Most of us dream of writing a novel at some time or another. Who wouldn’t love the thought of sipping a latte, crafting a few words in a chapter of their novel, telling stories, and soaking up a healthy combination of royalty checks and public praise for the effort?
But, as a marketer you’ll need to put those daydreams aside for a moment. Chances are, you’re going to have to put together a tweet, blog article, or email campaign on your own this week.
When that happens, it pays to be able to think like a pro copywriter. To help you do that, I recently sat down with my friend and number one copy-editor Matt – who has helped me out on many projects – to gather some tips you can use to make your writing stronger.
Here’s the advice he shared…
1. Write Every Piece for One Person
Your writing doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, or elicit a reaction in a reader who isn’t in your target market. So, he advises you to follow our example and use a well-defined marketing persona and write to it. Knowing who your reader is will help you write as if the piece is a one-to-one communication.
2. Write for the Sake of Clarity
The big stumbling block most business people have with writing is that they try to be overly clever, or to sound professional and academic. That leads to confusing word-jumbles that no one understands.
If you want people to understand your message, much less act on it, keep things simple and straightforward. Readers want information, not sentences they have to read three times to figure out. A glance at the dictionary is also a quick exit from your site.
3. Support Controversial Points With Real Data
If you have something to say that your readers might be skeptical about – or flat-out disagree with – then try to back it up with a study or statistic.
At the very least, provide a first-hand story that lends some weight to your perspective.
4. End on a Wrap-Up or a High Note
The first and last paragraphs of your page are most important – the opening draws attention and the finale reinforces your point. So, sum up your opinion and then ask your reader to take the next step. Sometimes, a single clear call to action is all that’s needed to boost response and conversion rates within your content marketing plan.
5. Devote a Little Time to Writing, and a Lot to Editing
Usually, when you feel stuck in the mud as a content creator it’s because you’ve run out of ideas. Counterintuitive as it might seem, the best way through that is to simply keep writing – and reading. Put words on the page or screen until you have nothing more to say.
Ask your team for ideas and content. Then start to organize, refine, and delete. When you find there’s nothing more to explain or take away, you’ve got something that’s more likely useful.
6. Hear Your Writing Before You Send it
It goes without saying that you don’t want to have typos (the bane of Randy’s existence), grammatical errors, or confusing passages within your writing. I recommend using the services of a good proofreader to help avoid obvious mistakes. Before you take that step, though, read your piece out loud once or twice to see how it sounds to you. You’ll probably pick up on common issues by hearing them instead of seeing them on the screen.
To each their own though – our copywriter Dana (and Director of Creative Strategy) prints out every page single sided (to our environmentally-sensitive office manager’s chagrin), but for her, seeing the words on a piece of paper and jotting down editing notes works quite well.
7. Don’t Publish Anything Until You’ve Proof-read It
If we’ve learned one thing in the social media age, it’s that it’s just about impossible to take something back once you’ve posted it online. Should you happen have any doubts about the accuracy of what you’re about to post, or whether it should be shared in the first place, then let it sit on your hard drive a bit before making that decision to publish. You might just save yourself a lot of grief.
Luckily, what you learn from writing clearly and effectively carries over to every email, phone call, and speech you compose. So, read or re-read this piece as many times as possible until Matt’s tips sink in. They can help take your content, your company – and your career - a long way.