Writing, Self-improvement

Making the changes: 6 tips to improve your copywriting

Emily Moseman gives her six top tips on how to improve your copywriting skills.

Copywriting can seem scary to those who have never done it before, or to those who think they are bad at grammar and writing in general. These tips should assist those who want to work on their skills 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 all your writing. Whether you’re writing a press release or a tweet on Twitter, having the same voice allows for uniformity and professionalism. If you’re website sounds one way, but your social media posts are written completely differently, it can throw readers off. It can make it seem as though the social media posts are from a separate company compared to the website. Most organizations will have an in-house style book which allows consistency throughout everything that is written. Most of the time it is based of the major style books like the Oxford Guide to Style, or if the writing style is based off of 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 allow a few minutes in between to allow your mind to refocus and see errors that it may have skipped over. Three is the magic number, as the first read through is where you find spelling and some grammar mistakes. The second read through is making sure the facts are correct and double checking grammar and punctuation. The last read through provides the last defence as it should notice any other small detail that you could have missed the first two times. Three times isn’t the maximum. The more times you read through it, the more errors you may catch that you hadn’t seen before.

Please note that it may acquire more times to read through as longer texts can be time consuming and require more time with them. Some texts can take up to ten read throughs, depending 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

Saying it 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 for your mind to slow down and identify more errors that could have been missed. Usually, word order or different phrases are what need to be read out loud. If it sounds awkward trying to say it to yourself, then it will be awkward for everyone else who will read the text.

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 with the writer over the changes you have made. Explain why you made those changes. If they don’t think it sounds like them, it’s most likely true. Collaborate with them to make it fit more the style or brand they are writing for. People new to copywriting want to change everything. Every so often it is necessary but over time, it will be easier to see what mistakes certain writers produce and change those rather than altering the whole text.

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 the biggest relationship when it comes to writing. But if that relationship is broken, it is hard to get back. Once a reader sees that a writer has lied or had incorrect information and doesn’t fix it, it can make them believe everything else they have or will write are going to have the same problem.

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 appropriate for the appropriate people. A book on government grants and fun social media posts have two completely different audiences. The writing needs to reflect which audience it is for.

Copywriting can be difficult when starting out, but if you keep practicing and work on honing your skill 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 most likely won’t make sense to readers. Remember, you aren’t the bad guy, even if some writers will think you are. You are there to support them and help them improve.