3 Crucial Copywriting Tips to Stand Out in a Crowded Field

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If I had a copywriting tips guide to follow when I landed my first job, it would have saved me a lot of suffering.

(Mum, dad . . . please look away now.) I’m afraid to say it, but my expensive university education and a degree in English didn’t prepare me to write words that sell.

When I finished school in 2001, I was lucky enough to land a copywriting job at a huge media company. And to be perfectly honest, I thought I’d find the job pretty straightforward.

But it wasn’t. Making the transition from writing academic papers to crafting commercial copy was really hard.

The truth: I used to be quite a horrible copywriter. And I don’t mind admitting it now.

I had to learn to write differently. I studied pro writers, copywriting tips, and the best ad copy. I tested and evaluated copywriting strategies to see what worked and what didn’t. I learned how to write words that sell.

Now, I’m keen on helping others make a living writing. These three copywriting tips will help you create better content.

Table of Contents 

3 Copywriting Tips to Craft Words That Sell

illustration of man with large pencil - copywriting tips

How did I go from writing about Shakespeare, the Victorian era, and Medieval literature to writing copy for well-known UK brands like Sky, Three, and Vodafone? I had plenty of bang-my-head-against-the-wall days trying to figure it out.

Fortunately, copywriting is a skill you can learn. And you don’t have to do it the hard way, like I did. These copywriting tips will help you.

Copywriting Tip #1: Use Conversational Language

Once upon a time, I read Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Now, if it’s writing advice you’re after, then this book is worth its weight in gold. Who better to turn to, than the king of the page-turners? (See what I did there?!)

I’ve always remembered King’s advice on vocabulary.

Many experts tell aspiring writers to “stick to what you know.” But King takes this a step further. He stresses the need to use the actual words we’d normally express in our everyday lives.

In other words, write what you know in the way that you speak. Or to say this another way, use a conversational style to write copy. Take a look at the best marketing campaigns today, and you’ll see lots of punchy, conversational language used to build brand awareness and generate sales.

I found King’s advice refreshing and comforting. Forced, stilted copywriting doesn’t work. But that’s what happened when I tried to apply all the formal rules of academic writing at my new job. This type of conformity doesn’t suit copywriting in the business world. Quite simply, conformity doesn’t always deliver results.

Essentially, the most powerful words aren’t the ones that get readers to reach for a dictionary. They’re the ones that are persuasive, impactful, and influential. That’s copywriting. Impressionable, expressive copy only comes through having the freedom to be yourself, take some chances, and be willing to make mistakes.


Though our current Freelance Writers Den bootcamp—all about improving your copywriting—is almost over, when you join the Den, you’ll get access to that course, as well as hundreds of hours of other trainings we’ve created over the years. Get on the waitlist today! 

 
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Copywriting Tip #2: Make a Good First Impression

Perhaps the earliest lesson I learned about copywriting in the business world is how the appearance of words plays a huge part in how effective they are.

Consider typography, for instance. Fonts are essentially clothes for your words. If you were heading out for an important meeting or a nerve-wracking first date, you’d consider what you were wearing.

After all, first impressions are important.

The same goes for your words, no matter what they need to achieve. You can review and improve your copywriting by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  • Does your work look text-heavy and intimidating, featuring long paragraphs and heady words?
  • Do you space out your sentences and allow for a fast, pleasurable read?
  • Do you vary the pace of your writing, mixing up longer and shorter sentences?
  • Do you use headings (and subheadings) in a way that keeps your readers reading?

Information overload is all around us. Serve up just about any piece of content these days, and people will be looking for a reason to bail out and do something else. You know your words have to work hard. Give them the chance to succeed and use copywriting strategies like shorter sentences, headings and subheads, bullet points, and questions to stimulate thought and engagement.

Copywriting Tip #3: Know Your Target Audience

The most successful businesses use copywriting to manipulate us in one way or another.

From well-positioned sweets at the grocery store check-out to the timely coupon in the mail, we may not even notice what they’re doing half the time.

While we’re all different, the human brain is actually pretty predictable. This really highlights the importance of copywriting.

No matter what objective your words are trying to achieve, understand your target audience. Get to know what makes them tick. What do they like? What sort of language do they use? Take the time to really understand your client and their audience, and your copywriting can make a big impact.

Master these copywriting tips, and you’ll scoop up more client work. The world of copywriting has changed quite a bit since the days of direct response, long-form sales letters and there’s a greater demand than ever before. Take some time to learn this new landscape, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Need help improving your copywriting skills? Let’s discuss in the comments.


Matt Press has been a copywriter for major UK brands including Sky, Three, and Vodafone. He’s on a mission to help small businesses with their marketing strategies.

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48 Comments

  1. Emmerey Rose

    Hi Carol! Very helpful tips you have here 🙂 I think writing a very intriguing and interesting intro would help as well. I was wondering, how long do you suggest an article should be?

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      As long as it needs to be, Emmerey, to convey the information — and no longer.

    • Emmerey Rose

      For SEO perspective, longer is better but on the other hand, readers prefer shorter and brief but direct to the point articles. Thanks for the tip Carol! I guess it should only be as long as how the message should be conveyed 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      That’s MY belief — how many blogs are you seeing out there with 2,000-word posts that as you scan them, could easily have been 1,000? That annoys readers. If you’re doing longform, it needs to DESERVE to be that long, in my view. Many long posts out there are transparent attempts to game Google by being long, but they don’t deliver any more value than a 500-word post…a strategy which I believe is going to hurt those blogs over time.

