How Not to Become a Copywriter


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Copywriting is a strange mix of art and science. Do more than what is required and you end up with a piece of junk. Do less and you have a good-enough vehicle that won't start. It can be terribly frustrating and there's a lot of tiptoeing you need to do, but hey, isn’t that what copywriters should do?

Here, to help some new ones and to remind some old ones, are tips and tricks that no copywriter worth his ink should do:

Put enough mystery to baffle your readers. It may seem like a good thing to do, to inject suspense into your writing, but some of the best clever stuff fall on deaf ears or for that matter, confused eyes. If it takes your readers more than a minute to get what you mean, you'll just frustrate them. They'll be off looking for another site that leaves little to the imagination, so to speak. If you're trying to write copy, leave the cryptic stuff for your future suspense novel where it will be put to better use.

Use clever words only when absolutely necessary. Or if they are part of the copywriting style you want to use for effect. Even then, use only one or two. Don’t expect your readers to know that Latin word you encountered in high school. Your readers are too busy looking for information to actually stop and look the word up in a dictionary.

Ignore the needs of your readers. As a copywriter, your main customer is your reader. If they say they want bagels, then give them bagels. Don’t give them crème brulee. Don’t even give them mousse. As a reader yourself, you know how frustrating it is to be led to believe one thing and then get another.

Require a translator. Overestimating your readers can also spell disaster. If you don’t work in the same frequency, there's no point for your reader to stay and read what you labored on for two weeks and a day. They'll just ignore your pearls for some plain but easy to digest peanuts. Horrifying, isn’t it? But it is a fact of life that some people just don’t have the patience for copywriting that may rock, but in a totally different solar system.

Write in a style and form that your readers don’t appreciate. Anyone who's had to write pieces for six-year-olds understands this completely. Believing that today's kids are smart enough to understand a Faulkner-like fable will not win you any fans. Well, maybe a few. Those six-year-olds who are members of Mensa.

Ignore the medium you are writing for. Writing general copy for a website is different from writing copy for a magazine like Time, for example. Take the subject of gardening. If you're writing for time, you will need to do intensive research on gardening, visit plots of land in Europe and America and maybe plant a few seeds yourself just to write about gardening and outline different styles that had an impact on that country's politics and economy.

If you're writing for a gardening website, it's different. You want your copy to be simple enough to encourage visitors to stay and read. Remember that they're always in a hurry, ready to jump to another site that offers a better option (and maybe better pictures). You'll need short but sweet sentences that say everything at a cursory glance. Concise is the order of the day.

Write and write and never review. Once the writing bug bites, the venom is lethal and fast. It is also highly unpredictable and could last for weeks and weeks to as little as a few hours. That's why we try to squeeze in as much writing as we can during the moment of inspiration. Never mind the grammar, I'll check the spelling later, don’t care if there's no comma there… later, later…

That's perfectly fine, until you forget to proofread. Proofreading yourself is like trying to find your flaws when you look like Brad Pitt. It's hard. But if you look closely enough, you'll find a few glitches here and there, some lines that are not supposed to be included, a few extra skin on the intro, some loose items… it could go on.

Try to proofread at least twice or thrice. If you can, proofread five times. You'll be surprised at how much you've missed and what you should have trimmed. Don’t be shy about it. Even the best writers do it and we all learn from the best.

Mario Churchill is a freelance author and has written over 200 articles on various subjects. For more information on copywriting or becoming a copywriter checkout his recommended websites.


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