Writecombination Copywriting
by Andrew Knowles
14-Feb-13

7 tips to improve your copywriting

Copywriting and writing are the same thing. There are different types of copywriting, or writing, but they’re all about putting words on the page, words that will be read by others. 

The distinction, if you need one, is that copywriters tend towards marketing copy designed to push buttons with the reader (most commonly the ‘buy now’ button).

I’ve held various roles in my life and while ‘writing’ has never been on the job description, doing the job successfully has always required excellent communication, including through the written word.

When I chose to become a full-time freelance copywriter a few years ago, I entered my new profession with years of experience that stood me in good stead. And I’ve learned a few things since then.

Here are some of my tips for anyone aspiring to be a copywriter, or simply seeking improvement in their writing skills.

1. Just start. When your head’s full of ideas for approaching your subject, grasping the right opening words or sentence out of the melee seems nigh on impossible. Don’t wait for the perfect phrase to present itself; just begin writing. Once you’ve got a paragraph or two down on the page, you’ll have a much better idea of where to really begin.

2. Ignore rules. Some writers wrestle with constraints imposed by grammatical rules enforced only by pedants. Write what feels, and looks, right. If you like it and the clients like it, that’s a good start. Of course, the true test is whether the audience you’re writing for will respond positively to it.

3. Be you. Every writer has their own style and I’m still learning to live with mine. I quietly admire the copy turned out by established long-term copywriters, like Tom Albrighton, but I no longer aspire to create the equivalent. Better to refine my own approach than strive for a poor imitation of another’s.

4. Carve your niche. If you want to write for a living, it’s tempting to write for anyone, about anything that pays. That’s okay to start with, but writers tend towards specialisms, even if it begins in their own blogging and social posts. With a 20-year career in business behind me, I decided to start blogging about small companies, and then I discovered social media. Those two subjects have become my areas of specialism, but that doesn’t stop me writing about pest control products or software systems for multinationals, when the occasion demands.

5. Sleep on it. Your copy always looks different in the morning. Whenever possible, I write one day and edit the next. What was acceptable yesterday can be made better today.

6. Find a proofreader. I accept this is a tough one for a new copywriter. You’re barely paid enough to eat (if that) so funding a proofreader is out of the question. I’m fortunate in that my wife has the proofreader’s eye for detail and, as a writer herself, is willing and able to tidy up the loose ends of my text. Having someone else look over your copy and question the sections that make sense only to you is invaluable.

7. Use text to voice. If you can’t find a proofreader, or even if you can, have your computer read your words back to you. When copy becomes the spoken word, a new perspective opens up, allowing you to pick up on phrases or sentences that don’t work as well as you’d intended. 

I hope that one or two of these copywriting tips will be useful, even if only to confirm that you’re doing it right. Not that I make any claim to be setting any standards, except that what I do works for me. 

If you’ve got any copywriting tips you’d like to share, you’re welcome to leave a comment.

By Andrew Knowles




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