Tag Archives | copywriting

The hardest copy you will ever write

When you start a new business, you may well decide the first thing you need is some business cards.

You are likely to be tempted by online deals, offering you hundreds of business cards for little or no cost. Suppliers tease you with templates that you can update yourself to make it really easy.

But, as with all marketing, even your business card has an objective.

In most cases, the objective is to share your contact details in a way that encourages people to get in touch. They will only do that if your card is written and designed to be compelling. And that takes careful thought.

Suggested content

You might be wondering how much copy fits on a business card, so here are some ideas:

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How to make your call to action buttons work better

Buttons When I was masterminding at the Ritz recently, Chris Haycock of CliqTo told us how changing the text on a hotel website button increased clicks by 45% in the first ten days. He admits that more influences might be at play, and the long-term results are not yet known.

The original button just said:
Details & availability

The new button includes a calendar icon, and says:
Show availability
Hotel details, map & prices


Before and after

Read the full story on Chris’s website

A 45% increase in clickthroughs in 10 days is pretty impressive. But why is it happening?

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KISSing is good for you.

KissYou’ve probably heard the acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. I’ve never liked the ‘stupid’ bit, so prefer to say Keep It Short and Sweet.

But what’s the science behind why simplicity works?

I’ve recently read the book Presentation Genius by Simon Raybould, which contains 40 insights from the science of presenting. Chapter 3 describes research by Daniel M Oppenheimer of Princeton University, with the gob-smackingly beautiful title of ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly’.

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OK, so we know people read the headline first. But why?


Did you read this?

You’re looking out of the window of a train travelling through the outskirts of a city. You see colourful graffiti on the walls outside. You can’t help reading it even though you don’t want to.

Once you know how to read, you can’t NOT read. You just can’t turn off the reading bit of your brain. And that’s why the graffiti is there – big, bold and colourful. Because the artist wants you to read it.

Equally, you can’t NOT read the headlines on the big poster adverts you pass by when you’re driving, or the posters on bus-stops as you walk along the pavement.

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15-step copywriting process

StepsHave to write some copy but don’t know where to start? Here’s my tried-and-tested process to help you along.

  1. Do 360-degree research, understanding everything you can about your product/service, your competitors and your target customers.
  2. Draw a mind map, where you note all your thoughts in a random way then number them in order of priority (also known as a spider diagram or ‘brain dump’).
  3. To help beat writers’ block, take a blank page and write something, anything, to spoil the scary pure whiteness. It can be your name, the date, a squiggle…
  4. Write the main content or body text, following the order you identified on your mind map.
  5. Write the conclusion or summary. This will usually include a ‘call to action’ telling the reader what you want them to do.
  6. Write the introduction. Yes, it helps to write this after the main content so you can introduce exactly what you are going to say next.
  7. Write the heading from the reader’s point of view, answering their question: ‘What’s in it for me’.
  8. Add sub-headings to aid skim-reading and navigation.
  9. Edit the content. Cut, cut and cut again until you have deleted anything that doesn’t fit your introduction and conclusion.
  10. Ask ‘so what’ at the end of every statement and rewrite it until all the content is relevant to the reader’s needs.
  11. Read it aloud to see whether it flows easily.
  12. Delete some more of your precious word-babies until the text is perfect.
  13. Sleep on it.
  14. Read it again and make any final tweaks.
  15. Proofread it thoroughly, perhaps getting someone else to check it too.

photo credit: Man staring off via photopin (license)

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“There’s nothing worse than…” Oh yes, there probably is.

WeaselThere’s a famous slogan: “Nothing works faster than Anadin” to which many people replied: “So take nothing, because it works faster”.

It’s an example of so-called ‘weasel words’ in advertising.

Here are the top 20 results that Google throws up after a search for: “There’s nothing worse than…”

There’s nothing worse than…

  • Sleeping in makeup. You wake up looking like a painting that’s been left out in a rainstorm
  • Normal
  • Waiting and not knowing what’ll happen to you
  • Being disappointed in somebody
  • Having everybody thinking alike, talking alike and having the same direction in mind
  • A pantsuit
  • A know-it-all
  • Being afraid of saying something (especially if it MUST be heard)
  • Too late
  • The crusades
  • Knowing how it ends
  • A doctor’s receptionist
  • A staunch woman
  • Feeling like a ghost
  • A woman scorned
  • Wasted talent
  • Being ordinary
  • Being addicted to a bad song
  • Love
  • Death Dumbledore (?!)

Clearly, they cannot all be right. In fact, none of them can be right. Invest just a moment’s thought and you will soon think of any number of things that are worse than the items listed.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of starting a sentence the way you’ve heard other people start theirs. But that makes it a cliché. In copywriting, you need to be original, as well as accurate.

Ask me if you’d like help with that.

photo credit: IMG_0149 via photopin (license)


Secrets of successful e-commerce copy


Freemans Head Office in Clapham Road

Before starting my own business in 2001, I spent 18 years working in the home shopping sector, so there’s not much I didn’t learn about selling off the page (or screen).

In print catalogues, every inch of space is selling space. There’s not much room for text as the pictures tell the story. Therefore the copy should only add information that’s not visible in the image.

For my first writing job I had to write purely descriptive copy such as:

“Black skirt with two patch pockets. Material: 50% polyester, 50% cotton. All garments washable. Please see size guides at the back of the catalogue.”

Writing something short is actually harder than writing something long, so every word has to pay its way.

Online, you don’t have the same restrictions with word count. You might also want to include keywords to help with search. And you definitely want to allow customers to leave reviews. (These days, what other people say about your products is more convincing than anything you say yourself.)

Some examples of great e-commerce copywriting…

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Copy that could KILL!

Clever, correct and careful copywriting is important. If you don’t get it right, people might DIE!

NHSHow confusing!

“If you have not yet received your invitation letter and you are 47 to 73 years of age and you have not been screened within the last three years or if you are over 73 please contact the office on the number below and arrange your 3 yearly screening.”

How much better!

If you are aged 47-73, you are entitled to free NHS breast-screening every 3 years.

  • Have you been screened within the last 3 years?
  • Have you received an invitation letter?

If your answer to both these questions is ‘no’, or you are aged over 73, please phone 020 3299 1964 to arrange your screening.


Heading: Calling all Bromley women aged 47-73

Body copy: You are entitled to free breast-screening every 3 years. If you haven’t been screened within the past 3 years and haven’t received an invitation recently, please call 020 3299 1964.

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How e-commerce copy goes viral

VirusAt the moment, there is a massive trend towards humour and irony in product copy. Sales are being boosted by viral reviews on Amazon and creative descriptions on eBay. These examples may be among the funniest things you’ll ever read. Perhaps you can use them to inspire your own copywriting.

Bic for Girls

You might have seen the recent news that reviews for this girly pen went viral (a total of 530 on the Amazon.co.uk site at the time of writing).

Here’s the official description:

A beautifully smooth ball pen designed specifically for women. The pink barrel has a great floral design that continues onto the metal cone. Super smooth Easy Glide ink & a cushioned grip make writing with this pen ultra comfortable!

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Why ‘copy’ and ‘content’ are not the same


There is a gulf of difference between ‘content’ and ‘copy’

“Hello,” said the web designer. “I’d like you to quote for writing fortnightly blog posts for my clients”.

Oh good, I thought. Writing blog posts is one of my favourite things – especially because he wanted them written in a happy, engaging style.

We talked more about his clients and how I might be able to help. During the conversation, he confessed he had been paying students to write the blog posts until now.

“But they’re not very good,” he said.

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