Not only has the Internet got people reading more, but it’s also got people writing more. Nearly everyone has at least one social media account, and according to Social Pilot, Facebook users collectively send 150,000 messages every minute. Now that people have their own platforms, they feel compelled to speak from them – no matter whether it’s a small circle of friends they’re posting to, or the World Wide Web. We used to pick up the phone to speak to friends and colleagues, but now we’re more likely to send an instant message than an email. And as a result, we’re getting a lot of writing practice in.
For businesses tasked with fulfilling the never-ending requirement for new marketing copy, this poses a challenge. How can you hope to catch the eye of your would-be customers when in all likelihood they write as often as you do? And when they probably consume as much online material as you do? You no longer have the advantage over customers you once might have had when many people didn’t read or write as often and so were less familiar with the tricks of the trade. Now people aren’t limited to a daily paper anymore – they may follow multiple publications and businesses online and get their information from varied sources. As a result it has become harder to impress them!
Today’s consumers have seen it all – click-bait, rhetoric, infographics, wordplay; how can we hope to engage and impress them when they not only consume such content regularly but frequently produce it themselves?
Shaking up your approach to copy-writing
Sometimes when the competition gets tougher, we’re forced to up our own game – and this isn’t a bad thing. We all get stale, all become over-reliant on writing forms we’re comfortable with. So how can you make your copy stand out more? These three steps will help you to identify where you can improve:
- Reread the last five pieces of copy you produced, from email marketing campaigns to social media posts and web copy. What do you notice about them – are there any patterns in your style? Do you for example tend to make all of your headlines questions, or to over-exaggerate a topic in the intro? It’s easy to fall into repetitive habits especially when you’re producing masses of content around the clock.
- Once you’ve identified any patterns and habits you’ve fallen into, address the problem by turning that pattern on its head; for example if you’ve become reliant on writing ‘top ten’ listicles, in your next piece of copy try a return to forging strong weightier content. If on the other hand you typically tend towards writing block paragraphs, in your next piece try a new image-dense format with lots of sub-headers. While this approach of ‘opposites’ won’t always result in a piece of copy you’re entirely happy with it will shake you out of your writing rut.
- Try something completely different. There are hundreds of writing tricks out there, so don’t rely on the same tired old ones. Each time you read a really good article or advert, make a note of what it was you liked about it and experiment with the style yourself in your next piece of copy.
Here are just a few common writers’ tips and tricks that will help you to lift your copy out of its rut and stand out amongst the other copy out there:
- Varying sentence length to create rhythm and convey importance (shorter sentences can be used for dramatic impact, longer sentences to elaborate on ideas)
- Try the occasional rhyme in headlines
- Experiment with alliteration
- Begin with a question
- Begin with a statistic
- Begin with a famous quote
- Be brave with dramatic adjectives (but don’t overdo it!)
- Strip out adverbs – a good rule for any piece of copy
- Experiment with switching between narrative styles – i.e. first (‘I’) second ‘ you’ and third (‘they’ person) to see which produces the most powerful connection with a reader
- Use appropriate metaphors and other visual language
- Always use active voice – not only is it more interesting to read than passive voice, it’s far simpler and conveys your message more clearly, meaning happier readers.
- Do a really savage edit – remove all the unnecessary padding and see what you’re left with. It will probably be much shorter, stronger and compelling.
- Try using unusual words to pique the reader’s interest
These are just a few tips, there are lots more out there and the best way to find them is to read them in other people’s writing. So get reading and start experimenting!
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