While I don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to an expert in English grammar to be able to write effective and powerful copy, there are a few qualifications essential to powerful copy.
First and foremost, copy has to be focused.
- Focused on a well defined audience.
- Focused on a clear, simple message specifically for that audience.
- Focused on achieving a specifically defined result.
When we try to address everyone in general, we end up speaking to no one in particular.
The easiest way to write the kind of copy that produces measurable results is by following this simple procedure:
- Set aside time to work on the project. At least an hour or two.
- Do not allow yourself to be interrupted. Turn the telephone ringer off, close your door and take your email program off line. It’s essential that your train of thought is not interrupted, otherwise it’s inevitable that you WILL lose focus.
- Take a blank piece of paper and draw 3 circles on it. Make the circles large enough to write notes in.
- Circle 1: define your audience. How old are they? What do they do? Where do they live? Put in as much information as possible.
- Circle 2: What is the main message you want to convey to your audience? Usually this will be built around the primary benefit of your product or service.
- Circle 3: Once your audience has read the message, what do you want them to do and how will they do it? This needs to be spelled out clearly.
Once you’ve defined these parameters, it’s time to begin actually writing your message. An effective ways of doing this is to identify someone you know who fits the demographic profile of your specified market.
Then, imagine you’re sitting with this person in a relaxed setting. Perhaps you’re having coffee together at your favorite coffee shop. Imagine yourself telling them about your product and focusing on the message you want to convey – which will be the major benefit they’ll enjoy.
Write down how you imagine the conversation to go. Once you’ve done this, imagine the questions or objections this person may have. Answer them clearly. Then tell your friend what they need to do to own the product.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have the outline of a friendly, personal and persuasive message.
The next task is to edit for clarity and grammar. A few deviations from traditional grammar are fine if they enhance the sincerity of the message, but blatant mistakes will damage your credibility.
For instance, saying ‘you don’t got’ instead of ‘you don’t have’ doesn’t enhance the sincerity, it simply makes you look uneducated. Expletives also don’t enhance sincerity. Foul language makes you look crude. If you’re not sure about whether to use a phrase you might use in regular conversation, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to take the risk of sounding crass.
Having said that, keep your tone natural. ‘Speak’ in your own voice – just tidy it up a little. If your message begins to sound long winded or rambling, then edit.
Use the fewest possible words. For instance, if you’re selling real estate, you wan to avoid using flowery phrases such as one of the realtors in my city uses. His sales pitches have become a city-wide joke.
His ads frequently read something like this: “This splendiforous residence boasts ample, luxurious accomodation enhanced by exquisitely tasteful decor… from the lushly verdant gardens overflowing with flora…” I’m sure you get the idea.
Keep your copy simple and real. Write the way real people in your audience market speak. Minus the serious grammatical errors.
When you find yourself becoming verbose, examine the sentence and try to replace unwieldy phrases with either one or a few carefully chosen words. One accurate word will often suffice.
Get someone who fits your intended audience profile to read the finished copy. Ask them to tell you what it said to them. Listen to their perceptions. After you’ve asked a few people to read and comment on your copy, you’ll get a sense of the message they’re receiving versus the message you intended. Revise your copy accordingly.
Don’t get offended or try to explain what you really meant. Remember, you won’t be there to clarify your message to your readers. It has to be clear on the first read as you won’t have another opportunity.
If you feel you need a professional critiquing of your copy, I’m happy to help you. You can email me at email@example.com