Gearbox Functional Creative Blog Copywriting Best Practices

For the love of copy

By: gearboxfc

By Sara Mohs

Copywriting is one of those jobs you have to love if you’re going to stick with it. Because you’re certainly not going to do it for the recognition. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “no one reads the copy.” And, I get it. We live in a culture driven by visuals. Most people are too busy and impatient to stick around and wade through the text. Even me.

Unless the copy is good. And it reaches straight into your life and nudges that one nagging need. Or exposes that one naked emotion. Or makes you laugh…or hungry…or just want to save some cash.

Good design gives your story a rousing introduction. Good copy keeps the audience captivated long enough to breathe in and identify with the key details of your story.

Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of best practices for creating great copy. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

Make it personal

Picture your customer sitting across the table from you. He has a problem. You have the answer. He’s frustrated, in a hurry, skeptical, and distracted. This is your chance to tell him how you can change everything. You probably don’t want to start with, “For over [xx] years, our company’s core competency has been the benchmark for successful transactions that satisfy customers….” He’s already tuned you out. You missed the one thing he cares about most—solving his problem.

  • Start and stay focused on the customer. The more you can focus on their lives, their jobs, their unique struggles, and the answer to their specific problems, the more effective you’ll be at selling the product.
  • Write like you talk. Your copy is the next best thing to being there in person. Don’t let language that’s too formal get in the way of your message. Say it like you would if they were right here, right now. Use contractions and personal pronouns. Incomplete sentences are okay, too. More than anything, be real.
  • Be specific. Show them exactly how you’ll solve their problem. Use real-life examples.

Make it clear

  • Carefully organize your selling points. The headline states the main selling proposition, so the first paragraph(s) should expand on that. Secondary points should be covered later in the copy.
  • Use subheads to let your reader know where you’re going. If the copy is lengthy, give each point its own heading.
  • Use short sentences more often than not. They’re easier to read. Should you toss in an occasional one-word sentence? Sure. It switches up the rhythm and keeps your copy interesting.
  • Use simple words when you can—“help” instead of “facilitate,” “prove” instead of “substantiate,” “best” instead of “optimum,” and “use” instead of “utilize.” Bigger words slow down your sentence and make it harder to read.
  • Be concise. Imagine you had to pay $10 for every word you used. Your copy wouldn’t include any fat. It would be lean and to the point.

Make it engaging

Engaging copy draws the reader in and captures his or her interest. It answers the question “so what?” before it can be asked.

  • Touch their emotions. While it’s easy to stir emotion when you’re selling home security systems or baby food, some products can be a tougher sell. But, even people buying lug nuts and accounting software have feelings. Hidden somewhere in the product benefit there’s an emotional connection to your customer. It pays to dig deep and find it.
  • Avoid corporate speak or technical jargon. Sit in any meeting long enough and you’ll hear phrases like “core competencies,” “leveraging innovation,” and “facilitating dialogue.” Though they may be acceptable in a conference room, they have no place in engaging copy. Buzz words and technical jargon put a formal wall between you and your customer. Replace them whenever you can with plain and simple alternatives.

The bottom line

Legendary Young and Rubicam copywriter George Gribbon wrote, “While I can’t tell you a ritual to go through [to write an ad], I can damn well tell you a ritual to go through after you do it. Will the headline make you want to read the first sentence of copy, and will the first sentence of copy make you want to read the second sentence? You go straight through the copy. It ought to be the very last word when the reader wants to drop off.”

If you’d like to put these best practices to work for your business—and reach your customers at a more emotional level—we have the copy love to make it happen! Contact us.