Write Excellent Copy By Learning From The Masters
Being a good writer isn’t just about perfect spelling or correct grammar, though they are important, it is about telling your story and having others read that story.
One of the most annoying and insulting things to hear when you write content for a living is that you’re not a ‘real writer’. Real writers write novels, not blog posts, apparently.
As a writer myself I have to say that’s rubbish.
A writer is someone who writes. It doesn’t matter what you are writing about – shoes, real life events, history, spark plugs – if you are putting words together into sentences that readers can understand, then you are a writer.
That being said, there is still a lot to learn about writing from those we consider ‘the professionals’.
Some of the most successful writers in history had to start somewhere and their advice can be your starting point.
“Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can”
– Neil Gaiman
Every article you write is a story. It doesn’t matter if its an opinion piece, a review or an anecdote; they are all stories in one way or another. When writing online content, always keep this in mind.
Your readers are looking for something – information, opinion, advice – and it is your job to offer it to them. Good stories will be repeated again and again as they are passed from one person to the next. Poor stories are discarded and forgotten.
When it comes to writing eCommerce copy, this quote reminds us that all articles, posts and blogs need to come from a real place. Don’t invent a story when an real one already exists.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot”
– Stephen King
The Master of the Macabre nails it right here. You cannot be a writer without being a reader as well. If you want to write great copy then you should be reading great copy.
It doesn’t even have to be articles about the subject you are writing about. Any kind of reading is good for you and will broaden your horizons in terms of language, vocabulary and pacing.
It is also good practice to read a lot when you are looking to come up with new content ideas. Look around and see what has already been written and where you can fill in the knowledge gaps.
“Every writer in the world has to use the characters that have something interesting about them”
– Roald Dahl
A little less obvious as some of our other quotes listed but equally important. What Mr Dahl is referring to is engaging your readers. No one wants to read a book about dull, uninteresting characters and the same rule is true with any online copy. If it is not interesting, then why are you writing it?
Dahl’s books in particular are crammed with weird and wonderful characters such as The Twits, Mr Fox and Willy Wonka – all memorable for their own distinctive quirks. It’s not just about the words, it’s about the imagery conjured up in our minds when we read.
When reading online, our eyes as well as our minds need to be engaged. When writing online this includes more than just text. It might be obvious to some but always try to break up your content with sub-headings, formatting and paragraphs. Put images in your content, but not just stock photos that have a thin link to your content. Take the time to find or create images and videos that add more layers to your content.
“There is no friend as loyal as a book”
– Ernest Hemingway
We all have a favourite book. The one that springs to mind whenever someone asks the question. For many, it is our anchor and our identification rolled into one. We use it to define ourselves to others, and gauge whether or not others share our interests or opinions. We even trust it to guide us, as some kind of tangible constant we can always rely on. Once written, books don’t change.
In the world of eCommerce, nothing is as important as trust. When customers are visiting your website to make a purchase, trust is a driving force behind their decision to click that ‘Buy’ button.
Building that trust takes time but once you become the ‘favourite’, whether you are a blog, eCommerce website or picture gallery, your readers will become as loyal to you as any book.
“I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write”
– J.K Rowling
Simply put, if you are going to write about something, you must have an investment in it. Readers are far more savvy than some writers give them credit for and they can tell early on if an article has been written half-heartedly. When you get the opportunity to write about something you are passionate about, take full advantage of it and show off your knowledge.
When writing about less enthralling subjects, just remember that your reader is still relying on you to give them the knowledge they are seeking so see it as a challenge to make your article the best one they will read. Once they know that you are to go-to source, they will return, and often they will bring others with them.
“A writer should have this little voice inside of you saying ‘tell the truth’, ‘reveal a few secrets here…'”
– Quentin Tarantino
As with many of Tarantino’s films, you may be asking ‘what does this mean exactly?’
Creating a piece of content that has never before seen the light of day is fairly impossible. With the internet, pretty much every subject on the planet has been written about in some form or another. So how can you make your article stand out?
Simple. Write in your own original style.
Everyone writes in a different way. Even if you write about the exact same topic as someone else, your writing styles will be unique to you. Don’t hide your individuality – embrace it!
Look at how your writing style differs from your colleagues or blogs you follow and identify what makes you unique. If you have a few industry secrets that others aren’t privy to, why not reveal some of them to draw in a curious audience?
“Excuse me, but ‘proactive’ and ‘paradigm’? Aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?”
– The Simpsons
So you want your marketing copy to be snackable, or be a successful newsjack, or maybe you think it will bring some customer-centricity to your client’s website?
Don’t pack your article with awful buzzwords that you picked up elsewhere. Use your own language and vocabulary to give your article its own voice without attempting to mimic others. You don’t need to invent fancy sounded words when existing ones will work just as well.