Lots of articles will tell you how to become a better at copywriting based on things the author has been doing RIGHT.
But we asked our ProfileTree writer Conor to own up to his biggest mistakes – giving you some insider tips you might not see elsewhere!
Dusty Advice for a digital Era
So, it’s 2018 and you’ve been learning all you can about SEO. That means you’ve reading blogs full of advice and the odd podcast too.
Which ones are worth passing on? The ones where I ignored their wisdom and regretted it. So now you don’t have to.
Oh, and I’ve even included some of the bad copywriting habits I’ve mentioned. Intentionally (honest).
Something wrong with the sentence or unsure about a word? Would you rather have an engine replacement or a new car? Press delete.
I’ve wasted hours trying to fix text, but it comes down to attempting to save the Titanic with a bucket. If it’s broken, replace it.
Read your sentence, ask yourself ‘so what?’, then improve it. Repeat in a spin cycle until my metaphor runs out.
I could’ve saved any number of of garbled headlines with this simple tip. But it isn’t too late. Save yourself!
Here’s one I made (a mess of) earlier…
*Ps – not the views of my employer etc
Don’t Wipe Your Feet on the Way In
Don’t mumble into a point by showing uncertainty. Make sure of your point, make yourself sure of your point or ditch it.
If you aren’t sure, they won’t be sure either. You’ll soon find this out in the comments section (been there, done that). Again, delete is your friend.
Time is short and people are a’scrolling, so make your point and make it clearly. A cat photo to distract the reader’s attention is only seconds away.
Go all in. Always.
Say the First Thing First
The head of a pint of Guinness is pretty much the only time the first should become the last. Or the last should become the first. Amen.
A month of research once sank like a stone when a muddled headline of mine sent readers down the wrong path. Now you’ve no excuse. Put up a neon sign to show the way instead.
May my family eventually learn to bear the shame of this headline…
Remember the Rules of Three and Seven
Humans process information presented as three items really well. Think of a fairy tale and you’ll see what I mean. Psychology also tells us that seven works well to. Because psychologists say so.
I’ve asked friends if they remember facts from longer lists than this from my articles. They change the subject then don’t call back. You’re better than this.
Every Word Has to Earn Itself
True today more than ever. Here’s an example: who on earth are the ‘general public’? Do we have a specific public?
A newspaper editor I worked for would almost throw the (actual) book at you for this. Keeping the rule in mind is a much easier way to learn this copywriting essential.
Get It On the Screen
Make a start and you’re halfway there. Wait around and someone else will write your idea up for you (like it or not, and it happened many times to me).
“To get started, write one true sentence” (Ernest Hemingway). What he said.
Let It Soak
If possible, a draft likes to mature overnight before you edit and have it proofed. Why? Because that is the way of things.
A fresh pair of eyes in the morning can – and has – revealed a multitude of copywriting sins. Better now than when you press ‘Publish’. Trust me.
Have a Sounding Board
There’s nothing better than someone who will call rubbish on low quality.
Oh, and always always use a proofreader. Always.
What happened every time I’ve thought “it’ll be fine” when pressing send. *Narrator’s voice: “It was not fine”.
Ps – Always.
Make Your Lists Shorter Than This One
There’s no excuse. My excuse? I don’t have one. Because there is no excuse.
Ten items is fine, 14 if you REALLY need to.
What’s In It for Me?
A basic copywriting technique and one to remember all the time: what’s in it for my reader to click and give away their time?
If you don’t mind very dated and salty language – or dated and salty movies – watch the start of Glengarry Glen Ross (NSFW) and you’ll learn even more.
What’s it for you to read this one if you aren’t a movie nerd? Apparently not a lot…
Be Good at Mistakes
Every article could be better – but only if you know what was wrong with the last one.
Ask and you shall receive, but make sure you take feedback on board.
Oh, and I have no idea what this image means. But it’s very pretty.
Copywriting: It’s Not About You
The reader is king around these here parts. Talk to them, not at them. Know them, love them, listen to them.
Talk their language and the language of the platform they’re using to read your work. Then talk to their friends, find out how they spend their time. But always follow the terms of your restraining order.
So, ditch the metaphorical selfie stick.
Read Great Writing
Read something you loved? A quote or social post or line in a book?
Write it down or file it in a dark corner of your brain with the stuff about whisky and reality shows you secretly like.
You’ll use them some day. Promise.
Most of All…
Enjoy yourself, then others might enjoy your writing too. What could be better than that?
Oh, and test out dusty old writing tips for yourself. Just don’t ignore them.
This is the confession of a ProfileTree copywriter.
Go in peace.