5 Ways to Write Better Copy
Most people write something that they share with the world on a daily basis. Whether you're crafting a report for your employer or typing up an Instagram caption, we all use our words to express ourselves. As a copywriter, my primary focus is to help small businesses, bloggers, and brands convey their mission through their unique brand voice, perhaps with the goal of selling something, converting a list, or just sharing information. You might be in one of those categories, and if so, this post is especially applicable for you. But, no matter who you are, some rules of writing hold true across the board. I know this because these are tips that my mom made me implement in my research paper writing as early as elementary school. I majorly resented her during those moments, but I'm so appreciative for this knowledge now!
So, without further ado, here are my top 5 ways to write better copy!
1. Never use the same word twice.
When you write about a specific topic, it becomes easy to overuse a word. For instance, if you're composing a blog about puppies, the word "puppy" can be replaced with dog, pet, fur baby, the puppy's name, etc. If your readers become inundated with the same synonym, your writing will begin to sound choppy and elementary. Keep their attention by switching things up.
2. Vary your sentence structure.
When you're trying to write interesting copy, you must remember to start sentences in different ways. For this example, imagine you are telling a story about buying a puppy. You wouldn't say, "I saw the puppy, and I loved him! I went to the barn, and I picked him up. When we got home, he cried. When we went to sleep, he cried." Sidebar - can you tell I got a puppy this year? The memory is fresh. Anyway, a more creative way to structure that little paragraph could be:
"I saw the puppy, and I loved him! We picked him up from the barn and brought him home. He proceeded to cry all night long."
The changes I made to those sentences were minor and do not make for a gripping piece of copy, but immediately, by varying the sentence structure, they don't sound like they were written by a robot.
3. Read everything aloud.
Speaking of not sounding like a robot, I read everything I write aloud. It doesn't matter if I'm editing a post in a coffee shop; I will be quietly whispering the words to myself, just to make sure I love the piece before I share it. I can read something 10 times in silence, but the second I vocalize it, I notice so many things that I want to change. This is a huge piece of the puzzle for bloggers, influencers, and anyone else who wants to write in the way that they speak. If it sounds awkward when read, then it probably doesn't sound like you, either. Put a little bit more time into your editing by taking a moment to speak the post into existence, and you will reap the reward.
4. Use all 5 senses.
I know that many people are familiar with this concept in creative writing, but I think it's just as important in sales copy and nonfiction story telling. Let's continue to follow the puppy theme, and imagine that I'm writing an Instagram post about bringing my puppy Crosby home. Which caption tells a better story?
Option 1: I love Crosby so much! He is the sweetest puppy ever, and I can't imagine my life without him! I'm so happy we brought him home.
Option 2: I knew Crosby was our pup from the moment we stepped into the dark, musty barn and saw three chubby puppies waiting to find a home. His fluffy white fur and stark black nose made for the cutest combination, as he chased his tail and yapped at his siblings. Ross and I caught each other's eye, as I held Crosby and felt his squishy face nuzzle into my neck; we knew he was the keeper.
In the second option, I used my senses to describe how I felt, what I smelled, what we heard, etc. I painted the picture for you of what it was like to be there and decide to take Crosby home, rather than just tell you that we made the choice and were happy. If you want to convert people to action or understanding, you have to draw them into your story.
5. If it's good, make it better.
To be honest, this is one of the greatest writing lessons I have ever learned, but I hated learning it. Like I eluded to earlier, my mom used to read all of my papers (yes, out loud) before I turned them in. Often, she'd stop after a sentence or paragraph and say, "That was good, but how could we make it better?" It's important to keep in mind that I was a diligent student, and the piece probably would have gotten an A without her edits, but she wasn't worried about the grade. Rather, she wanted me to see the importance of creating exceptional work. The extra time and effort made me into a writer who can pause and perfect a piece. If you're struggling to come up with copy for your personal life or business, it is okay to let it sit for a while and come back to it. Ask for a second opinion, or google synonyms if you're getting stuck. Don't settle for work you can't be proud of.
If these tips were helpful, let me know in the comments, and ask me your copywriting questions at @griffinmckenzie anytime!