10 commandments of copywriting

In a year when the Pope shockingly resigned, this little-known chapter from the Bible was discovered in the Vatican.

Moses came down from the mountain with a third stone tablet. Engraved on the tablet were 10 commandments about copywriting. Here are those commandments:

1. Thou shalt not make mitsakes
Thou shalt proofread everything carefully to make sure you have not anything out.

2. Thou shalt not overcomplicate the matter
Thou shalt make everything as simple as it can be, and no simpler.

3. Thou shalt write from the point of view of the audience
Thou shalt carry out research to find out what they know, what they need to know and what’s in it for them. Then thou shalt write thy copy accordingly.

4. Thou shalt try to ‘break’ the copy before publishing it
Thou shalt re-read everything you write to make sure it can’t be mis-interpreted in a way that makes you look a fool.

5. Thou shalt not rely on spell-cheque
Thou shalt use thy brain to get the speling rite, not just trust thy computer software, which – let’s face it – is out to get you.

6. Thou shalt apply thy commonsense filter
Before putting anything out there, thou shalt double-check that it’s the wise and sensible thing to do. For example, thou shalt not tweet someone’s private mobile number, nor post on Facebook that thou art (a) having a party (b) going on holiday (c) hate thy job (when thine boss is a ‘friend’).

7. Thou shalt prepare and plan before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, or voice to dictation device)
Thou shalt undertake research and do some thinking first. Perhaps sketch a mindmap or draw up an outline list. The better preparation thou undertakes, the more likely the finished writing job will include everything it needs to, including a natural ‘flow’.

8. Thou shalt use the words ‘You’ and ‘Your’ more than ‘I’, ‘Us’, and ‘We’
This copywriting technique is a surefire way of putting thyself in the shoes of thine audience and therefore getting the results thou wanteth.

9. Thou shalt write in the right order
This means writing with the newest or most relevant piece of information at the top and the oldest or least relevant at the bottom (although if it’s least relevant one might question why it is being included at all). People will stop reading as soon as they are bored. Make sure they don’t miss thine most important details, by putting them at the top. Make them big and bold, if necessary.

10. Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not copy (or ‘scrape’) someone else’s content from elsewhere on the Internet. Thou shalt look to it for inspiration, perhaps, then adapt it into thine own words. Originality is the way to Godliness.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply