Top 5 tips for more compelling copywriting

Language is a powerful tool, but is your copywriting making the most of it? Here are five key tips to make sure that you make every word count.

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At this point, we’re going to make a couple of assumptions. You already know what point you want to get across and you already know which audiences you’re targeting. This guide is about making sure that you produce outstanding copy that pushes every single one of their buttons.

This is about making your language work harder.

Get to the point, quickly.

Whatever the purpose of your content, your audience doesn’t want to read through hundreds of words of ramble just to get their desired answer.

Use a heading that spells out exactly what your copy covers – the success of sites such as Buzzfeed demonstrate how successful this approach is – and quickly get to the nub of the issue.

Be specific: Instead of saying “I have vegetables in my greenhouse”, say “I grow 12 types of different vegetables in my garden, including carrots, spinach, lettuce, marrow and rhubarb”. The latter gives a reader a much better image of my greenhouse.

Make sure that you use active language as well. As a simple, rule, place the subject first, the verb second and the object third – avoid reversing that order.

Keep it simple, stupid

Be aware of the consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity or, in simple terms, be aware of the problems with using long words needlessly.

If you want to sound smart, stop trying to be smart. Instead, get your point across, convincingly, in a way that your typical reader can understand.

Keep your sentences short and simple and use simple words. Is there honestly any reason why you need to write “utilise” instead of “use”, or “ascertain” instead of “find out”?

Evoke the senses

Metaphors are an important part of any writer’s armoury, but few actually understand their true impact on your audience.

Research from Princeton University has found that words associated with food and taste actually stimulate certain brain activities, so if you sprinkle your content with some spicy language to give it some fizz, you are actually triggering some involuntary feelings in the mind of your reader.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should start filling your content with clumsy food-related puns, but when you consider that words such as “sweet” appeared to trigger a more positive reaction that words such as “kind”, you should definitely be thinking about the kinds of figurative language that can influence, engage or persuade.

Do away with fluff words

As a trainee journalist, one of my editors used to quote a Mark Twain line at me: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; the editor will soon delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

It’s a “damn” handy rule for eliminating any words which do little to justify their inclusion.

Do away with fluff words and make every word work as hard as it possibly can.

Give it to the most ruthless editor you can find

You know how every office has someone who is irritatingly anal above everything? The guy who nit-picks about every slightest detail and is almost impossibly hard to impress?

Buy that guy a drink, because he is your new editor.

This guy will pick up on every single imperfection, every needless word and every flaw in your argument – and you’ll thank him for it because it means that your copy is going to be much better.

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