Want people to buy more product? Visit your website? Sign up for your newsletter? Motivating them to do so almost always involves copywriting.
Copywriting isn’t simply stringing together a bunch of words to convey an idea. It’s crafting those words strategically to persuade the reader to take action.
The good news is that some basic principles can make almost anyone a better copywriter. Whether you’re writing your own copy or evaluating someone else’s, here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind.
1. Focus On Benefits First. Before you set pen to paper (or hand to keyboard) consider the benefit you’re offering. Don’t ask the reader to sign up for your emails, request your catalog or become your fan on Facebook without giving them at least one good reason why they should.
2. Cite Specifics. Concrete examples and exact numbers promote believability. Saying “53 varieties” sounds far more convincing than “dozens of varieties.”
3. Use Action Verbs. Action verbs pack a lot of punch. For instance, instead of saying “Jasmine is fragrant,” try “Jasmine perfumes the air.”
4. Talk To Your Reader. If you want to engage your readers, talk directly to them. Scan your copy for the words “you” and “your.” If they’re few and far between, rewrite! It helps me to imagine I’m speaking with a stranger who just opened their door. I have less than 10 seconds to convince them to keep it open rather than slamming it shut.
5. Paint Word Pictures. Appeal to both the senses and the emotions. Burpee’s description of their early-ripening tomatoes appeals to the competitive gardener in all of us: “Win the race for the first juicy ripe tomato of the summer.” A lot more powerful than “Ripens in less than 60 days,” isn’t it? (Ok, I added “juicy,” but the rest is Burpee’s.)
6. Keep Sentences Short. Generally speaking, the longer the sentence, the harder it is to follow. Don’t make your readers work. Keep sentences short and let them absorb information a little at a time.
7. Minimize Prepositional Phrases. Here’s a tip for shortening sentences: Every time you see a preposition like “with” or “of,” see if you can eliminate it. More often than not, you can. For instance, “We know many gardeners” means the same as “We know a lot of gardeners” and reads just a little faster.
8. Write Like You Speak. It’s common for people to write in a stilted voice they would never use in everyday speech. Read your copy aloud. If it doesn’t sound natural, stop and pretend you’re explaining your point to a friend sitting right next to you. Then go back and write again.
9. Don’t Be a Slave to Grammar. Proper grammar sometimes impedes readability. As long as your point is clear, don’t get hung up on impeccable grammar.
10. Include a Call to Action. Since copywriting’s purpose is to evoke a response, don’t make your reader guess what you want them to do. Always,always include a call to action and a reason why your reader should follow through now.