5 Quick Ways to Improve your Copy
One thing I love about my job is the variety. Some days I’ll spend most of my time writing blog posts, while other days I’m interviewing for case studies, or writing web copy. This variety keeps me engaged, even when I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for hours.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of editing for many of my clients. In some ways, editing can be more difficult than writing. With writing, I’m doing the research and then my thoughts flow through my fingertips, into my keyboard, and onto my page. With editing however, I’m taking someone else’s thoughts, and often need to untangle these thoughts to get to the point and then change it in a way that keeps their voice, while making it more compelling and easier to read.
I love editing for different reasons though, and since I’m somewhat of a grammar junkie, it gives me a buzz to tidy up misspellings, add commas, and ensure that each sentence is in the correct tense.
As I was working on my last few editing projects, I began to notice a recurring theme throughout many of them. So if you’re a business owner and you write some of your own content, here are 5 quick ways to improve your copy:
1. Use Contractions
Many business owners grew up in a time where writing was more formal. Now, since most of what we read is on the web, we’re used to reading writing that’s conversational, informal, and breaks many of the classic grammar rules.
Contractions are a quick and easy way to take a stuffy page of writing and make it more accessible for the average reader. While this is a given with B2C copy, contractions are also becoming more expected for B2B writing as well. Since people are used to reading informal writing on the internet and elsewhere, when we come across “it is” in a sentence, it can actually make us “stumble” for a moment, and this distraction can pull us out of what we’re reading. Since the foundation of all good copy is to keep the reader engaged and interested, you can see why something as simple as a contraction can improve your copy significantly.
For every “it is”, switch to “it’s”, for every “you are”, switch to “you’re”, and when you read over your copy you’ll find that it has a better “flow”, is quicker and easier to read, and less formal.
2. Keep it Simple
It’s important to keep in mind that the average reading comprehension in the United States is at a 9th grade (15 years old) level. This isn’t just a reflection of the US education system, as more than 45% of Australians have below the minimum readings skills necessary to succeed in life and work.
Even disregarding these facts, we all enjoy reading writing that’s concise and simple, and the whole reason you’re writing for your audience is to convey your message. While it can be tempting to throw in some big words, you’ll have much better results if you write the way you speak, get to the point, and avoid using jargon or big words when you could easily use another, more common word.
Switch “utilise” for “use”, “terminate” for “end”, “ascertain” for “find out”, “commence” for “begin” “close proximity” for “near”, and “facilitate” for “help”. These are just a few examples, and you should always ask yourself if there’s a simple word or explaination that can fit in your sentence.
Another good way to keep it simple? Eliminate fluff. That means words like “really”, “very”, “rather”, and “little”. You’ll find that your writing sharpens significantly the moment you remove these qualifiers.
3. Ditch the Cliches
Cliches are the worst. Unfortunately, they often worm their way onto the page of even the best writer. Cliches are the phrases and terms that have been used so many times that they’re no longer effective or interesting. No one wants to read stale writing, so here are just a few cliches you should avoid:
- Easier said than done
- Last but not least
- Win-win situation
- At the end of the day
- A level playing field
- In this day and age
- The path of least resistance
- Avoid it like the plague
- Plenty of fish in the sea
- Low hanging fruit
4. Get to the Point
Remember when you were learning to write a paper in high school, and the teacher taught you that each paragraph needed a main point? While copywriting isn’t quite this strict, you still need to get to the point quickly. When I’m having a tough day writing, often I’ll get started with an article, and by the time I’m finished I realise I can cut the whole first paragraph, as it’s all fluff and I haven’t introduced my point to the reader.
Attention spans are shorter than ever, so you need to be able to grab your readers attention quickly, so they’re invested enough in your article, email, or case study to read through until the end.
One excellent tool I use for this is called Scapple. This mind mapping app is super helpful when I’m having a block, as I can create a bubble with my main point, and then create smaller bubbles leading off from this with quotes, arguements, more points, facts, and sources. This allows you to see at a glance how your piece of writing will all come together once you’re finished.
5. Edit Ruthlessly
I can be a bit long winded when I write, and often have to go back and “kill my darlings”. Usually I’ll put a project or other piece of writing aside for a day so I can come back and look at it with fresh eyes, but I find that even a few hours of working on something else can be enough of a break before the editing process.
First, look at the writing as a whole. Ignore any spelling mistakes or grammar issues for now, and analyse whether you got quickly to the point, and whether your readers will be engaged. This can sometimes mean whole sentences (sometimes huge chunks or paragraphs) will be deleted, but your writing will be better for it.
Next, read through your writing slowly, sentence by sentence. It can sometimes help to read aloud, particularly if you have a problem with knowing where to put your commas or full stops. Finally, use a grammar checker like Grammarly to grab anything you’ve missed.
Figure all of the above sounds like a lot of work? It is. If you don’t have the time to create compelling copy yourself, or you simply want to leave it in the hands of an expert, get in touch today and see how I can help.