Would you like to write better? Copywriters use a few tricks to ensure they produce more powerful copy. These simple hacks don’t rely on a big vocabulary or an insane fixation on spelling or grammar. They’re solid techniques anyone can use to improve their copy and make their content marketing more effective.
10 Ways to become a better writer
Start using these 10 copywriting tips today:
- Write a short first sentence. Nothing makes my mind wander like a long opening sentence. You want to hit ’em between the eyes with your first sentence. Make it short and sharp so those skimmers don’t jump to something else. Read Glenn Murray’s post called The second-most important copywriting rule for more information.
- Get rid of ‘that’. I beg you. I’m down on my knees with hands clasped under my chin shaking them in hopes you’ll remove every instance of ‘that’ in your copy. You don’t need it. It’s a filler word we use for phrasing in normal speech. It clutters your copy without adding value. ‘That’: Does it clutter or clarify? suggests you can get rid of it 95% of the time without changing the meaning of your sentence. I say it’s closer to 99% of the time.
- Remove exclamation points. You should not have exclamation points in your copy unless you’re demonstrating pain, vehement anger or complete surprise. If you’re not, and are depending on the exclamation mark to make your point, revise your sentence so your prose packs the punch you want. Listen to the F-Bombs, Chicken and Exclamation Points episode of NPR’s How To Do Everything podcast for hilarious examples of how your writing sounds when you add inappropriate or unnecessary exclamation points. I dare you to take a month off from using them altogether.
- Strike ‘whilst’, ‘amongst’, ‘learnt’, and ‘spoilt’ from your copy. Unless you’re going for the Jane Austen effect, it’s time to get into the 21st ‘While’, ‘among’, ‘learned’ and ‘spoiled’ are the modern equivalents of these words. The Americans won’t think you’re uneducated as these spellings were beaten out of them by their grammar school teachers decades ago.
- Break compound sentences into two short sentences. Not only should your first sentence be short, most writing benefits from a lack of compound sentences. Usually all it takes is:
1) Put a period after the last word before ‘and’.
2) Delete the word ‘and’.
3) Put the first letter of the new sentence in upper case.
- Don’t start a sentence with ‘however’. There are times when ‘however’ is needed at the beginning of a sentence but not often. It’s a word you rarely need, so leave it off for more succinct copy.
- Move to second person. Far too much corporate writing is done in the first person. Here’s a news flash; no one really cares about you. Flip your writing into second person and you’ll immediately gain the interest of your readers. What’s more inviting?:
a) We provide the best service in all the land. (first person)
b) You receive the best service in all the land. (second person)
If you’re like me, and nearly every other person on the planet, sentence b is a lot more attractive. Read The Secret Weapon of Content Marketers for a longer rant on this topic.
- Use spellcheck. It’s so simple but too few people take the extra 30 seconds to make sure their spelling and grammar is at a minimum standard. Use spellcheck for every single document you publish or email you send.
- Read your copy aloud before publishing. It’s amazing how many clunky phrases or outright errors you find in your writing when you read it out loud. Those annoying glitches your brain skims over when you’re reading to yourself jump out in your own voice when doing this exercise.
- Include a call to action. For heaven’s sake, if you’re writing marketing copy, make sure to put a call to action in it. What’s the point of making an effort to write and publish if your audience has no clue what you expect of them? Belinda Weaver covers all the bases of writing a call to action in The call to action: Writing tips smart marketers know.
Writing class in Perth
You don’t have to be a copywriter to produce great marketing copy. Making a few small changes to your style and writing habits takes you a long way towards improving your content marketing effectiveness. If you’d like more ways to improve your writing, why not sign up for the next Building Writing Champions workshop in Perth? It’s a half day of hands-on exercises working on yor own writing project. It’s open to both individuals and groups.
Content Marketing and Brand Storytelling workshop
Another way to improve the effectiveness of your content marketing is to join me for a two day workshop on Raising Brand Awareness Through Brand Storytelling and Content Marketing. Sessions are being held at the end of October in Hong Kong and Singapore. There’s currently group discounts in place so bring a friend or colleague.
What are your favourite writing hacks?