10 tips for writing memorable copy

My clients sometimes assume that writing comes easily to me. They think that because I spend a lot of my time writing–whether it’s for a communications plan or copy for a new product or website–that words just magically appear on the virtual page like a flock of geese on a still pond. Well, it’s just not true. Even seasoned writers spend hours coming up with the right headline, the perfect slogan. Writing is hard work, yet I’ve found a few simple ways to improve my writing (and the writing of others) instantly without fussing too much. So, here’s the skinny on writing like you mean it.

1. Know your audience. This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people write something without first nailing down who it is they’re writing for. Getting this right will help you decide what tone you’ll use, and ultimately who’ll respond to your call or product.

2. Use shorter sentences in your copy. They carry more weight and you’re more likely to sustain your customer’s or member’s attention than with run-on sentences stuffed with several different ideas.

3. Don’t pile up your verbs in one sentence. Try to use them sparingly so that your sentences are clear. As an example, rather than saying, “Youth are encouraged to make an application to the summer program,” you might rather say, “Youth are encouraged to apply to the summer program.”

girl writing

Photo credit: Commmunicate-school.co.uk

4. Choose concrete, familiar words rather than abstract words. And, shorter is definitely better. For example, don’t write “There are myriad ways to communicate information.” Write instead, “There are many ways to share information.”

5. Start with the most important thing you need to say. Some people write as if there’s a drum roll leading up to the BIG thing. Instead, place the important information at the beginning of your sentence and the accompanying information can go after.

6. Make an emotional connection. To do this, you first have to know who you’re speaking to (see number 1. above). Use “you” in your copy if it’s appropriate. Cut down on the formalities and speak directly to your audience. What does your audience crave? What are their desires? Their worries? Speak directly to their dreams, concerns.

7. Don’t pad your copy with unnecessary information. There’s nothing worse than having to wade through copy to get to the gold nuggets. With every sentence you write, ask yourself if it supports your main points and holds value. If it doesn’t then hit “delete.”

8. Write like you’re communicating to a third grader or to Little Orphan Annie. Okay, so maybe she was a bit younger, but you get my point. Simple language with shorter words and a clear focus will be read more easily and by more people.

9. Cut down on jargon. For those of us who aren’t part of your specialized world, it can be very annoying, even alienating to read stuff we don’t understand. If you’re writing stuff for the mainstream then you need to keep your expert entomologist, neurosurgeon, nutritionist, tight rope walker or art thief in check.

10. Have fun. Yes, you heard me. I know it sounds strange to tell somebody to have fun writing something you have no choice to write. But trust me, if you’re enjoying the process, then that will show in your copy. You’ll engage your audience at a deeper level, which is ultimately what you want.

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