Hamilton Copywriter Shares Top 15 Tips For Effective Copywriting
As a professional copywriter in Hamilton Ontario, I’ve been involved with some amazing projects, and I’ve seen just how powerful effective copywriting is.
When you know the rules for effective writing you can nail that essay, email, business letter, or even that novel, every single time.
In this tutorial I’ll share the most important writing technique and strategies so you can write effectively every time.
These tips work for all different types of copywriting:
- Blog posts
- Business letters
- Social media posts
- Whitepapers and business reports
- Email newsletters
- Direct marketing campaigns
- Novels / Poetry / Other creative writings (take a look at my guide to the best novel writing tips)
There are thousands of different types of copywriting. Techniques and strategies are many. Yet some of the rules for effective writing are universal. They apply to every type of writing you will ever pen.
In this guide I am going to share the top 10 copywriting techniques and strategies. You can apply these to any type of writing you’re working on.
As a professional copywriter, editor and proofreader, these techniques and strategies help me to perfect every piece of writing I work on.
15 Copywriting Techniques and Strategies for Effective Writing
I’ve created specific guides to help with various industries:
Copywriting for real estate
Copywriting for dentists
Copywriting Rule #1: Have a clear message and meaning
“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” –Herman Melville
This is the single most important copywriting tip: have a message and a meaning.
Write your message and meaning at the top of your document or notepad. Stick to it.
The more you nail-down your message before you start to write, the better your copywriting will be.
Regardless of what type of copywriting you’re doing, it has to have a purpose (yes, even if you’re writing experimental fiction or abstract poetry).
Here’s what to do:
- Write down the topic you’re covering
- Write down why this piece of copywriting matters to you
- Write down the points you must communicate (the bare-bones details)
- Write down the benefits your reader will get from reading your writing
- Write down why this piece of copy writing is different to piece on the same theme
- Write a list of ways you will make your copywriting achieve its purpose.
Here’s an example of this copywriting tip in action.
Let’s say you want to write a direct marketing campaign to sell your plumbing services
- We’re writing about plumbing
- This copywriting matters because it will make people call the company to book plumbing services
- This direct marketing campaign must show the phone number, the company name, and tell people that they can save money on their bills.
- This piece will benefit the reader by making them aware of a potential problem with their home (e.g. that bad plumbing could be causing them to lose money on their bills).
- This piece of writing is different to everything else because it makes plumbing look funny.
- This writing will achieve its aim by being: funny, concise, showing the vital information very clearly, and having a design that immediately draws attention.
Here is the deliberately tongue-in-cheek direct marketing campaign I knocked-up as an example of this.
Notice how this simple graphic meets all the criteria we looked at above? It has a purpose, communicates all important information, and is different to other pieces on the same subject.
Copywriting Rule #2. Always remember your responsibilities as a writer
“A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error” –E.B. White
Different types of copywriting create different responsibilities for the writer. It’s your job to know what these responsibilities are.
- If you’re copywriting an industry white paper, your responsibility is to write factually and to substantiate your every claim.
- If you’re writing a novel or poetry, your responsibility is to have a meaning to your work and to have the guts to say something heartfelt even if it is risky.
- If you’re blogging, your responsibility as a copywriter is to write for Google (SEO) and for your audience at the same time.
You must know what your responsibilities are as a copywriter, and you must stick to them. That means that if you’re doing creative writing you must say something personal and meaningful because the style of writing demands it, even if you would never say anything personal in a white paper.
Know your responsibilities as a writer before you start writing. This will help you to avoid pitfalls and to produce the proper style of writing for the specific job.
Copywriting Rule #3: Speak your audience’s language (even if that language is SEO and the audience is a robot)
“The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.” — Jonathan Franzen
Copywriting means reading. And reading means an audience. In essence, good writing is writing that communicates effectively to the reader.
Take a moment to consider.
If you’re writing a lecture (for instance) you will need to use formal writing because that will communicate effectively with the audience. But what if you’re writing a speech to be given to undereducated people? Then you will need to write in a very simple fashion.
Too many copywriters make a mistake here. Writers have a nasty habit of forcing their intellect down their audience’s throat (this is particularly true of amateur writers). They use long, complicated, technical terms that many people do not understand. They use unnecessarily long sentences and paragraphs. They drown their readers in superfluous facts and details. Then they wonder why no one read past the first page.
Sure, if you’re writing copy for scholars, be scholarly.
What if your super-intelligent writing is being read to kids, or to readers for whom English is a second language, or readers who simply do not have very broad vocabularies? Then your writing will be worthless.
Today there is also the possibility that art of your audience will be a robot.
Here I’m referring to Google and other search engines.
When writing copy for the internet, part of the “audience” is the group of spiders that crawl your website. Sure, these aren’t technically readers, but they can be though of as such. To succeed online you will need to speak both your human audience’s language, and the language of bots (SEO).
Write to your audience. Period.
Copywriting Rule #4: When it comes to your first draft, just get it written
“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to not exist.” ─ Jane Smiley
When you’re writing your first draft, the only thing that matters is that you get it written.
