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At Clearbox, everybody has their thing...and Amy Winter’s thing is writing.
Amy has a real knack for story telling, and acts as our registered writer, proofreader and novel-recommender.
Now let’s hear her top tips for being a good copywriter. Go on Amy, tell us!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: to be a good copywriter, you must be a reader.
Of course, there’s more to it than just consuming other people’s work, but I truly believe that you can’t become a better writer unless you read.
As with any skill, improving your writing takes work. But, with enough time and thought, there’s no reason why you can’t boost your ability to eloquently put pen to paper.
With that in mind, as someone with a few thousand words under her belt in her career already, here are five of my top tips for copywriting success.
You might think I’m being sassy with my suggestions so far, but you can’t be a copywriter, or become one, unless you write.
We all have a fear of the blank page, so adding some marks to it by writing down the first things that come to mind for your task – whether they end up being useful or not – is an excellent place to start. Your sentences don’t need to be coherent from the get-go, or your ideas fully formed and revolutionary, they just need to be there.
Once you’ve put everything you think might be helpful on paper, then the page is no longer blank, and you can start arranging your copy into something meaningful.
2. Think about your audience
One of the most important skills of being a copywriter is knowing the audience you’re writing for. When it comes to writing at a PR agency, dealing with multiple clients across varying projects, it’s important to switch up your tone of voice and style for each piece of copy.
LinkedIn articles look and sounds different to consumer-focused press releases, for instance, and each of these look different depending on the story and the individual author.
Social media asks for short, snappy captions, whilst an annual report requires stats, quotes and explanation – and both require thought.
Think about where you’re putting exclamation points and if they’re appropriate, and think about the language you associate with each group of people you’re trying to reach. Your copy will land better if cater it for its readers.
3. Watch your spelling, punctuation, and grammar (and make the most of a second set of eyes)
It goes without saying, but good writing is well written.
I’m okay at writing, but I’m excellent at typos. Even if I’m taking care with spelling, punctuation and grammar and want to get things right, sometimes I don’t.
Commonly, we read what we think we’ve written, not what we have. This means that it’s very easy to miss typos in our own work, particularly if there are patterns of pitfalls that we accidentally ignore.
It’s also important to be consistent with the particulars of grammar. For instance, I’m a big fan of an Oxford comma. If I use an Oxford comma once in my writing, then I need to use it every time. If you don’t, then don’t. The same goes with using British English or American English. Consistency is key.
Another human’s eyes are your greatest tool for spotting mistakes in your writing and helping you make sense of your work. If another person can understand your copy, the rest of your readers likely will too.
Be aware: Word’s ‘Spelling and Grammar’ tool can’t always be trusted. If you’ve made a mistake in a capitalised word, it won’t recognise it, nor will it spot words that are accidentally typed in the wrong place.
1. Less is more
Do you ever look up a recipe for ‘quick weeknight meals’ and find a dish that sounds delicious on a website called ‘yummymummy400’? Then, when trying to find the recipe method, you’re required to scroll through a brief memoir of yummymummy’s life?
Clearly, yummymummy400 is trying to hit those SEO keywords (and succeeded, since we found the recipe), but realistically, all we wanted was the method.
If you can say less, say less. Leave out weasel words and simply say what you mean.
‘Here she goes again’, you say, but the first and foremost tip I’d give to aspiring copywriters is to first be readers (the irony of this tip being fifth on the list isn’t lost on me).
Reading expands our vocabularies and subconsciously shows us how to craft stories. By reading books and copy you like – and books and copy you don’t – it become easier to figure out how you would like your writing to sound.
Books open our minds to creativity. They’re windows to other worlds that help us explore the thoughts and feelings of people who aren’t like us, leading to greater empathy and understanding.
If books aren’t your thing, then read the news and dissect how articles have been constructed, or try to understand why the words your favourite brand posts on Instagram make you loyal to it. There’s plenty of well written copy in the world outside of the library – all I ask is that you read it.
And there we have it, my top tips for becoming a better copywriter. I don’t believe for a minute that ChatGPT is coming for our jobs.
Have any of these tips been helpful? And what are your top tips for using your words? Let us know.
What to know what I’ve been reading lately?
Lanark by Alasdair Gray
The Guardian’s excellent longform articles, including this one about the world’s best cliff diver, Gary Hunt
Granta 162: Definitive Narratives of Escape
Oatly’s Instagram captions
Reviews of The 1975’s latest live show