Do you have to write your own copy for your website, your adverts, your brochures and leaflets, your press releases? Do you find it a chore? We’re delighted that copywriting expert Jane Heaton, who runs her own marketing consultancy and teaches at the national PR training provider, the Henshall Centre, has agreed to help demystify the process for us:
It seems we are all being asked to write more and more, offline and online … profiles, newsletters, blogs, web pages, Twitter posts, Facebook updates, latest news, opinion pieces … the list goes on and on.
Whether I’m talking with people in marketing and PR in larger companies or with people who run their own small business, the message is the same – the demand for copywriting is increasing. And they are having to produce more and adapt more, mastering different types of output for audiences with shorter and shorter attention spans.
Here are 10 ways to help write clear, concise, engaging, and more energetic copy – faster!
- Make sure you have a clear purpose before you start – why are you writing this, what do you want to achieve?
- Know who you are writing for – picture your ideal reader in your mind’s eye as you write. Choose and align your language and ‘voice’ to connect with them.
- Remember the simple communications model AIDCA – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action. Follow this framework so your writing motivates and persuades your reader to take action.
- Plan content before you write it – organise and put key messages and facts in a logical order.
- Write as you would speak – use simple, short words and simple, short sentences. It’s simplicity that gives your writing strength.
- The most powerful part of a sentence is the verb. Change it (just one word) and change the whole meaning – and feeling – of the sentence.
- Write a clear, attention grabbing headline – because people scan headlines to choose what to read on a page or a screen. Resist trying to be too clever or obscure – no one will read on to work out what it means.
- To encourage action and avoid confusion, state positively what you want someone to do. Stop using negative constructions using words such as don’t, can’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t. For example, replace “Don’t forget to …” with “Remember to …” instead.
- Read your piece aloud – if you stumble, re-work it for greater clarity.
- Set yourself a time limit and even use an alarm clock or set an alert on your computer or phone. For example, give yourself 30 minutes to write a news article … and your subconscious will deliver.
Jane honed her writing skills while working for brands such as Shell and Cable & Wireless and now runs her own marketing consultancy and training business in the Cotswolds, working with a wide range of businesses and teaching in a variety of settings. She is an active member of Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE).
As a writer, she handles long and short copy assignments, from publications to website copy and is lead tutor for ‘Writing for the Web’ and ‘Effective Blogging’ for the Henshall Centre, and teaches her own copywriting course “Learn how to write clear and engaging short copy”.