You’ve written your copy and it’s okay. Obviously okay’s not good enough – you need great. But the clock’s ticking. You need to get the content to your boss/proof-reader/printer pronto. So you need a way to turn your content from good to great in a matter of minutes.
Here are 19 quick tricks to help you turn mediocre copy into something special.
1. Get crazy about contractions
One of the quickest and easiest copywriting tips ever.
You’ve probably heard the advice “write like you talk”. Well contractions help you to do this.
A contraction is simply taking one or two words and making them shorter, using an apostrophe. For example, it’s, she’s, we’re, can’t. A sentence that uses contractions is much easier to read than one that doesn’t.
Without contractions: We will be announcing new deals that you are going to love.
With contractions: We’ll be announcing new deals you’re going to love.
Notice how the second sentence sounds so much more natural?
2. Remove filler words
An easy way to make your copy more concise is to take out unnecessary filler words such as ‘that’ and ‘of’.
Don’t say: “all of our customers”
Do say: “all our customers”
Don’t say: “we know that you love a bargain”
Do say: “we know you love a bargain”
You can use the search function on your keyboard to quickly find unnecessary words and delete them. Of course, always check the sentence still makes sense after the deletion.
3. Cut the crap
Forget clever sounding words and complex sentences – clear, concise copy wins every time. This means cutting out unnecessary words and replacing long words for simpler alternatives.
Don’t say: “We will endeavour to facilitate”
Do say: “We’ll try to help”
Don’t say: “Individuals are passionate about our gardening solutions
Do say: “People love our gardening products”
4. Flip it
Sometimes the most engaging idea in your content is tucked away in the middle or at the end. Don’t save the best until last – try flipping the content around by moving your strongest message to the top.
5. Make sentences shorter
Long sentences make copy more difficult to read. Replace them with short sentences and see what happens.
How long is too long? When I got my first job in marketing, I was taught sentences should never be more than 40 words. I say anything over 30 words is bordering on too long.
The opening paragraph of this article contains five sentences. The average sentence length is 9.4 words.
I could have written the paragraph as one long sentence but see how much more difficult it is to read now:
“You’ve written your copy and its okay, obviously okay’s not good enough you need great but the clock’s ticking and you need to get the content to your boss/proof-reader/printer pronto so you need a way to turn your content from good to great in a matter of minutes.”
Ugh – time to make friends with the full stop key.
6. Avoid passive sentences
Grammar books will tell you “a passive sentence is when the subject does not perform the action in the sentence but instead has the action performed on it”.
If that explanation has you scratching your head, don’t worry.The easiest way to understand the difference between active and passive sentences is to see them in action.
Passive: The cream was eaten by the cat
Active: The cat ate the cream
An active sentence is when the subject ‘the cat’ is performing the action.
A passive sentence is when the subject is having the action performed on it.
Here are some other examples:
Passive: Every piece of furniture is hand-painted by my sons
Active: My sons hand-paint every piece of furniture
Passive: There is a wide range of experience within the team
Active: The team has a wide range of experience
These examples show how active sentences make copy easier to read.
7. Add sub-headings
If your copy is long and introduces lots of different ideas, add sub-headings to break up the text. This makes the content more manageable for the reader.
8. Take out your favourite bit
Is there a particular paragraph you’re really proud of? One you love because it’s so poetic, humorous or poignant? Well, much as you love it, that is probably the one paragraph you can do without.
Often when a paragraph or sentence really appeals to the writer it’s because it speaks to them rather than engaging with the reader. Consider taking out your favourite bit and see what happens.
9. Add quotes and or facts
Readers love facts and quotes. They add credibility to your writing and make your reader feel reassured.
If you can back up your claims with statistics or add a quote from a notable source such as an industry leader or satisfied customer, it will add real value to your writing.
10. Less is more
Don’t use three words when one will do. If there is a short way and a long way to say the same thing, always choose the short way:
Don’t say: At this time
Do say: Now
Don’t say: Has to be
Do say: Must
Don’t say: Make it better
Do say: Improve
11. Break it up with bullets
Big chunks of text can be difficult to read. Anything you can do to break up the content is good.
If a paragraph features a series of items or ideas, you can make it easier to read by changing it to a bullet-pointed list.
12. Check your CTA
Near-perfect copy often fails at the final hurdle due to a weak call to action. Never leave your reader asking ‘what next’.
Whether it’s an advert, email or blog post, make sure you have a strong call to action at the end. One that tells your reader what they should do next whether that’s pick up the phone, subscribe or hit ‘buy now’.
13. Cut the jargon
Have you used phrases only experts in your industry will understand? This is fine if you are writing for people who are familiar with the terms you use. In fact, using specialised language can reassure knowledgeable customers you know what you’re taking about.
But if you’re writing for a wider audience, remove any jargon words that might not be understood.
14. Let your confidence shine
If you want potential customers to feel confident about ordering from you, you need to write with confidence. The problem is we’re often worried about seeming arrogant and so instead water down our sentences with feeble words.
But if you want your copy to instil confidence, you need to write with confidence. That means taking out any words that weaken your message such as ‘believe’, ‘think’, ‘try’, ‘strive’ and ‘quite’.
Don’t say: “We believe our product is truly life-changing”
Do say: “Our product is truly life-changing”
Don’t say: “We strive to offer great customer service”
Do say: “We offer great customer service”
15. Be positive
Some words naturally make us feel good such as ‘love’, ‘brilliant’, ‘winner’. And some words make us feel bad such as ‘hate’, ‘loser’, ‘redundant’. So far, so obvious.
Sometimes writers use a negative word to try and sell a positive concept. For example, “we know you hate being late”. The word that jumps out here is ‘hate’ which makes people feel bad – so change it to a positive “we know you love being on time”.
Don’t say: “We never disappoint our customers” (contains the negative words ‘never’ and ‘disappoint’)
Do say: “Our customers are always delighted”
16. Avoid redundant phrases
A redundant phrase is when more words than are necessary are used to convey an idea.
Here are some examples:
• alternative choice
• unexpected surprise
• advance warning
• new innovation
• connect together
• final conclusion
In each of these examples, the first word can be removed without changing the meaning.
17. Cut out unnecessary adjectives
Is your writing packed with adjectives describing how fantastic/amazing/wonderful your product or service is? Well you can live without them.
Adjectives are so overused in marketing copy, they have become pretty much meaningless.
Another problem with adjectives is they are subjective so can leave your reader thinking “you would say that”.
Don’t say: “Our beautiful windows and elegant doors”,
Do: Use pictures and descriptions to let the reader make their own mind up.
Don’t say: “Our tasty menu”
Do: Describe the dishes to whet the reader’s appetite
Don’t say: “Our fantastic service”
Do: Give examples of how your service goes the extra mile. Better still, include testimonials from satisfied customers.
18. Don’t try to do too much
If your content seems confusing, check you’re not trying to say too much.
Perhaps you’ve created a flyer to promote a new product but you also want to tell people about a special offer on another product.
Rather than trying to cover both in one flyer (which could be confusing), split the content and create two flyers. They will both be better for it.
19. It’s all about you
People are much more interested in themselves than they are in you. That means when they visit your website they want to know how you can help them.
Write about how you help solve people’s problems rather than about yourself.
Do a quick search for the words ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘I’. Could you rephrase the sentence by changing these words to ‘you’?
Don’t say: We will send a free gift with every order
Do say: You will receive a free gift when you order
What do you think?
Do you have any quick tips for improving copy? Post them in the comments below.
I’ll be adding lots more advice, checklists and copywriting guides to the blog over the coming months. To stay up-to-date, just pop your details in the box over on the right hand side of the page.
See you next time!