How to Write Copy: Part One

If you're curious about how to write copy, you're likely either an entrepreneur with a small business who needs to write something sales-y or business-y in order to make the wheels of commerce turn, or else you're an aspiring  copywriter. Both are totally rad things to be.  Since the basics of copywriting are the same whether you're an entrepreneur or an aspiring copywriter, I'm going to address this short series to both.

The Basic Attitudes of Copywriting

Before we get into the gritty mechanics of writing copy, let's talk about the big picture.

1. Sell, baby. Sell. But gently.

Copywriting differs from other kinds of writing in that its main purpose is to sell something, not to conjure a beautiful experience in the reader's mind, or illuminate them with new ideas, or use language gracefully, or tell a good story.

The interesting thing, though, is that all of those other writing skills can and should be brought to bear on the goal of selling with writing.

To write effective copy, you have to keep your goal in mind while at the same time not beating your reader over the head with it.

You need to find your reader's potential motivation for buying and speak to that, all the time.

It doesn't work to write long-winded stuff that never gets around to making an offer or giving a call-to-action, but "Me Tarzan, you Jane, you buy online course TODAY!" doesn't work either.

2. Keep It Short and Simple, Sweetheart (KISS)

The attention span and comprehension level of the average person isn't all that great.  If you're a savvy entrepreneur or an aspiring copywriter, you're probably a smart cookie.  I bet you read books and stuff.  Well, most people don't read hardly at all after they get out of school.

The fact that most people don't read books (or essays, or poems, or anything more demanding than your average BuzzFeed article, actually) means that you have to take this into account when you're writing your copy.

Please remember that a third of American adults have a fifth or sixth grade reading level.

Keep the sentences in your copy under twenty words in length.

The average sentence in Shakespeare's day was 50 words long, but that was before we had GIFs and Twitter accounts, friends.

3.  Write like you talk (kind of)

There are many forms of writing where informality is a no-no.  School papers, for example.  Well, that ain't the case in most forms of copywriting.

When you're writing for the purpose of selling something rather than impressing your teacher, it's okay to use contractions.

Aim for your writing to be "smooth and sexy" rather than "stiff and formal."

'Cause you talk all smooth and sexy, right?

The idea with writing copy is that you want to be producing language that people immediately and easily connect with.

So setting up any barriers of formality is a bad idea.

At the same time, just because you're aiming for an informal tone doesn't mean you can be super-slack about your attention to grammar.

In Conclusion

The most effective copywriters use their knowledge of the rules of syntax and grammar to produce sentences that are easy-to-read, rhythmic, and punchy.

"But wait, Carolyn!" you say. "I don't remember anything about the rules of syntax and grammar!"

Well friend, that's okay.  There's only a few main points that you need to recollect in order to be in business, and I'll cover those in my next post. 

Or, you could just hire me to write your copy for you and call it a day.