dcm design News April 2008 | Vol 6
This month's newsletter (sorry we are a little late!), our focus is on copy writing.
- Seven Steps to Writing Copy Your Market Will Actually Want to Read
- Tip of the month: Writing copy
- Inspiration: www.hathead.com
Seven Steps to Writing Copy Your Market Will Actually Want to Read
- Begin with a story — Always try to start your writing with an anecdote. This can be a story from one of your sources, a story from your company's history, even a theoretical story about an imaginary customer.
- Use short words — Always try to use one- and two-syllable words over three- and four-syllable ones. A few longer words are fine, but mostly aim for short.
- Write shorter sentences — Just as you should use short words, you should also use short sentences. This habit will turbo-charge your writing. Short sentences force you to marshal your thoughts. They expose the underlying weakness of any argument. They prevent so many sticky grammatical problems.
So, how short is short? Research into "readability" shows you should aim for an AVERAGE sentence length of about 14 words. Note the essential word "average." Some sentences should be really short. The previous sentence, for example, was just six words. But some should also be longer, so your stories don't sound like refugees from a grade 1 reader.
Long sentences are like salt and pepper on your meal. They are an accent, a seasoning. Without them, the food might be bland. But don't overuse them!
Remove clichés — Most marketing writing is larded with clichés? You know what I mean
- Think outside the box
- Roll out the red carpet
- Mad as a hatter
- Put your ducks in a row
- Make or break a situation
- Don't know which way to turn
Once upon a time, those expressions were fresh and carried meaning, but today they are dull and meaningless.
- Use bridges or connectors —
Bridges are the words, phrases and stylistic devices that help direct the reader through your article. Here is a list of bridging words you can use to help make your copy easier to read:
- Contrast: but, however, though, nevertheless, still, yet, on the other hand, conversely
- Comparison: likewise, similarly, as well, besides, also, too
- Example: specifically, for instance, here, there, for example, to illustrate, in fact
- Time: now, then, in the past, soon, later, after, meanwhile, following, preceding
- Sequence: first, second, third, next, last, finally
- Cause and effect: as a result, therefore, because, hence, thus, consequently, so
- Addition: moreover, furthermore, besides, in addition, also
- Use concrete examples rather than concepts — I read lots of e-zines and online newsletters, and I'm struck by how often writers obsess on concepts. You know what I mean: reliability, effectiveness, customer service, information overload. All of these things are important, worthy topics of course. But readers will have a hard time focusing on something that's so abstract.
Fortunately, this problem is easy to solve. Just bring your abstract idea to life by giving concrete examples. That is, write about a customer who had this problem. And show how you (or they) solved it.
If you're uncertain about how to incorporate anecdotes into your writing, get any self-help book out of the library and see how it's liberally peppered with stories about real people. It's no accident that these books are best-sellers. Treat them as swipe files—teaching you how to write lively, concrete, must-read copy.
- Pay attention to your verbs— To make your writing spring to life, try replacing "state of being" verbs—is, am, were, was, are, be, being, been—with true action verbs. (Use the search key—control + F—then type in "is" or "was" and whenever you find it, try to remove it.) For example: "XYZ cola is a drink that will give you energy" could become "Jolt your body alive with XYZ cola."
Daphne Gray-Grant , a former journalist, is a writing and editing coach with an international practice. She offers a free weekly e-zine called Power Writing. For more information, visit www.publicationcoach.com .
Tip of the month: Writing copy
How well does your copy flow? When writing copy for a brochure, press release or advertisement, you spend lots of time choosing the right words to convey your message. But Kelly Robbins of The Copywriting Institute says it's just as important to focus on how well you put those words together. To ensure your final product flows smoothly, Robbins recommends setting up a proofreading system that includes steps like these:
Print a draft of your copy and read it out loud. It might feel silly, but you're more likely to catch awkward phrasing or clunky transitions than if you read silently from a computer screen.
Ask someone to read your copy while you listen. "If there are areas where the reader unnaturally pauses or gets stuck and backs up to reread a section," says Robbins, "you need to go back to work on it."
Take a break. Put your draft on the shelf for a few days and focus on something else. And don't do mental rewrites. Stepping back will give you a fresh, more objective perspective.
Normally, hat head is something you want to avoid—to protect the buoyancy of your faux hawk or natural curls. But at HatHead.com you can ply your design skills for a chance at winning $250 without matting your treasured tresses. The site promises visitors the eventual opportunity to design a custom hat, vote for favorite designs and order up some creative headwear, but right now it's in the pre-launch phase … meaning you can be among the first to submit an original hat design for a chance at the cash prize. Look at it as one more shot to use your skills to pay the bills.
Till next time : )
Denise & Lesley