Keep it human:There is a real tendency for novice (or bad) copywriters to go all stiff and starchy and start writing as if they’re either faux academics or appearing before a House of Commons select committee. Copywriters can forget that we’re all human beings together. Reading copy is a personal and, dare I say it about commercial copy, even intimate experience. Most of us behave slightly differently – more openly – when we’re talking to people one-to-one as opposed to within a group. Let your writing reflect that one-to-one relationship. Friendly, accessible copy is as important as knowledgeable, confident copy. It’s the same with copywriting. It’s just you and the reader, so find a nice corner of the pub, take a long draw of a fresh pint of Harvey’s, and start talking.
That’s enough about me; let’s talk about you:Your job as a copywriter is to matchmake between your client and the object of their affection, i.e. their potential customer. So find the common ground. It’s a date, and as their matchmaker it’s no good you rambling on for ages and ages about how great your client is while the date in question prays for it all to be over.
Surprisingly, it can be a very effective tactic to begin by talking about them. They like it when you do that. Ask questions. Be complimentary. Put yourself in their shoes, and take an interest in them. “Smaller businesses (often referred to as SMEs) represent 99% of all enterprises in the EU, provide around 65 million jobs (subtext: you’re significant) and make a huge contribution to entrepreneurship and innovation (subtext: you’re needed). As clients, you’re pretty special to us too, and represent a significant element of our day-to-day business (subtext: we love you). That’s why we’ve put together a special package of services directly aimed at SMEs and their specific needs (subtext: we understand you and we could be good together)… and so on. When you’ve made a connection with the reader, and they’ve uncrossed their arms and begun playing coyly with a lock of their hair, then it’s safe to begin talking about yourself.
Be brief: Copywriters are not solicitors. We don’t get paid by the word. Writing short copy is harder than writing long copy, so never worry about charging for great copy that says it all in 100 words. These days people simply don’t want to read lots and lots of copy, so make sure that what space you do occupy on a website or in a brochure earns its keep. And when you do write short, pay attention to the rhythm of your prose. Rhythm is an essential rudiment of good writing on any length of copy, but it’s particularly important on short pieces. One long para is a difficult read, as are lots of two- or three-word sentences. Mix it up, like a good boxing combo: jab, hook, uppercut. Knockout.