How to Improve Your Copywriting

improve copywritingA reader emailed me yesterday to ask for good resources to improve her writing.  Excellent request.  If you want to improve your copywriting, here’s my advice!

1.  Focus! What’s your point?  Stay with it!

2.  Show, don’t tell. Provide examples.  Your readers want proof.

3.  Be ruthless. Cut any word that you don’t need.  Your readers are busy, so bring your point to life as succinctly as possible.

This one takes practice.  Syntax Training offers a page of tips including a 70-word paragraph that has been slashed to 30.  And watch out for these common phrases:

Bland Better
for the purpose of for
the majority of most
in order to to
provide an introduction introduce
on a daily basis daily
on a regular basis routinely

Here’s another tip from Business Writing Tips:  try getting rid of the word “very” and convert the adjective it modifies to a stronger adjective.  You’ll also save a word in the process.

Bland Better
very small tiny, puny, compact
very hot torrid, scorching, sultry

Here’s their tip #326 (they have hundreds):  Don’t hide the action in your sentences by using nouns and adjectives.  Watch words ending in “ion,” “ment,” “ance,” “ence,” and “ing.”

Bland Better
His presentation produced a disappointed reaction among the clients. The presentation disappointed clients.
Programmers help from a system implementation perspective. Programmers help to implement systems.

4.  Follow important rules. Please make sure you’re using contractions, punctuation and sentence structure correctly.  Grammar mistakes hurt credibility.

Possession: We all see “it’s/its” and “you’re/your” misused every day.  Here’s an easy way to check for accuracy.

If you can say Use Else use
it is it’s its
you are you’re your

Here’s another one:  Do you know which version is correct?

A B
1 ifs, ands or, buts if’s, and’s, or but’s
2 in’s and out’s ins and outs
3 dos and donts dos and don’ts
4 pros and cons pro’s and con’s

(If you’re not sure, check your answers at Business Writing Tips.)

Passive vs active tense: Here’s another common mistake that dampens impact.  There’s an excellent overview at Syntax Training.

Passive Active Notes
The surface should be primed Prime the surface Readers need precise instructions
Your gift is appreciated We appreciate your gift “Is appreciated” sounds impersonal, whereas “We appreciate” feels warm.

Want more? Here are a few good books, blogs and sites:

 

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