July 29th, 2020

10 Copywriting Tips to Take Your Content to the Next Level

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Written by Copycat Copywriters

A copywriter walks into a bar.

She orders a Negroni, and she really needs it: her client has just told her that her copywriting, while “technically proficient, is written without any heart or soul.”

Ouch.

When she got into this gig, she thought it was a fun way to use her strong writing skills for a little money, and even the greater good. Now, she’s mastered the basics of SEO copywriting and every piece has a crystal-clear CTA. Today, she even turned in a blog post that fit her clients’ directive to a T—so what gives?

“Try putting a little more of yourself in it,” the client recommended. Our protagonist complains out loud to no one in particular: “How am I supposed to put myself into an article about mechanical pencils?”

Overhearing her query, we decided to compile this guide to copywriting tips that can take your web content to the next level. And with that comes our first copywriting tip:

#1 Tell a Story

That article on mechanical pencils? Sometimes, you can’t write 1,500 engaging words unless you take the next imaginative steps: 

  • Where and when would someone use them?
  • What would they write?
  • How can I incorporate another theme or story into this central article?

In many cases, giving yourself a second prompt, aside from the clients’ assignment, can help you give an article clearer shape and greater depth. Just be sure your story truly supports the goals of the content you’re writing.

#2 Start In Media Res

You might notice that we started our article at the bar—not at the meeting where our copywriter got her bad news, and certainly not on the day she was born. We started it with her problem.

Make sure to start your copy in media res, a fancy way to say in the middle of the action. If you’re writing a blog post answering a simple question like “Are mechanical pencils better than regular?” You should begin to answer it in the first section of your article, before the user has to scroll.

Honestly, this advice applies to all writing.

  • Did you ever start a high school English paper with a phrase like Literature has shaped culture for thousands of years? We hope your teacher crossed it out.

  • There’s a reason why murder mysteries often top the best-sellers list: they begin with a clear, compelling problem. Your copy should do the same. (No, not murder. Start with the problem!)

#3 Appeal to Emotions

The backbone of any good story? Emotional appeal.

Our friend and colleague already knows that her language needs to be clear and accessible, as well as appropriate for her target audience. 

But how can we help her tell a story that makes people care about mechanical pencils?

Here are just a few ways:

  • Commiserate with the reader about a problem they’re having
  • Spark excitement with a viable solution
  • Use humor to connect
  • Reference current events and common issues to hold onto their interest

If you don’t care, your reader won’t care. Try the above strategies to make writing fun for you, too.

#4 Back up Pathos with Research

Of course, emotional appeal, or pathos, is not enough; that’s why it’s only one of Aristotle’s Three Pillars of Persuasive Communication.

The other two? Logic, logos, and ethics, ethos.

When you’re writing copy, you often need to convince readers that your clients’ solution is the logical and ethical choice. To prove that their mechanical pencils are more ergonomic and environmentally friendly than their wooden counterparts, you need to back that up with facts.

Use all of the strategies when writing copy:

  • Summarize background information
  • Paraphrase specific findings from news articles or research papers
  • Quote if the writer’s authority or phrasing might help persuade the reader

In all cases, be sure to practice good citations! Otherwise, you’re not helping build your credibility, and you also risk plagiarism.

#5 Specify, Specify, Specify

As you build out the story and informational backbone of your story, detail is everything.

In copy, you frequently invite your reader to imagine scenarios where your clients’ product may be useful. In these cases, be as specific as possible.

Our friend is sitting at the bar drinking a Negroni. Why not just a cocktail? Well, the Negroni is a little bitter, just like the situation she finds herself in. And God forbid she drinks a daiquiri—she’s not having fun. 

Likewise, when you’re providing research and data, get specific. Want to emphasize that mechanical pencils come in different lead sizes? Tell us all about the range of heaviness, from 0.3 mm to 0.9mm!

#6 Close the Loops

Have you ever watched a movie, just to ask yourself at the end, but what happened to that character?

