Copywriting is the act of writing text for advertising or marketing purposes, the copy being written in such a way as to persuade someone to buy a product, or to influence them.
While the advent of the Internet has expanded the range of copywriting requirements to include web content, adverts, emails, blogs, social media and other forms of electronic communication, the basic rules of copywriting haven’t changed. But writing for the web is quite different from writing for other media; the requirements tend to be more to the point than traditional advertising, and other stylistic differences also come into play.
Content writing for websites may also have other objectives rather than straight-forward sales, the achievement of higher rankings in search engines for example. Known as “organic” search engine optimisation (SEO), this practice involves the strategic placement and repetition of keywords and keyword phrases on web pages, but still written in a style that readers would consider normal.
But it’s good practice to remember and revisit from time to time the eight basic rules of copywriting, still relevant even in this day and age of electronic communication. The idea is to use words as tools to persuade and motivate – persuade others you have something valuable to offer and then motivate them to acquire it for themselves.
1. Don’t lose sight of your goal. To sell your product or service your copy requires more than a simple presentation of the facts. Remember to persuade and motivate, but at the same time don’t let your creativeness go so far over the top as to bury the sales message.
2. Don’t use empty over-statements. For example keep away from too many uses of words like ‘fabulous,’ ‘extraordinary’ and ‘awesome’ within a small copy area. It will destroy your credibility.
3. Be accurate. Get your facts right. Don’t leave yourself open to claims of false advertising, especially not in these days of easy verification on the Internet. Be truthful and resist the temptation to distort facts.
4. Be specific. Don’t use semantics or vague approximations. You have one chance to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind with simple, observable details. Avoid opening the door to the ‘than what’ question. “It lasts longer,” “It works faster,” “It’s much better.” Longer, faster and better than what? The trick is to balance the content between information and sales.
5. Be organized. A message should progress logically from heading to clincher. Don’t hide important information within the copy, or lead off with trivia. Remember what you were taught in school when writing short stories. They should have a beginning, a middle and end.
6. Write for easy reading. The style should suit the audience, but certain rules apply to all copy. Make it smooth flowing, clear, uncluttered and persuasive. Avoid long convoluted sentences. Do everything possible to ensure your message gets read.
7. Don’t offend. The use of humour in advertising can polarize…some are against it, but it can be an effective tool if it suits the subject. Sarcastic and cynical copy however is not likely to work. Don’t criticize your audiences taste and don’t get preachy. Aim to please.
8. Revise and edit. It is essential! Remove dead wood; every word should pull its weight…like your staff. Be your own critic, check facts and spellings. Watch out for typos, especially in these days of copy/paste, when drafts can be altered several times. Make sure it all flows in order. Has anything been left out or gone missing? Get one other person to cast an eye over it too.
Then hit the send button.