Writing Workout: How to Cut the Fat from Your Marketing Copy

Your Writing Workout-933718-edited.pngYou only have a few precious seconds to wake website visitors from their Google-induced slumber before they hit the back button. Your copy must wake them up. The fate of your business hangs precariously in the balance.

What do you do?

You know good writing when you see it. But what makes writing exceptional? How do you capture the attention of potential visitors before they click away forever?

The secret to good writing is not always what you put into it, but what you choose to leave out. With a little practice and experimentation, you can whip your marketing copy into shape.

Warmup with a Brain Dump

You can’t improve your writing if there’s nothing on the page. Begin by writing down everything you can think of, no matter how silly or incomplete. To get started, think of a recent win and what you said (or didn’t say) that helped close the deal.

Improve Your Form by Learning from the Masters

Search for similar examples that speak to you. Take note of their structure. Pay close attention to the headline, benefits and call-to-action. Copywriting students learn by copying sales letters from master copywriters by hand.

This practice isn’t about stealing, but uncovering tricks used by famous writers to create compelling copy. And it’s not just no-name wannabes who used this method. Renowned novelist Jack London copied the words of Rudyard Kipling.

After you’ve got the basics down, turn your brain dump into a readable piece of copy.

Turn Weak Language into Strong Phrases

By now you should have a working draft. But don’t hit publish just yet. Walk away for a day or two. Come back with a willingness to polish your copy until it gleams.

Let’s start with an example. Take a look at these two sentences.

Sentence #1: She came down the stairs quickly.

Sentence #2: She bolted down the stairs.

Which sentence is stronger?

The first sentence is adequate. But the second sentence sets the scene.

Without getting too technical, a clue to spot weaknesses in your writing is to look for adverbs. In the first sentence, the use of the word quickly (an adverb) means the first verb (came) wasn’t strong enough. By replacing the original verb with something more descriptive, you no longer need an adverb to prop it up.

Get Lean by Cutting the Length

In the book On Writing, Stephen King recommends all writers cut their first draft by 10%. When I was a new writer, I memorized the formula wrong and thought I had to remove half my first draft! Imagine my frustration.

But the experience taught me to spot my weaknesses. Everyone overuses a word that doesn’t belong. My culprit? The word “that.” Today I’m ruthless with my editing, cutting words and entire paragraphs.

Other wimpy words to remove include really, just and good.

Ernest Hemingway, arguably one of the greatest American writers, was a firm believer in giving minimal details. His Iceberg Theory advocates giving audiences little information, leaving their imaginations to fill in the details.

Transform Worn Clichés

There’s nothing clever about clichés. But you can revive an old phrase with a new twist. A great example is Tropicana’s “Feel Like a Billion” campaign. It’s amazing the difference a word can make.

Keep Paragraphs Short and Sentences Shorter

Attention spans are dwindling. Long-winded writers rarely make sales.

Short sentences are not weak. Carefully choosing your words shows you value your prospect’s time.

In addition to short sentences, use bullet points, boldface type and italics to get your point across. But don’t go crazy with it. Your readers will become distracted.

Use the Right Tools

Before you hit publish, run your writing through some online tools.

  • Hemingway checks your writing and highlights problem spots. Copy your writing directly into the app to uncover weak language, long sentences, and long paragraphs.
  • Grammarly highlights pesky grammar errors and suggests corrections. Install the Chrome extension to get suggestions directly in your browser as you type.

Cool-Down

Even if you hate to write, all it takes is a little time and a willingness to learn. By studying great writers and eliminating weak phrases, you can create great copy. You don’t need to be as eloquent as Shakespeare to create copy that gets attention.

Author Bio: Sharon McElwee is a writer in the nDash.co content community. To work with her, create a free account now.

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