4 Habits that Morph You from Mediocre to Master Copywriter
Your English teachers were trying to be helpful… but forget everything they taught you.
Here comes some tough medicine—they’re just not into you. The hours, days, and minutes you labored to come up with that copywriting play on words that still makes you chuckle? Looks like it was dead on arrival.
Someone – and it wasn’t you – once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” It was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. If he were still around, he’d tell you his mantra also applies to your copywriting skills. He may also point you in the direction of another wise authority by the name of David Ogilvy. Ogilvy has four crucial tips on how to take your copywriting from cute to cutting edge.
OMG! Shame on you if you’re not familiar with David Ogilvy (we’ll award you some slack on Nietzsche, who was kind of creepy and had a really big mustache). As for David Ogilvy, though, he’s often referred to as “the father of advertising.”
Ogilvy is called this because he practically created modern advertising; at least up until the age of social media. His head would probably explode if you told him about the likes of modern media influencers like YouTube and Snapchat. The reason he’s so well-known is credited to his approach on writing. Check out his words of copywriting wisdom.
1. Write the way you talk—naturally
Your English teachers were trying to be helpful. Prepositions aren’t supposed to be at the end of a sentence. Don’t split infinitives—whatever those are. An educator’s goal is to show you how the rules of grammar give structure to written communication.
Even your English teachers didn’t speak the way they instructed you to write. So you hereby have permission to disregard most of what you learned in those classes. David Ogilvy put it this way: “I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.”
It doesn’t just apply to general copywriting. Target audiences have peculiar lexicons with words the average person would never use. If you want to tell a particular audience a riveting story, you’ll need to adopt their language; otherwise, you’ll come off as an outsider. You’ll be dismissed.
2. Find the story and tell it
Ogilvy was big on storytelling. Sales for clients have proved him right—Rolls Royce asked for a full-page ad. He came back to them with this headline: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the New Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.” Then he delivered a riveting story about a car so meticulously crafted that all you can hear while driving it the car’s clock! Read the copy. It’s a complete story.
These days, you may not be able to hold an audience’s attention for quite as long. Maybe people stop reading because the writing doesn’t keep their attention. But maybe we don’t need Adderall to focus; we just need better storytellers.
3. Use short words, sentences, and paragraphs
Does David Ogilvy contradict himself with that massive page of copywriting about some clock in a Rolls Royce? The way we speak today isn’t the same as it was in 1959. If you read the copy out loud, it rolls off your tongue in a conversational style—despite that we’re reading it a generation in the future.
If you want help with short/short/short suggestion, try out the Hemingway App. Good old Ernest was known for his understated writing style. This online tool helps you dispose of words that get in the way of your story.
You’ll find it useful, but keep your target audience in mind. They might like the adverbs this app advises you to remove. They may speak in sentences the app tells you to revise. But all-in-all, the tool can be very helpful. It can make your writing bold and clear. It is not a substitute for common sense.
4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You became a copywriter partly because you wanted to see your writing in print, online, or maybe even spoken by Brad Pitt, right? It’s a phenomenal way to grab a bit of fame and attention. Few people will adulate you because you use big words.
It IS possible to be hired because of the way you write, but it’s more likely you will be hired to do some copywriting. Check your ego at the keyboard then put on your big girl panties and get back in the kitchen. You’re on someone else’s time. They’ve got a particular audience in mind. You’ve got a story to tell.
Do your copywriting skills need some va-va-VOOM? Reach out to ContentBacon today. Our trained staff can guide you on the ‘write’ path to copywriting stardom!
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