Effective copywriting (the kind that motivates the action you want) is created in stages. 1) First, you brain dump and brainstorm. This is when you get information onto paper and turn it into meaningful knowledge. 2) Then, you write. 3) Finally, you edit. You might spend most of your time writing, editing and proofreading just before you move on to the next priority. In fact, editing is the stage that turns good copywriting into great copywriting. It also takes the longest to do well.
Good copywriting doesn’t use a single unnecessary word
When you write with brevity, you make your points quickly and shrewdly. But writing succinctly isn’t easy in the first draft – because you’re engaging your creative brain. It’s during the editing stage that you should cut the fat from your marketing copy, making your messages lean and clear. Use these simple editing tips:
1. Remove excess adjectives
Writing visual and descriptive copy is fun but it doesn’t help get your message across. Remove adjectives and superlatives that inflate your sentences. Use metaphors and similes sparsely to give them more impact.
2. Keep adverbs to a minimum
Adverbs modify an adjective, verb or another adverb, and they are prime candidates for your editing knife. Cut emphasisers such as “really”, “literally” and “simply”, amplifiers such as “completely”, “utterly”, “so” and “absolutely”, and downtoners like “kind of”, “sort of”, “almost” and “to some extent”. Does your copy have the same impact? I bet it does.
3. Simplify your language
Big words don’t make you look smarter or more professional. In fact, possibly the opposite! Simple language is clear language. That’s not to say you should cut all multisyllabic words from your marketing. There are many cases where a longer word is a more precise representation of an idea. Use language that is accurate, but as EB White says, “Use the smallest word that does the job.” Always choose clarity over cleverness. TIP: Read your copy aloud. If you wouldn’t use that language to explain your idea in a regular conversation, it can probably be simplified.
4. Watch your sentence lengths
Reading long sentences can be like holding your breath… it’s exhausting. Mixing sentence lengths will stop your copywriting from becoming monotonous. Short sentences give your words life and energy, making them more interesting and engaging to read. As a quick guide:
|8 or fewer words in each sentence……||Very easy to read|
|9 – 11 words in each sentence …………||Easy to read|
|12 – 14 words in each sentence ……….||Fairly easy to read|
|15 – 17 words in each sentence ……….||Standard to read|
|18 – 21 words in each sentence ……….||Fairly difficult to read|
|22 – 25 words in each sentence ……….||Difficult to read|
|26 – 30 words in each sentence ……….||Very difficult to read|
5. Use the ‘active voice’
‘Passive voice’ copywriting describes something that has been or will be done. It feels impersonal and indirect. ‘Active voice’ copywriting describes something that people are doing.
Passive: Your query will be addressed by our marketing manager.
Active: Our marketing manager will call you soon.
Make every word count
A great rule of editing is to make every word earn its place on the page. As you read through your copywriting, ask yourself, do I need this word? Will sentence still make sense? You’ll find that when you trim the excess from each sentence you’ll be left with messages with impact. Let’s look at a quick example using the first version of one of my opening sentences. “This is the time when you get lots of information out of your head and down onto paper and spend time turning it into meaningful knowledge you can use.” TIP: If you find yourself writing using the past tense, edit your copy to bring it into the present. That too creates more impact and helps make every word count.
The editing tool you’ve been waiting for
I recently found an editing tool called the Hemingway App. You can use the web version for free or download the desktop version for just $5. Paste in your writing to instantly see:
- Hard to read sentences
- Excessive adverbs
- Language that could be simplified
- The passive voice
You might not fix every instance but using the tips in this post with the Hemingway, you’ll be a lot closer to succinct copywriting that delivers results.