Want to write like a professional copywriter? Keep reading to learn the key trait all great copy shares.
From the outside, it may seem like professional copywriters just pull page-ready words off the tops of their heads. Trust me, I wish it was that simple!
In reality, there’s a long list of things to consider when it comes to writing copy, including:
What do you want to impart to your audience?
What kind of personality and emotional inflection do you want to convey?
What formatting will make it easy to scan so readers can easily find what they need?
Are there additional formatting steps to take to make it accessible for ALL visitors?
Is it optimized for search?
Does it give readers everything they need to make a decision about the action you want them to take?
Copy’s Most Essential Ingredient
That’s why, if I had to choose a single piece of advice to give new copywriters, it would be this:
Choose clarity over cleverness.
Every. Single. Time.
When we’re reading, our brains seek to comprehend the text first. Emotional and cognitive processing comes after.
If what you’re trying to say isn’t easy to understand, it won’t matter how funny or bold or [insert-your-desired-adjective-here] your copy is. It won’t achieve what you want it to.
Unclear copy underperforms. Always.
So wait, copy should be boring?
No, no. Boring is definitely not the goal.
Being clever can go a long way in holding an audience’s attention. That’s part of why I’m obsessed with brand voice development. Infusing copy with a brand’s personality offers a lot of opportunities for fun and creativity.
But hierarchy matters.
Entertaining your audience, whether it’s done with linguistic ingenuity, witty observations, or slapstick humor, should always come second to getting your message across.
Take Sweet Tooth Creative, for example.
If you’re familiar with my brand voice, then you already know I’ve never met a pun I wouldn’t deploy and I’ll ride a metaphor straight into next Tuesday.
Do I love clever copy like Ted Lasso loves a name-dropping rhyme? You got that right, Betty White!
But I never sacrifice clarity for the sake of cleverness. And neither should you.
As the saying goes, kill your darlings
When I’m writing, I start by focusing on the specific message I want that section of copy to deliver. It needs to be quick and easy for the reader to understand.
So I write with only that in mind, not worrying about how it sounds. Sure, this makes for some pretty ugly rough drafts but it’s the best way I’ve found to isolate exactly what I’m trying to say.
Once I’ve figured that out I can start peppering the copy with personality. But, even then, the underlying message is still paramount. Which inevitably means there’ll be times when I’m forced to cut words or phrases I really like in the name of clarity.
And, trust me, those times suck.
They’re also necessary.
When you find yourself in that situation, you might be tempted to tell yourself the extra words or phrases can stay.
They don’t make the copy that confusing…It’ll only take your reader an extra second or two to understand what you’re trying to say…What’s the big deal?
But a second or two for internet audiences may as well be a lifetime.
Any good copywriter can tell you, it doesn’t matter how much you love it. If it makes things confusing? It’s gotta go.
Give your readers what they want
The main thing your audience wants from your copy is information.
Who are you?
What do you have to offer them?
Why should they trust you?
Even if they don’t realize it, these questions are floating around in the back of your readers’ minds the instant they engage with whatever copy or content caught their eye.
Which brings us back to the underlying message of each piece of copy…
Generally, the message will be an answer to one of your audience’s big questions. And people don’t usually have a ton of time for jokes when they’re trying to gather important information.
Don’t pull a Cheshire Cat…
Unless being mysterious is actually part of your brand strategy.
Unless being mysterious is an intentional part of your brand strategy, your copy and content shouldn’t feel like a riddle! So make it quick and easy for readers to find the information they want by always making clarity the top priority.