How to Develop the Best Copywriting Habits
- by Alyson Shane
Being a writer is hard work.
Writing, like a lot of jobs in creative fields, isn't something that we can do day in and day out without developing a healthy habit (or habits) that allow us to flex our creative muscles while staying on-brand and not burning ourselves out.
If you've ever sat down with the intention of working on a project and found that no matter what you do, the words just don't flow... then this is the post for you.
Whether you spend your days writing web copy, blog posts and newsletters, social media content, or a sales page, these tips will help you develop the best copywriting habits so you can crank out high-quality copy every time you sit down to write:
Don't Get Too Hung Up on the Headline
Writing good headlines is hard.
Unfortunately, the struggle to write headlines that grab attention and generate the click-throughs we're aiming for as marketers can suck the wind out of the sails of even the most creative copywriters.
Instead, start by writing a draft headline - no matter how vague or bland - and get it out of the way before diving into developing the body text for your piece.
Doing this step gives your mind a mental break, and creates space in your creative process for you to "chew on" the headline as you're developing the rest of the copy. And, generally speaking, it tends to yield more creative and interesting results because you're removing the pressure that's likely keeping you from writing your best copy.
If you're still stuck, use Coschedule's Headline Analyzer tool.
Keep Intro Sentences Short and Sweet
In the Oxford Guide To Plain English, Martin Cutts suggests: “Over the whole document, make the average sentence length 15-20 words.”
As any writer knows, this is often easier than it sounds. But putting in the effort to keep your sentences short can make a big difference in whether or not your reader decided to stick around to read everything you have to say.
This, by the way, makes a huge difference in your website's bounce rate (the percentage of visitors to your website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page) because if the website feels like a chore to explore, people will leave.
Here's why this works:
1. Huge sentences and large words remind people of reading textbooks. Most academic reads are dry and uninspiring. Don't give your readers a reason to assume your copy will be by formatting it in hard-to-understand language and huge blocks of text.
2. Clear, shorter sentences make your copy easy to understand and apply. This is especially important for web copy, blog posts, and any resources (ebooks, etc.) you create. Make the learning process as simple and easy to understand as possible.
3. Short copy reads better on mobile. Mobile will likely account for a full 2/3 of all traffic by the end of 2018, so keep smaller screens and narrower fields of view in mind when writing your copy. Keep paragraphs short, and sentences even shorter.
Rewrite When It Doesn't Feel Right
Writing under pressure is tough. Multiple deadlines, writing to keywords, maintaining a consistent voice and tone while keeping things clear... it's tough, but that's no excuse to start slacking off on your rewrites.
You know: when you're proofreading something you've written and you realize that something in the sentence isn't sitting right. It feels a bit sloppy, maybe, or unfinished.
It happens to all of us from time to time, and one of the best habits you can develop is to take a moment to revisit it and rework something that doesn't feel right.
Trim Your Copy
This comes back to short sentences and paragraphs. Once you've written a snappy draft, go through and cut out as many unnecessary words as possible. Be brutal if you need to.
Cutting words out of your text dramatically improves clarity, and looks better on mobile, so the more you trim the clearer your copy will be.
Struggling to cut out the chaff in your copy? Use the Hemingway Editor.
Don't Pigeonhole Yourself Creatively
One of the easiest ways to become a horrible writer is to write things you don't care about.
The easiest way to write about the things you care about is to find ways to write about that thing.
This may mean pursuing specific kinds of clients, writing a blog, finding opportunities to get published in an online magazine... there are lots of ways to flex your creative muscles when it comes to your writing.
Even better: challenging yourself to write in different contexts will make you super-adaptable, making you a faster and more capable copywriter.
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