Too many writers get bogged down in their first draft because they wrongly thing it has to be perfect.
Newsflash: There’s a reason it’s called a first draft.
Just get it written.
Sit down at your computer and type, even if what you are typing seems like garbage. 90% of writing is editing. All that matters in the first draft is that you get the core ideas, arguments, facts and points onto the page. The real artistry happens thereafter.
Copywriting Rule #5: Edit, Edit and Edit Again
“Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!” — Joyce Carol Oates
Good copywriting is good editing. The more you edit, the better your writing will be.
When it comes to editing, you should feel free to be brutal with your own work.
Here are a few tips for editing:
- Stick to your argument / premise
- Cut long sentences in two
- Replace overly complicated words with simpler ones
- Use adverbs sparingly
- Delete unnecessary punctuation
- Turn negatives into positives
- Check for personality
- Reduce prepositions
- Use strong verbs
- Use active voice, not passive voice
- Remember, people are “who” and objects are “that”
- Which uses commas, that doesn’t
- Never mistake there, they’re and their
- Don’t split infinitives
- Know your its from your it’s
- Please! Stop! Using! Exclamation! Marks! So! Much!
Copywriting Rule #6: Organize your thoughts before you start writing
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellation”— John Green
Writing is basically the orchestration of thoughts on paper.
Whenever you write, you are taking ideas, thoughts, facts, and stories and communicating them in an organized way on the page.
The easiest way to do this is to organize your thoughts before you write.
The more you understand your thoughts (or the arguments, ideas, facts and opinions of the piece) the better your copywriting will be—and the easier it will be to write.
Ways to do this include:
- Using apps like Evernote
- Using post-it-notes
- Writing your first draft then cutting it up and organizing it into sections
- Organize your thoughts and arguments by themes and use these as headings / subheadings
Copywriting Rule #7: Know your writer personality
Readers subconsciously analyze the writer’s personality as they read.
This is true of all writing.
Sure, novels and poetry have personality, but so do all other forms of writing, even whitepapers and other business communications. For these, the personality should be professional and personable.
What does your copywriting say about your personality and (for marketing) the personality of your brand?
Read through your writing and check that it is communicating the ideal personality for you, your brand, and your company. Remember, your readers, customers, and clients will judge you on your writing, so it is imperative that your writing communicate the appropriate personality.
This is especially true when copywriting marketing assets such as direct marketing campaigns, email campaigns and social media posts. Here, you are intentionally creating a relationship with your readers, and the strength of that relationship will be determined largely by how your brand personality matches the demographics and psychographics of your audience.
Writing Rule #8: Simplify, do not overcomplicate
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” –Jack Kerouac
Want to know the number one way novice writers let themselves down? They try to sound super-intelligent and come across as stuffy.
The chief cause of this is using unnecessarily complicated words. Some writers call an animal by its Latin name, or use words like “expeditious” instead of “fast”. This does not make the writer sound intelligent, just comical and superficial.
Cut out needlessly long words.
One of George Orwell’s tips for writing is “never use a complicated word when a simple one will do”. Good advice. Of course, if you’re writing to an audience of scholars whose number one passion in life is the Oxford Dictionary, you can ignore this tip. Otherwise, stick to it.
This same advice also applies to sentences, paragraphs, arguments and other areas of writing copy.
Use these tips to write in a simple, effective way:
- Cut short sentences in half
- Avoid unnecessary technical terms (unless writing exclusively to readers who are experts in the subject)
- Choose shorter words over longer ones
- Write your arguments in a simple and coherent fashion
- Write in the way your audience speaks (unless it is technical writing)
- Use headings and subheadings so writing is easy to scan
- Consider a contents page, if that’s an option for the type of writing you’re working on
- Get to the point quickly
Copyriting Rule #9: Write scannable content
Creating writing that is easy to scan. Online this is especially important.
There is a particular way in which people scan, and you should take advantage of this.
The simple way to do this is like so: Put all important information at the beginning or end of a sentence, paragraph, and of the overall piece of writing.
Example: Write scannable text because it is easier to read
Instead of: Because it’s easier to read scannable text, write it that way.
Important information should be placed:
- At the beginning of the writing
- At the end of the writing
- At the beginning of the paragraph
- At the end of the paragraph
- At the beginning of a sentence
- At the end of a sentence
- Alternatively, place important information in standout sections, such as in graphics or in bullet-points.
These writing tips will help readers to read your work.
Copyriting Rule #10: Research everything
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t the time nor the resources to write” –Stephen King
By researching everything beforehand, and by writing an exhaustive list of facts, figures, data, and so on, you will have so much valuable information that your writing will be all but guaranteed to succeed.
Go nuts researching. This is as true for creative writing as it is for a whitepaper. Of course, your business copywriting needs facts, but so do other types of writing, such as novels (for instance, if your story is set in a specific city you will need to research that city before you write).
The more research you have going in to the project, the deeper your writing will go.
Copyriting Rule #11: Read it out loud
“Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear).” — Diana Athill
Something fascinating happens when you read your writing out loud: it becomes real.
