Copywriting is dead. So says Tony Brignull, the most decorated copywriter in Britain, who took part in the documentary Madmen v Mavens in 2014.
Exploring the role of copywriting in the digital age and laying bare the opinions of industry veterans alongside the views of a handful of newer recruits, the short film offers an engaging insight into a trade that’s constantly evolving.
The old guard and the young blood have tremendous respect for the art of copywriting, but the two groups agree there’s a huge difference between the craftsmanship of the golden era and the pressures of modern day advertising.
This begs a question: is copywriting still relevant, and can it be crafted without sacrificing quality? To find out, we’ve put together ten nuggets of wisdom that can be used to write great copy – these inspiring words will help you become a better freelance writer.
1. ‘Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer’ – Shirley Polykoff
When writing your copy, start off by reminding yourself what it is you’re doing. Seeing your copy as part of a conversation will prove inherently valuable when working with clients and establishing the needs of your audience.
2. ‘Find the right solution to the original task’ – Sara Rotman
Following this advice is crucial if you want your copy to shine and get the job done.
It’s easy to get carried away on a tide of well-chosen words and snappy phrases, but that’s meaningless if your writing doesn’t correspond with what you’re hired to do.
Anchoring your copy to your brief will help you stick to the essentials and make sure your client’s voice really comes through.
3. ‘People don’t read ads. People read what interests them’ – Howard Gossage
Human interest is a vital component of great copy. If readers are bored or turned off by your writing, you’ll lose them quickly.
If you can get them hooked with the first sentence and appeal to their experience, you’ll succeed in holding their attention and sparking their curiosity.
4. ‘Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed’ – Ray Bradbury
The more copy you write, the better your copy will be.
Taking on a variety of jobs across different sectors will help you hone your skills and find your voice. Being able to adapt your writing to any tone or style improves your versatility and gives your copy the edge.
5. ‘There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before’ – Willa Cather
Finding the primal element at the heart of a product will strengthen your copy immeasurably. Writing that speaks to a universal truth is the secret to effective advertising.
6. ‘Write the best story that you can, and write it as straight as you can’ – Ernest Hemingway
Visualising your copy as a straight line from A (the product) to B (the customer) will help you narrow your focus and sharpen your writing. The best copy engages with an audience by telling them a story in the most direct way possible.
7. ‘Use words well enough’ – Hunter S. Thompson
Words are the nuts and bolts of copy, so use them economically to keep the mechanics of your sale to a minimum. Choosing the right words over the more words is what makes excellent copy.
8. ‘ [If] your jacket is blue, your shirt is blue and your tie is blue, that’s what’s wrong with your writing’ – Sol Stein
Exciting writing makes for exciting copy.
Strengthen the impact of your sale by paying attention to the ebb and flow of your writing as well as the structure and rhythm of your words. Variety will inject life into your copy and take it from dull to dynamic.
9. ‘Have the courage to test your assumption’ – Brian Tracy
Great copy is refined and revised in the same way a sculpture is carved. Meticulous and constant editing is an integral part of copywriting.
What you think is good can often be improved with a new angle or different perspective, and rigorous rewrites always lead to a stronger final draft.
10. ‘The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart’ – Maya Angelou
Words work best when they tap into the emotions of the reader. Writing that connects with an audience on a responsive level and is rooted in desire will guarantee striking, memorable copy.
Do you have a favourite quote that helps and inspires you on your journey to becoming a top-flight freelance writer? Let us know in the comments!