    • Firth McQuilliam

      Oh, well. I tried twice a day ago to reply to this comment, but the spam filter seems to have eaten both attempts for some reason. Perhaps it’s one of the words I used.

      Instead of the longer reply, I’ll just say, “Ditto. ‘Please keep it cogent and on-point, guys. Ain’t none of us getting any younger!'” ^_^

  2. Tom Andrews

    Your second point has got me thumping my keyboard in joy.

    How come?

    Because I recently had a bit of an argument with someone online about how the way your copy “looks” is vital. He said it didn’t matter, and how “ugly” might actually be better. I disagreed.

    Now, understand I’m not talking about pretty pictures or any of that rubbish.

    When I’m talking about “looks”, I’m talking about readability. One of the examples I used was to make sure you use short paragraphs and leave plenty of spaces so there’s a decent amount of white-space on the screen.

    His reasons were that in old newspaper direct-response ads that converted well, the font size could be tiny.

    I told him that’s different because the copywriter was working with limited space. When you MUST choose between the two, copy trumps the “look” of things.

    But when you’re writing online (or even a direct mail piece) where length of copy doesn’t matter, you’d almost be a fool to not make the layout of your copy look “easy” to read at first glance.

    After all, say I’m on Facebook and see a huge block of text that’s only one or two paragraphs, there’s no way I’m reading it.

    It hurts my eyes. And I don’t wanna hurt my eyes. (Well, I won’t be too bothered about my eyesight after Game of Thrones is over… I just need to make sure I see the rest of it before any blindness takes over – ha!)

    Thanks for a great read,

    Tom Andrews

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Tom, thanks for that. Yup, for sure. I can’t remember who said this, but I recall someone referencing bookshops when highlighting this concept.

      Pretend you’re in a bookshop and you pick up a book, right? If you quickly thumb through the pages, you can sense whether it’s going to be a hard read or not, just from looking at how big the font is and whether the lines are spaced out.

      This kind of thing puts people off. And if anything, as you say, appearance is even more important online.

  3. Nida Sea

    This is an excellent post! I’m always eager to learn more on copywriting. The human psychology factor I believe trips me up in my own copywriting. I sometimes over think it and put in too much or too little detail. What’s the best way to avoid that?

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hey Nida. Thanks – I would advise better defining your target audience perhaps? The more you know about your reader, the more confident you’ll be. To that end, I do think that copywriting is about combining creativity with data…

  4. Neal Eckert

    Hi Matt!

    Thanks for sharing from the trenches about what’s worked for you. I too have found that an education didn’t prepare me to write with “heart.” Correctness is one thing, heart is quite another. 🙂

    Here’s an aside: I don’t want to make this forum stray off course but I need some help. I’ve been doing a heavy dose of volume marketing with better results than I anticipated.

    I have one challenge, though. I want to sell clients on exactly what they need writing wise without selling them on what they don’t need.

    Carol, Matt, or anyone else, do you know of a crash course on how freelance writers can educate their clients about content marketing while keeping up on the latest trends?

    Maybe an older post on Make A Living Writing or a book or something? This is just one major thing I need to improve on and I haven’t found anything to fill that void. Your thoughts are much appreciated!

    Thanks again, Matt, for the helpful article!

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Neal. I don’t actually, so I’d be interested to hear of any suggestions. Having worked with clients of all sizes for a number of years, I definitely feel that people usually fall into one of two camps: those that know the value of content and those that don’t. There’s clearly a need to educate businesses who are aware of content marketing but don’t really understand the value of it (or how it works).

    • Neal Eckert

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matt. One thing that makes freelance writing so worthwhile for me is that there’s always something new to learn. As a staff writer, I felt majorly placed in a box. I don’t feel that way anymore.

      Best wishes in all your pursuits!

    • Carol Tice

      Neal, we have a content marketing bootcamp with top trainer Heather Lloyd Martin inside Freelance Writers Den that has terrific fundamentals, Make Money in Content Marketing — and we’ll be reopening the Den shortly for a new bootcamp on negotiating for better rates, Close the Sale, so you could get in the door, if you didn’t join in the last open.

      In general, if you’re having to educate your clients from scratch about the value of content marketing, they’re probably not the clients you want. Too much work. They should already fundamentally ‘get’ it. It’s great if you stay on top of trends and can give them tips on emerging best practices — you can only do that by reading widely at places like the Content Marketing Institute, Hubspot and Social Media Examiner. Subscribe to some newsletters — then you can seem like a genius when you give them a tip on better ways to do it. 😉

    • Neal Eckert

      Hi Carol!

      The Writer’s Den sounds like a great opportunity. It’s definitely something I want to check out in the future.

      Also, thanks for the other advice. I’ll check out the links/sites you mentioned. And I can see what you mean by not going too far to educate.

      Guess it would kinda be like a tackle shop targeting people who don’t fish hoping they’ll get interested instead of targeting those already immersed in the hobby.:)

      Your advice is much appreciated, Carol!

  5. Michael LaRocca

    I went through the same transition. I wrote the way I learned in AP English, and did it rather well, but the short story magazines didn’t want that type of writing.

    If one reader gives you some well-intentioned advice, you may be safe rejecting it as a difference of opinion. But if you hear it from two or more and don’t even pause to consider it, expect rejection letters. I got dozens. Maybe hundreds.

    Reply

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