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Copywriting – when pictures aren’t enough!

You’ve arrived at work having mentally prepared yourself for the challenges ahead, when your boss comes into the office and asks you to urgently compile an article for last minute inclusion in a magazine. We’ve all been there haven’t we? Thankfully in situations like this, your boss has most likely given you the subject content and the word count to help you on your way. If that’s not the case, writing prose for a deadline whilst making it entertaining, We get the message...just.informative and devoid of errors can often be a challenge for many.

Personally, I’m not a full-time copywriter, but as a marketing professional I am expected to craft stories on behalf of clients that read with more than a modicum of sense. Of course, it helps to know your subject, but that’s not essential today with invaluable resources available such as ‘Google’. It’s amazing how much research can be conducted from a desk, just don’t expect that everything published on the web is wholly accurate; make time to cross-check your sources before publishing and never become tempted to cut ‘n’ paste others content (plagiarism) unless you’re going to give them full credit for the piece.

Then of course there’s the type of media you’re writing for. I’ve noticed that there are far fewer errors in printed articles as there are on the internet. I suspect this is simply down to the perception of risk, because when an item requires printing there is always a financial cost associated with it. Add to this the delays that can be caused as a result of a ‘typo’ and the writers’ pressure can vary from a simple awareness, right through to increased anxiety!  This is often enough to ‘encourage’ the author to thoroughly check content (often with the help of a second pair of eyes).

I recently attended a CPD (Continual Professional Development) event through the Chartered Institute of Marketing to hear the thoughts of a professional in this area, Richard Groom of Peterborough Copywriting Bureau. Richard gave several excellent tips which I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing with you today.

Here are just three;-

  1. When starting to compile your content simply dump your thoughts down in your first draft and don’t get too alarmed if this doesn’t read as well as you would hope. Then go through your content again highlighting the words that are crucial to your piece. You’ll probably find that all the extra content is superfluous. Then re-structure the remaining content adding very little. Remember, you’re aiming for people read it, so don’t put them off by saying more than is necessary. I’ve shown an example of this further down to highlight this point.
  2. Using the copy that remains you can then improve the potential for it to be either read in full, or for the key elements to gleaned by placing some copy in bold (particularly titles and sub-titles), indent paragraphs, use italics and add bullet points (but only where appropriate to do so).  If you keep a firm focus on where the piece will appear and who its being written for you’ll find this helps too.
  3. After you’ve reached a phase where you are happy with the article, check it carefully. The best way to do this is to first check the titles, then the sub-headings, then the content and finally any bullet points. Doing it this way helps you maintain a focus.And one from me. Carefully check spellings remembering that there are many cases where the spelling will be correct, but the word has been used in the wrong context. Topically, even the title of this article could cause some embarrassment, such as the use of the word copyright and recently I had an email from one of our graphic designers who emailed me with his ‘first draught!’

In point 1 above I mentioned Richard’s tip for highlighting the crucial copy worthy of retention. Here is what Richard was referring to using a piece I received from my local Chamber of Commerce. The first paragraph of this verbiage read;

Ms A B is Operations Director of ‘XYZ’, a family run exhibitions company, that provide global event solutions that start with compelling concepts which are translated into innovative exhibition stands that engage and excite audiences and deliver outstanding success for their clients’.  

Perhaps, ‘Ms A B is Operations Director of ‘XYZ’, a family run, global event solutions company that delivers exciting, innovative and successful exhibition stands ’. Nearly half the words, with more than twice the value, which suggests that the copywriter has achieved perfection, not when there’s more to add, but when there’s nothing else to remove?

In this day and age companies no longer sell, customers buy, so its important your copy works for you and not against you.So the next time your boss asks you to compile an article, remember that according to Richard, 70% of people don’t trust those with poor grammar, and 30% refuse to buy from them!

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