KISS and Make Up (a great copy)!
Clear, concise, and credible writing is an essential element of any successful business communication, from ad copy to web page content.
Readers today are exposed to a plethora of information every day. Traditional forms of media are being replaced with online platforms and social media.
Pictures say a thousand words but sometimes all you need is one. In the world of advertising (most of time, if not all the time), copy is king.
I just came off a refresher class on copywriting and it reminded me that the trick is to keep it simple, crisp and to the point. So here we go!
START WITH THE BASICS
Begin with a solid topic and a good knowledge of your audience. You don’t have to be a genius or linguist to write a fantastic copy. A reasonable degree of writing ability is good enough. The power in your writing isn’t in your words, it’s in the idea you’re conveying. Start with the basics and you’ll end up with a pretty good piece of writing.
But why settle for “pretty good”? Take that extra step. Sometimes, all you need is that extra bit of attention to that final detail that can jump start your copy from being “pretty good” to “pretty fantastic.”
It doesn’t matter what platform you’re writing for – a TV commercial, radio ad, blog post, special reports, sales letters or a video script – you can take your writing up a notch just by applying these principles:
1. Write the way you talk.
Good writing is like a conversation between the writer and the reader. So when you’re writing, think about how you would explain your topic to a close friend or colleague over a cuppa.
You must sound real. This is true especially when it comes to producing a compelling copy that gets people talking. Your public can see through your work!
Consumers are a tough bunch to please. Persuading them is even tougher. Successfully doing so involves educating them on the product as much as building a personal connection; hard to do in a hundred words or less, but not impossible!
The secret lies in your personality. Too many copywriters slip into an overly formal style because they think it makes them sound important. What they don’t realise is that no one wants to read stiff, formal copy with the personality of a fax machine.
Be passionionate for your topic/product or brand. Enthusiasm and personalisation engage the reader. Most writing lack enthusiasm. It’s always better to put too much personality in a copy and have to edit it out later than not put enough in to begin with. It’s hard to insert life into copy that never had any to begin with.
2. Sleep on it.
After a long hard day of churning out word after word, you may think the work you produced is the most brilliant copy you’ve ever written. Is it though? Think again. The first draft is almost never perfect. Copywriters in a rush often overlook this.
You can improve on any piece of writing by letting it sit overnight. At the start of a new day with a clear head, all writing is likely to seem slightly less marvellous and slightly more open to improvement. What you thought was a flawless masterpiece could do with a tweak here and a cut there, and turn your good copy into a magnificient one.
3. Read it out loud.
One of the first editing tests you need to put your writing through is to read it out loud.
There’s no other way to say it. Reading aloud helps you pick out inconsistencies with the flow that your eye would otherwise skip over. Print out your copy and read it to yourself. You’ll realise that awkward sentences and bad punctuation become more obvious. You can even read headlines and subheads backwards, concentrating on the words and not the comprehension.
Better still – get someone else to read it aloud for you. Your friends and colleagues won’t be expecting odd turns of phrases. They’ll be able to give you an objective opinion on your work.
You’d be surprised how many writers don’t follow this simple rule of thumb. It does make a world of difference.
4. Keep it short and simple (KISS).
While you’re reading your latest masterpiece out loud you can also watch for another problem – sentences which are just too wordy. Writing well is an asset but it can also be your downfall. With so many words at your disposal, how can you keep it short and simple?
A general rule to remember is to stick to one idea per sentence and express your ideas succinctly.
A simple way of testing this is the breath test. If your reader has to pause for breath in the middle of a sentence, it’s too long. Try reading this is one breath:
“If danger isn’t your cup of tea, immerse yourself in the fairytale adventure of Far Far Away or why not jet set around the globe and be captivated by the grandeur of ancient Egypt and glamour of Hollywood and the Big Apple?”
I once wrote this copy as an exercise for a writing class – how easy is it to forget that less is more! A simple grammatical tool can make this copy better. It’s called punctuation.
If your sentence is long, use punctuation to indicate a pause as necessary. Punctuation informs the reader that you’re ending one thought and beginning another.
“If danger isn’t your cup of tea, immerse yourself in the fairytale adventure of Far Far Away. Or why not jet set around the globe and be captivated by the grandeur of ancient Egypt? Experience the glamour of Hollywood and the Big Apple!”
You can either cut out unnecessary words, or break the sentence into two or more manageable pieces.
The moral of the story is…
It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro or a novice writer just starting out. These simple tips can help improve your copy.
By writing in an authentic voice and giving your piece personality, taking the time to get perspective, reading your work aloud and testing for long sentences, you will no doubt, master the art of persuasion!