There’s nothing more annoying than a plot hole. Your copy may not have a fully-fledged plot, but since it follows a progression (we hope!), it can definitely have holes.

  • If you introduce a question, answer it
  • If you start telling a story, finish it
  • If you introduce a concept, be sure to do something with it—show us how it works in action

If you leave loose threads dangling, it can make your copy feel unfinished and less-than-satisfying to read. Remember, pathos! 

#7 Avoid Fluff...

Sometimes, clients ask you to achieve impossible feats: 800 words on a yes-or-no question. 2,000 words introducing a fact so simple you could convey to your cat with a few handle gestures. 

Yet they also keep asking you to “avoid fluff.” 

We agree. Adding extra adverbs and clauses is not the way to hit your target word count.

So, how do you do it?

Here are a couple of strategies for your marketing copy:

  • Zoom out. If the question is, “traditional pencil vs. mechanical pencil,” you may want to move on to a bigger question (even if it’s outside the scope of the original assignment): why use a pencil at all, instead of a pen? This isn’t fluff—it’s an entryway to a whole line of argumentation about how mechanical pencils combine the best of both worlds.

  • Expand on research. Sometimes, when you have plenty to say, you can summarize a source in a single sentence (“mechanical pencils are more sustainable”). But if you’re struggling for content, it’s helpful to spend a little more time with a particular study, highlighting a few of its main claims. (“According to a recent study, mechanical pencils are more sustainable because…)

  • Provide another reason. There’s always one more logical, emotional, or ethical reason why your clients’ solution is the best. Stuck on your word count? Spend some time brainstorming on a piece of paper.

#8 ...But Don’t Be Afraid To Repeat Yourself

We know we just told you to avoid fluff, and we meant it. But that doesn’t mean you should never repeat yourself.

Your main claims should be easy for any reader to pick up on, even if they’re just skimming. How do you read when you’re scrolling through your phone? Do you look at every single word and paragraph carefully, or do you ever skip ahead?

Even if they’re reading carefully, readers may need to see something more than once before it sticks.

That’s why we’re saying it again: incorporate repetition into the overall story you’re shaping to catch your reader’s attention.

#9 Make Sure Copy is Easy on the Eye

Would our   friend’s client                        have
told                    her her copy was                     heartless (& soulless)              if
                    it looked

like                 a                   Mallarme
                                                                            poem?

No. They would have just told her it was wrong.

But in all seriousness, spacing can make all the difference when it comes to how readers perceive and respond to information.

Big blocks of text are intimidating on first glance. If there are no headings and subheadings, the effect is even worse. 

For best results, be sure to incorporate all of these elements into your copy:

  • One-liners – Highlight central claims on lines by themselves
  • Short paragraphs – Break your concepts up into digestible bites
  • Bulleted lists – Don’t you love the way we’re breaking this down for you?
  • White space – Negative space provides mental breathing room

#10 Break the Rules

Now, we’ve led you and our Negroni-drinking compatriot through 10 copywriting best practices. Our last piece of advice is the hardest for her to hear–Sometimes, you need to break the rules. 

“Which ones?” She asks.

“All of them,” we reply—“but not all at the same time.”

This isn’t meant to sound like a riddle. 

Rather, it’s a piece of advice that we hope can help you reach the next level as a copywriter. There is no one copywriting formula for creating effective copy. After all, you can only get so far when you’re using someone else’s strategies. As in all things, you’ll eventually figure out what works for you. 

And when you do, we assure you that your client will never call your work soulless again. 

Copycat Copywriters

Are you looking for a good copywriting agency that knows how to take your content marketing strategy to the next level? Copycat staffs a team of writers from a broad range of creative and research-oriented backgrounds to meet your needs.

Whether you’re looking for fun, compelling copy or research-based white papers, we’re ready to follow copywriting best practices—and to remake them in your company’s image. 

New content is our catnip. Request a free piece and make our day.

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