped over the moon.
Passive: Ten new services are now offered.
Active: We now offer ten new services.
Active voice puts the focus where it belongs - on the subject of the sentence - and strengthens your copy.
7. Don’t exaggerate
Sure you want to shout from the rooftops about how great your company is and tell everyone about all of the wonderful products and services you offer and how everyone loves you and you guarantee they’ll find no one better! However, there is a danger to overstating and making big claims that overreach. A modest proposal or promise can be much more effective and go a long way to earning the trust of your audience.
And there you have it - our top tips to creating good (and effective) copy.
Join us next week as we look at how to grab your reader’s attention with great headlines that will make them want to keep reading!