This is something no one ever tells you. You might be a student studying your way through school pouring over various copywriting examples or you might be a first year copywriter penning your way through a Los Angeles based marketing agency on an entry level copywriting salary. In fact you might be the Senior Copywriter for Insert Company Name Here dolling out copywriting tips to your coworkers yet you still get the feeling you’re making it up as you go along. Don’t worry though, everyone gets that feeling.
Copywriting isn’t about handbooks. It isn’t about rules or instructions. Copywriting, good copy, comes from creativity. It comes from understanding your topic of choice, understanding the needs of your topic and partly understanding the needs of the people you’re trying to reach. However great copy comes from making people think what you want them to think. It comes from not worrying about what they want to see or hear. It comes from telling them what they need to see or hear.
So, the rules.
1. Copywriting, as with all writing, is about communication. If you are not communicating something effectively, you aren’t doing your job. This is the golden rule. It is the rule to keep above all the rest. Communication is your goal. It is your end all be all. If you aren’t getting across your idea, you fail.
2. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t use 10 words when four will do. Don’t stray from your goal. If you can capture your idea in one word, use one word. Do not be afraid of brevity. Ex.
“A Commercial Heartbeat In The Heart Of The City.” This is terrible copy. Why?
- “A” means one of many. One of many. It’s bad copy for the sole reason of drawing attention to others.
- “Heartbeat in the Heart of the City” is bad copy for the reason of repetition and lack of power. The phrase lets readers know, a) We couldn’t think of another word aside from heart and b) we are again, one of many. The copy would read better as: “We are the heart of this city.” Copy should empower, not take away from the message being expressed.
3. Listen. For effective copy, you need to listen to what the needed message is. As much as effective copy is about creativity and making people need what you write, for copy to be genuine, you need to listen to the message needed. The more you listen and the more you understand about the needed message, the better copy you will produce.
4. Like it or not, copywriting is copyediting. Whether you’re a famous copywriter or an eager writer straight out of college, all copywriters have to have eye for copyediting. More than just knowing the difference between “there”, “their” and they’re”, copywriting is about knowing when to stop writing. Copyediting harkens back to the second rule, keep it short and sweet.
That’s it. Communication. Short and sweet. Listen. That’s it. Four simple rules for better copy:
- Short & Sweet
Oh, and one more thing: be a great fucking writer.
My next post will be on #SEO: The Boundary. Click it to check it out.