The Ultimate Guide to Great Copy

February 7, 2023

Writing good content isn’t an easy feat, but it doesn’t have to be hard, either. Whether you’re writing to dog lovers, coffee fiends, or corporate clients, your copy has to tell a story that speaks straight to them. There are a few things you want to keep in mind when you write great copy that’s exciting, intriguing, and converts. There’s no silver bullet for creating amazing content, but there are some important rules to follow if you’re trying to write successful copy and if you follow this ultimate guide to great copy, you’ll be well on your way!

Always ask “why” before you start.

If you don’t know why you’re doing it, you can’t do it right.
Why are you writing this content?
Why is there a need for this content?
You’ll find there are a lot of “why” questions when you write, but without asking them you can’t create the right copy for the situation.

Don’t write for SEO.

This can be controversial, but it’s the way we operate here.

The most important thing to remember is that we’re here to tell stories. First and foremost. Sometimes, SEO can make that storytelling a challenge. What we do to remedy this is to tell the story first and to work on the SEO second. It’s crucial to write with SEO best practices in mind, but don’t let them bog you down. Don’t let SEO keywords negatively impact the way you tell your story.

You need to edit more than you think.

You might not think your work needs a second glance, but it does. And believe it or not, everyone’s work does.
One of the biggest hurdles of good writing is working through bad writing, and bad writing is something that everyone does at one point or another. It’s likely that most of us write poorly more often than we write well, but that doesn’t mean our writing can’t reach a great point – it takes a little extra work and refinement.

The words “very” and “get” are useless.

Mark Twain once said, “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
While we don’t recommend leaving it all to your editor, we do recommend eradicating those useless words from your copy. It makes your phrases snappier and more interesting. “I need to get some food,” reads differently than “I need to pick up a burger,” just as “I’m very happy” reads differently than “I’m ecstatic!”

There’s always a better way to write it.

Avoid passive voice.

Writing in active voice keeps readers engaged. It makes sentences a little clearer and easier to follow which means your readers won’t disengage or click away. Active voice also helps to keep you from being too wordy so you can get straight to the point.

Use contractions to add personality.

There’s no reason to avoid contractions! Dropping contractions from your copy can often make it read as stilted or uncomfortable. When we speak, we use contractions, and our copy should reflect the way we speak.

Don’t shy away from the negative or the uncomfortable.

There’s a lot in the negative and the sad that we can use for great copy. And the negative and sad can often make some pretty uplifting work.
Consider the 1970s classic “Crying Indian” ad. The message behind the ad was devastating and that copy was incredibly effective in promoting more involvement in environmental clean-up efforts. Beyond that, it changed the face of marketing.

Consider odd places for inspiration.

The back cover of books, or the inside flaps, are some pretty powerful examples of copy. The writers of that copy have to synthesize an entire book down into something that’s easily digestible and still exciting enough to get a customer to buy it.

Write for your audience.

You’ve got to keep your audience in mind as you write. If you’re writing to third-grade English teachers, you probably want to write in a conversationally professional tone, but nothing too stuffy. If you’re writing to Starbucks baristas, you might take a much more conversational and “hip” tone. If you’re writing to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you should write something in a professional tone.

Write the way you speak.

Consider your writing to be a conversation between yourself and your audience. You don’t want to write something too stilted or dry. Your writing should flow like easy conversation.
It can help to read your copy out loud to see what it sounds like outside of your own head.

Don’t forget to educate.

Your goal should always be to educate your audience. Whether you’re giving them new facts or telling them all about your product, your goal should be to let them know something that they didn’t know before.

Don’t ever stop learning.

The worst thing a copywriter could do for themselves is to think that they’ve learned all they need to know. You’ve got to continue to educate yourself. Whether you take copywriting courses or just scroll YouTube for videos, self-education is the key to staying successful as a copywriter.

Remember that every word counts.

There’s not a single word on the page that doesn’t matter, and it’s crucial that you never forget it. The audience knows when a word is misplaced or doesn’t quite fit in the sentence, so you’ve got to pay attention to each one you write.

“Kill your darlings.”

Sure, you love writing “and so,” at the beginning of a sentence, it’s your favorite thing! But it makes boring copy when it’s repeated throughout the content. Find a better, stronger way to say what you mean.
Of course, we’re not suggesting that you get rid of the tried-and-true conjunctions like “and” or “but,” when appropriate, but do try and stretch further and challenge your writing norms when you notice yourself using the same tried-and-true phrase again and again.

Never forget why you’re writing.

Your intention should be obvious throughout your content. There shouldn’t be any point when your reader doubts why they’re reading and what they’re reading.

 

Even when you follow all these guidelines, writing copy can still be more than you want to handle. That’s where OneHum comes in. We’re a full-service marketing agency designed to do the work for you across every medium. Our copywriters pride themselves on creating powerful copy that brings in consumers and converts those clicks to dollars.

Let us know what part of copywriting you struggle with below!

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