Copywriting for beginners
There are a lot of ways to write well. When you’re going for “beautiful but confusing,” think James Joyce. When you’re going for “clear and motivating”—as most of us are when writing copy for communications materials—Ulysses probably shouldn’t be your inspiration. So what does good copy look like? Here are a few tips we Big Duck copywriters like to keep in mind when writing for our clients:
Outlines are your friend. There’s nothing more daunting (for a writer) than a blank page and a blinking cursor, so consider starting with an outline—particularly when writing longer pieces, like emails, direct mail letters, and web pages. Not only will you have tackled your first hurdle (going from empty page to rough sketch), you’ll be able to focus your writing more easily and craft your content more carefully.
Remove unnecessary adjectives—they can crowd your writing. I’m not arguing for entirely barebones writing. What I am arguing for is writing that guides the reader along rather than confuses her with unnecessary clutter. This is especially true for fundraising appeals—throwing in too many adjectives and adverbs will just distract the reader from what really matters: the ask!
When you want to use the bigger word, use the smaller word. Sigh. The liberal arts school graduate in me sometimes misses the days of using the five-syllable synonym for a one-syllable word, but the copywriter in me knows that those big clunky words are just that: clunky. Impress your readers with the incredible work you’re doing—not your vocabulary.
Of course, these rules aren’t hard and fast, but they can certainly help you clean up your copy and point you in the right direction. And remember: there’s no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.