5 tips to take copywriting by the horns

3 min read
Jennifer Dunn

If you own a small business, you’re probably pretty good at doing it all. You answer the phone, box up products, send out invoices, attend trade shows — but when it’s time to write copy for your website, newsletter, or a promotional email, your courage fails you. It’s like facing a bull when you haven’t been trained as a matador.

Honestly, though, you don’t need professional writing experience to create basic online copy. Here are five fundamental tips for getting writing right:

1. Think, then write

One reason a blank page stares you down so easily is because you haven’t quite thought out what you want to say. Brainstorm ideas for the message you want to convey — just start jotting them down until you’ve exhausted your ideas — whittle your ideas down to a few strong points, and then organize them in a way that makes sense. Once you know exactly what you want to say and how you plan to spell it out, the actual writing is much easier.

2. Fire the big guns first

Readers these days tend to skim for highlights … so you want to make the real meat of your message jump out at them. Did your product win a best-in-class award from a well-known source? Was it mentioned on a local newscast? Don’t bury that kind of info into the last paragraph! Tell readers right away — in 25-point type.

3. Answer your readers’ questions

Ask yourself what you’d want to know if you were a customer. Would you wonder how long your product takes to work? What colors it comes in? What forms of payment you accept? What types of shipping you offer? These questions can seed your first FAQ. Answer each question in detail, and organize your points with bold headings so each reader can find their specific question with ease.

4. Write in plain English

Did you use words like “expedite” and “recalibrate” when you were in middle school? Ditch them for words like “quick” and “reset.” Use simple, short words to get your point across. Write like you speak, conversationally. In general, you want to write for an average third-grade comprehension level. No, I’m not kidding. Very few readers will whip out a dictionary when trying to make out your wordy website copy. It’s likely they’ll just click over to a clear, concise competitor instead. Here’s an awesome resource for calculating the readability of your copy. (This post scored at grade level 4.5 … probably because of that last sentence.)

5. Put headlines to work

As mentioned before, busy readers often scan a Web page or email before they decide to read it closely. That’s why your subject lines and headlines need to capture their attention. Use strong action verbs and, whenever possible, focus on benefits to the reader. This will draw them in.

Whether you’re writing welcome text for your website’s home page or a post for your business’s Facebook® page, use these tips and you’ll be swinging your cape at copywriting in no time.