Copywriting can seem scary to those who have never done it before, or those who think their writing or grammar skills aren’t up to scratch. These tips will assist those who want to improve but don’t know where to start.
1. Know your house style and brand
Establishing a set style when it comes to your writing allows for consistency throughout. Whether you’re writing a press release or posting on Twitter, using the same voice allows for uniformity and professionalism. If your website sounds one way, but your social media posts are written differently, it can throw readers off. It can make it seem as though the social media posts and website copy are from two different places. Most organisations have an in-house guide for reference. A lot of the time it is based on the major style books like the Oxford Guide to Style, or if the writing is based on American styles, there’s Chicago, AP and MLA.
2. Read everything over at least three times
Always reread the writing after you finish editing it. It helps to have a few minutes in between to allow your mind to refocus and see errors you may have missed. Three is the magic number. The first read-through is for finding spelling and grammar mistakes. The second read-through is for making sure the facts are correct, and double checking grammar and punctuation. The final read-through is for picking up any other small details that could have been missed. Three times isn’t the maximum; the more times you read through something, the more accurate your checking will be. This will depend on the complexity of the writing and the style it should be written in.
3. Read it out loud if it doesn’t sound right
Speaking out loud is your best tool. When reading in your head, your mind works on speed and identifying crucial mistakes. Examining everything sentence by sentence, allows your mind to slow down and identify more errors. If it sounds awkward to you, then it will sound the same to anyone else.
4. Don’t take the author’s voice away
If you aren’t writing from scratch, but instead amending what someone else has written, it’s easy to take their voice away. When copywriting, this is one of the hardest skills to achieve. Talk over the changes you made with the writer and explain them. If they don’t think it reflects their voice, it’s most likely true. Collaborate with them to make it fit their brand and style. People new to copywriting want to change everything. Every so often it is necessary but over time, it will be easier to identify what mistakes certain writers make and just change those rather than altering everything.
5. Always fact check
In a world pervaded with ‘fake news’, you don’t want your writing to fall victim to inaccurate information. Making sure all of your facts are accurate, shows credibility and allows readers to confide in you as a writer. Trust between reader and writer is a significant bond. But if that relationship is broken, it is hard to rebuild. Once a reader sees that a writer has lied or used incorrect information without rectifying it, the reader will lose trust in anything else the writer produces.
6. Identify your audience
Recognise who the writing is for. If it is for professionals who are looking at texts for information, your text needs to reflect that. This also goes along with the author’s voice. The writer should identify who they are writing for and it should show in the text you are looking over. If it doesn’t, make it known and work collectively to make it suit the right audience. A book on government grants, and silly social media posts are designed for two completely different audiences.
Copywriting can be difficult when starting out, but if you keep practicing and work on honing your skills it does become easier. Don’t be afraid to make changes and don’t be afraid to talk to the writer. If something doesn’t make sense to you, it’s unlikely it will make sense to the readers. Remember, you aren’t the bad guy, even if some writers think you are. You are there to support them and help them improve.