We’ve all read really bad copy. We’ve all most likely also read plenty of great copy. But the funny thing about great copy is that you don’t tend to notice it, even AS you’re reading it.
There’s a reason for that. Because the purpose of great copy is to draw the reader’s attention to the thing that’s being written about, and not to the writing itself.
So before we look at the different types of copywriting, and ways to ensure that you’re writing GOOD copy, let’s take a moment to explore the elements of BAD copy.
Whenever badly written copy jumps out at you, it’s most likely because it contains one or more of the following elements:
- It’s too long. People don’t appreciate wordiness. When it comes to internet reading, most of us adopt the attention span of a butterfly. We want to get to the point already. Like, yesterday.
- It uses too many unusual words or awkward phrases. Good copy allows the eyes to glide effortlessly over the words, and doesn’t require too much mental processing.
- The text contains typos or punctuation errors. While copywriting doesn’t require strict adherence to the rules of style (more on that below), it is still extremely important not to allow sloppy writing. Most people are instantly turned off by this kind of carelessness.
- It doesn’t sound trustworthy. Trust is the number one thing a copywriter is trying to achieve with readers (aside from those oh-so-coveted conversions, of course). We’ll look in a moment at some effective ways to ensure that you’re creating that bond.
Let’s Look at The Different Types of Copy Writing
This is maybe the most common type of copy. This is what you find not only in ads, but in marketing emails, landing pages and product descriptions, to name just a few examples. It’s also the type of copy required for physical ad spaces like brochures or billboards, or even radio commercials.
Sales copy may seem simple, and it is, but it is deceptively difficult to write.
Here are some points to keep in mind when writing sales copy:
- Forget what you learned in English class about style rules. Writing ad copy is nothing like writing an essay or a book. Keep it brief, engaging, and informative. Short sentences. Plenty of good conversational flow. And lots of white space. All these things are acceptable and preferable in sales copy.
- But don’t forget proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. While there are plenty of rules that are broken for the sake of sales, nothing creates suspicion in readers like typos and misspelled words. Related to this is writing as though English is not your first language. Edit, edit, and edit again!
- Remember, the less attention you draw to your writing, the more you are able to spotlight whatever it is that you want to sell. Copywriting is not a great medium for showcasing your unique wordsmithing skills. Keep it simple. This is harder than you might think!
- Be careful with adjectives. But when you do use descriptive words, choose judiciously. Remember, we don’t want to make reading sales copy feel strenuous.
- Draw the reader in with your first sentence. This is where you really get to be creative. Because you aren’t trying to build suspense gradually with this kind of writing. If you don’t manage to grab them right away, your readers may abandon the page altogether.
- Know your audience. What sort of problems might they be having that can be solved with the goods or services you are selling? Let them know (without directly saying it) that you can be trusted to provide accurate information.
- Try to anticipate any questions or objections your reader may have, and offer solutions.
- Create a sense of urgency. There is a subtle art to this, because coming on too strong can break trust. But once you’ve established a call to action, it’s good to communicate that readers should act quickly.
- Keep it personal. Imagine that you’re selling to an audience of one, rather than a crowd. Studies have proven time and again that this one-to-one approach is far more effective than a one-to-all tone. However, unless you personally are the owner or CEO of company, avoid using the first person, as that can actually make you sound less genuine.
Original content is in high demand these days, and so are people who are able to produce it. This type of copy doesn’t really aim to sell anything. Rather, its purpose is to be informative and to create awareness. Blog posts, articles, tutorials, even videos, all these are great examples of content copy, and it requires a slightly different set of skills than sales copy, although most of the rules of sales copy apply to this kind of writing. Many writers find content creation to be less demanding than writing sales copy.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when creating content:
- Even though content posts and articles tend to be wordier than sales copy, we still want to maintain the reader’s attention. So we still need to keep it short, sweet and snappy. Resist the urge to be long winded. Even if you’re writing an 1800 word blog post.
- Utilize SEO. This means (more or less) anticipating which words you think people will type into the search bar to pull up your content in the search engines, and then using those words in the headings and subheadings of your articles. In other words, how is Google going to find your article that you worked so hard on? SEO (search engine optimization) is a major motivation for businesses to include original content in their site, so don’t overlook this important tool.
- Use numbered lists or bullet points to engage your readers and maintain interest.
- Avoid being to scholarly, or too dumbed-down. Not only does it make for boring reading, it can alienate your readers.
Other Types of Copy: Technical Writings and PR Materials
Some other, even less sales-oriented copy that writers may be asked to do include technical copy, and PR materials such as press releases. Examples of technical copy would be specific industry guides, employee manuals or authoritative reports. In both these instances, writers are called upon to employ their formal style skills, and should seek to be absolutely precise with punctuation and grammar. A thorough understanding of the information being presented is a must, so don’t attempt to do this type of project without doing your homework!
Many copywriters start out doing every type of project they can, but often writers will figure out what their strengths are until they find themselves focusing on one area of the spectrum. Regardless of where you find your niche, you really never know what you might end up doing from day to day. So be sure to keep sharpening those skills, and enjoy the ride!