By reading out loud we can hear our writing in the same way reader would hear it when they read. This is a classic tip that you may have heard at school, and it works.
Try reading your writing out loud and see if you notice anything different about it that you didn’t notice previously.
It is easier to find grammatical and spelling errors while reading out loud, and it is easier to hear the personality of the writing too.
No matter what type of writing you’re working on, read it out loud. Of course, this is doubly true if you are writing a speech.
Copywriting Rule #12: Make everything positive and active
“Never use the passive where you can use the active”—George Orwell
Here’s a writing technique that will give your writing personality: make it positive and active.
Why is this important?
Well, consider the types of personality you like in people. You probably like spending time with people who are active and positive, right? You probably don’t enjoy spending time with passive and negative people correct?
Now remember that writing communicates personality.
Now you can see why readers prefer writing that is active and positive: because that’s the type of personality we all enjoy.
This writing strategy is an effective way to put personality in your work.
When you make your writing positive and active you achieve many things.
Here’s an easy way to use active voice:
- Take your subject and put it at the beginning of the sentence
- Use a verb after the subject
- Use the object at end of the sentence
- Turn negatives into positives (especially in marketing and business writing):
Examples of positive active voice:
“The computer was broken by me”
Becomes: “I broke the computer”
This house is for sale but it’s old and kinda cramp so don’t bother viewing it because you might not like it.
You’ll love this antique house with its cosy interior. Schedule an appointment today.
What positive, active writing does:
- Make your readers more likely to act (i.e. to convert—a big deal if we’re talking about writing marketing materials)
- Gives your writing more energy
- Brings your writing to life
- Give you a likeable personality
Note: Active voice may not be ideal for some scientific and academic types of writing.
Xopyriting Rule #13: Always remember that you are your writing
“Writing is the painting of the voice”—Voltaire
Writing is even more important than most people realise. Why? Because to the reader, the writer is their writing.
Think about it.
Many of your readers will never have spoken to you before. And if this copy is for a product, many people will not have heard of your brand or company before.
Writing is often the very first impression people (customers / clients / fans) get of you. And trust me, they will judge you based on your writing, because it is all they know of you.
Every time you copywrite something, remember: as far as the reader is concerned, the writing is you.
To make a good first impression, write effectively in a manner that is attractive to your audience. That way, your excellent writing will give people a good impression, not just of your work or your product or your brand, but of you.
Copywriting Rule #14: Be your own worst critic and explore the opposing arguments
“If you’re not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy”—Jay Maisel
In every type of writing it is important to a) critique yourself, and b) cover opposing arguments.
Let’s say you’re writing an essay about why laptops are better than desktop computers. You fully believe that laptops are superior. But some of your readers will feel the other way. You will not win the argument by ignoring all evidence that is contrary to your argument. To appease all your readers and to win them over, you must cover both sides of the argument.
This is true for all types of writing—even if you’re comparing yourself to a competitor you will still benefit by being upfront about the ways the competitor is superior. Doing so will establish trust in the reader, which is worth more than gold when it comes to writing.
This is even true in fiction.
Many writers think “fiction does not have to be truthful, so I don’t need to explore all angles of the story.” This is a mistake. Master novelists write a story around a premise (a central argument or idea) and they explore all angles of this.
A brief example: The premise of ultimately love triumphs over hate. But to do justice to this premise Shakespeare had to examine the counterpoints, even going as far as to have Romeo and Juliet die. Only that way could he cover the premise in depth, leaving us with one of the absolute masterpieces of literature.
In all writing, fully explore both the argument you are in favor of, and the alternative. Tear into your own argument so you fully understand all aspects of the subject / theme / debate, then steer your writing to your conclusion.
Copywriting Rule #15: Use A Proofreaders (Professional, preferably)
“To write is human. To edit is divine”—Stephen King
Did you know that even the best writers in the world have their writing professionally proofread?
Truth is this: different readers notice different things. You will always benefit from having a fresh set of eyes look over your work.
If it’s an unimportant piece of writing, you’re probably fine having your spouse or a friend read it for you.
If it’s a valuable piece of writing, you will benefit from hiring a professional proofreader.
Consider how much more confident and relaxed you will be knowing that you have had your work read by a professional proofreader. When you hit Publish or Send you will know that the recipient(s) will be impressed with the quality of your work.
With these writing techniques and strategies you’ll write effectively every time
“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all”—Anne Tyler
Time to get writing.
Above we have examined the most important rules for effective writing—techniques and strategies you can trust.
With these writing tips you’ll be able to write effectively whether you’re working on an essay, a business letter, a marketing campaign, or something more creative like a novel.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of what goes into truly effective writing. There are innumerable techniques and strategies for writing, and each form of writing comes with its own rules and guidelines.
If your writing is valuable to you, it is definitely worth hiring a professional writer, or at minimum having your work professionally edited or proofread. That way you can rest assured in the knowledge that your writing is making you look like a star in the eyes of your readers—be they a potential employer, a colleague, customers and clients, or your legions of fans.
If you’d like to work with the best professional writer and editor in Hamilton, contact me, Paul M Harrison, today.