Do you write as part of your job?
Do you wish your writing had more influence and resulted in people buying, joining, sharing, or donating?
I understand writing to influence can be difficult. It’s hard to even get noticed amidst the clutter.
In order to stay sharp I have a few mentors that are more-advanced copywriters and marketers than myself. They provide me with ideas, inspiration and most importantly remind me to stick to what works.
The copywriting genius Drayton Bird is one of them.
I thought I’d share a summary from a recent email he sent that reminded me of some of the basic copywriting secrets I easily forget in the haste of the everyday.
Here’s just one of Drayton's copywriting tips that he sent to me in an email:
“If I had just 30 seconds to pass on the copywriting secrets I’ve learned the hard way over the last 50-odd years, it would be this: Broadly, I follow the prescriptions laid down by George Orwell in his essay, “Politics and the English Language”
Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (e.g.) “At the end of the day” rather than “in the end”; “Put it to the acid test” rather than “test thoroughly”.
Never use a long word where a short one will do. (e.g.) ” buy ” rather than ” Purchase “; ” wrote” rather than ” authored “, “changed, not “transitioned”.
If you can cut a word out, always do so. (e.g.) “Miss out on” should be “miss”; “male personnel” should be “men”; “for free” is free.
Other copywriting tips include never use the passive where you can use the active. A biblical example would be “Abel was slain by Cain” becomes “Cain slew Abel”. Or, from a typical business document, “We are concerned that should this recommendation be turned down, the charity’s revenues will be adversely affected” should be “We believe you must act on this recommendation to maintain the charity’s revenues”
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (There is more dire jargon in business than anywhere else). (e.g.) “Interface” is better as “talk with”; “your core competencies is better as “what you do best”.
There are other copywriting tips that may assist you, many formulated by an American called Rudolph Flesch, who spent a lot of time in the 1940′s researching what makes writing easier to read.
The simplest is, make your sentences as short as possible. The easiest sentence to read is only eight words long. Any sentence more than 32 words long is quite hard for people to take in.
It seems that because most people are either lazy or plain stupid, they tend to forget what happened at the beginning of the sentence by the time they get to the end.
The same principle applies to paragraphs.
If you read a writer like Hemingway you will notice his words, sentences and paragraphs are remarkably short. In any piece of popular fiction or a popular newspaper, this is true. They are written for people who are not clever, or not concentrating.
There’s a gizmo on Microsoft word that gives you a readability rating based on Flesch’s research.