Copywriting tips, tricks and techniques

Here are 23 copywriting tips, tricks and techniques that you may find useful, in no particular order:

1. Start at the end
Readers don’t want to know the background before you describe the current situation. So write in reverse chronological order.

• NO We were founded in 1905, then we did this, now we do that
• YES Happy gardeners have been recommending our lawnmowers for over 100 years

2. Story-telling
You have to give people a REASON to buy.

• NO “Our pie of the day is rabbit”
• YES “Chef has just taken the rabbit pie out of the oven. It’s his grandmother’s secret recipe made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Would you like to try it?”

3. Up-selling and cross-selling
Take a lesson from McDonald’s:

• “Would you like to go large?”
• “Would you like fries with that?”

4. VAK
Write to appeal to people with a Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic preference. Use all the senses to make it ‘rich’.

• How muddy the local kids get
• The chink of the spade on concrete
• How cold was the rain that washed away the seeds

5. Motivational strategies
Problem & solution technique

• Away from (a problem) e.g. Save money on your telecoms expenses / What would you do if your house burned down?
• Towards (a goal) e.g. How we can add to your bottom-line / Ultimate insurance cover for complete peace of mind

6. Reduce risk
• Free taster so you can try before you buy
• 100% money-back guarantee, no questions asked

7. Power of 3
• Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you just told them
• Veni vidi vici
• Education education education

8. Scarcity
• Limited stock
• Offer ends 31 March
• Discount for first 10 replies only

9. Weasel words v fact-based copy
Research the facts, and substantiate your claims:

• NO UK’s leading experts in…
• YES 8/10 cats prefer Whiskas

10. Write from your customer’s point of view
Put yourself in their shoes.

• NO Our new catalogue is packed with the best styles of the season
• YES You will find everything you want for the new season in our new catalogue

11. Use You not I/We

• NO “You are loved”
• YES “I love you”

• NO We sell a wide range of skirts
• YES You can choose from a wide range of skirts

12. Make it personal
People read in the singular not the plural:

• NO We put our clients first
• YES We put you first

• NO I’ve been teaching yoga in Norfolk for 6 months. It’s been great to meet you all.
• YES It’s been six months since you first attended my yoga class. You are now ready to move on to more advanced exercises.

13. Turn numbers into words and pictures
Be creative when you quote statistics e.g.

• NO It weighs 3 tonnes
• YES It weighs the same as a London bus

• Measure numbers of people in football stadiums
• Measure area compared with the size of Wales
• Measure distances between London and Paris

14. Draw people in

• Did you know that…?
• Think of the last time you…
• Imagine what it would be like if…

15. Show don’t tell
Take a lesson from novel-writing:

• NO He was angry
• YES He crashed into the room and smashed the ornaments off the mantle-piece

16. Emotion
People buy because of emotion. Don’t tell people how they should be feeling. Make them feel it.

• NO It’s sad and outrageous that children like Jimmy can’t attend mainstream school.
• YES Every day, Jimmy eats his lunch, sitting on a park bench, alone. He sees the other children in the playground, and wishes he could join in. He worries that he’s missing out. He is.

17. People ‘buy’ results
People are not interested that your company has just won another contract, recruited a new MD or moved office. They are only interested in how that will affect them. What other customers say is more convincing that anything the supplier says.

• Include reviews, testimonials, recommendations & case studies

18. Twist in the tale
Do something unexpected

• Amoti came to England from Nigeria to be a nanny for a friend of a friend. When she arrived at a house in London, instead of the three-year-old boy she expected to meet, she was introduced to Winston, a young Nigerian man. He gave her a cup of tea, and then he raped her.

• On the paramilitary run New Lodge estate in north Belfast eight years ago, an unexpected knock on the door was not always a welcome sound. For Anna-Marie Burns her knock on the door was unexpected. But it was also a lifeline.

19. Active not passive

• NO The mat was sat on by the cat
• YES The cat sat on the mat

• NO New homes have been found for abandoned pets
• YES We find new homes for abandoned pets

20. Concrete not abstract
Be specific, not general, whenever possible.

• NO …as soon as possible
• YES …by 31 July

• NO Substantial savings
• YES Save up £200 or more

• NO Increase efficiency
• YES Over 120% more efficient

21. Typography tips
• Use minimal Bold for emphasis only
• Use Italic sparingly. It’s harder to read.
• Avoid all UPPER CASE. It is the written equivalent of SHOUTING!
• Avoid Initial Capitals (except for proper nouns e.g. London, Jack Smith)

22. Short sentences
• OK to start a sentence with And or But.
• You can end a sentence with a preposition.
• And you can repeat the same word twice in a sentence if you can’t find a better word.

23. Modern-day language
Language is constantly evolving. In most cases, it’s OK to write as you speak — there is no need to write the way the Victorians did. On the other hand, it is not appropriate to write business correspondence in txt spk.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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