Friday, June 19, 2009

10 tips for great copywriting

I read something not too long ago—written by a world-class copywriter, no doubt—that said “copywriting is the single most important element of any successful campaign.”

Other than being slightly self-serving, he was right.

Copy happens before graphics, before design, before anything. Copy drives the campaign. It is the heart and soul of your presentation.

So why do so many promotions fail?

Speaking frankly, Crappy copy.

What can you do to make your copy more compelling?

Here are a few time-tested ideas to help you improve your direct marketing presentation.

1- Throw out the longwinded intro. Nobody cares about your corporate history or how happy you are to write to them. It’s a brutal reality. File 13 it.

2- Remember you’re addressing human beings. Talk to them in plain, simple English. Cut the techno babble and industry-specific jargon. It’s not talking down to your audience. It’s knowing your audience.

3- Make the obscure obvious. If your new techno gizmo is built to withstand all the abuse that a 3-year old can bestow—dropping it, spilling milk on it, letting the dog chew on it—Say so! All that engineering folderol that went into the production of your gizmo is background noise. Focus on benefits, not the technology that ensures those benefits.

4- Use white space. Write flush left and unjustified right; it’s easier to read. Lots of space between paragraphs is good. So are bullets. And short text.

5- Use dashes (--) and ellipses (…) between phrases. The eye—and the mind—need time to digest information. Those visual pauses help provide that breather. See what I mean?

6- Simplify. Go back and reread item #2 above. Then read your copy one more time, ruthlessly whacking jargon that slipped in again. Keep sentences short. Research shows that sentences longer than 25 words flummox most people. Even college graduates (non-English majors, probably) have trouble with sentences longer than 15 words.

7- Shorten. No one except the patent office wants to puzzle through “Wireless manual auditory assistance device.” “Cell phone” is much more direct. Plain speak says volumes.

8- Mix it up. Good writing establishes a rhythm. An endless stream of long, complex sentences can lull a reader to sleep. Wake them up occasionally with short, snappy phrases. Got it?

9- Wrap it up neatly. In the last paragraph reintroduce the thought you had in paragraph one to make a nice “copy sandwich.”

James Michener once responded to a reporter’s flattery that no, he was not the world’s greatest writer. He was the world’s greatest rewriter. Which brings up the final tip:

10- Edit and then re-edit yourself. If your letter is important enough to send, it is important enough to write right. If you can’t be totally honest with your own prose, ask a colleague to look at it. If you’re waffling over wording, get rid of it. It’s not strong enough. When in doubt, throw it out.

From logos and brochures to html emails and web sites, we've got you covered.

We can design, write and produce your entire mail package so that it stands out from the clutter.

Paul & Partners Direct Marketing
43670 Trade Center Place,
Suite 150, Dulles, VA 20166
Phone: 703.996.0800
Fax: 703.996.0888

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