If you've ever wondered how to be a great copywriter, then it takes impeccable English language skills, attention to detail and a dedication to constantly improve yourself. Copywriting skills aren’t solely honed by the aforementioned trio of objectives, but once you have those down to a tee, you will be well on your way.
Thankfully, the world of copywriting is an inclusive one – the necessary skills can be learned and improved upon over time. From the perspective of each individual writer, a willingness to put in the time and dedication needed to improve is vital. In the same way that sports stars will only reach the elite level of their industry through constant practice, writers must be willing to how to improve copywriting skills every day.
6 rules to follow to develop killer copywriting skills
Even when you feel you’re at the top of your game, keep trying to improve. Remember, the pursuit of excellence is not a destination – it’s a never-ending journey. Here are six copywriting rules that will help you hone your skills:
1. Nail grammar and spelling or your article will look a mess
In simple terms, make sure that your grammar and spelling is in order. If you have been tasked with constructing a piece of copy on behalf of a brand or organisation, your grammar and spelling needs to be perfect. This is non-negotiable.
In 2003, Lynne Truss authored a magnificent book about the importance of grammar and punctuation. ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ remains an outstanding reference, many years after it was written.
Knowing when and where to position an apostrophe might sound basic, but the internet is flooded with ill-placed apostrophes. The same goes for commas, semi-colons and inverted commas. Don’t fall into the trap. When honing your copywriting skills, always remember that you’re better off knowing your s**t, instead of knowing you’re s**t.
2. Curiosity killed the cat, but it kept the copywriter in gainful employment
In many ways, the job of the copywriter is similar to that of a newspaper journalist. Journalists, however, benefit from having their articles looked over by sub-editors, while copywriters are expected to be strong writers and sub-editors rolled into one.
All of the best journalists have reached the top of their profession because they are supremely talented. However, talent alone is not enough. A curious and inquisitive mind is an asset that will take you very far in the world of journalism AND copywriting.
As a copywriter, you are unlikely to be sent on a risky assignment to a war-torn country. Much of your work can be carried out from your living room while wearing your pyjamas. However, that is not to say that you should be any less enthusiastic about it. Even if you are being tasked to write about something mundane like, for example, a paint chart, researching the history of paint will provide you with fresh angles to enhance your copy.
Example: “Did you know that the earliest evidence of decorative paint dates back to caves in South Africa from 100,000 years? We can’t guarantee you that our paint will last that long, but we can promise that it will add great vibrancy to your living quarters.”
Vikki Ross is a major player in the copywriting industry who knows all about the importance of finding a fresh angle. Follow Vikki, and others like her, on Twitter.
3. Entertain and engage your reader
This follows on perfectly from the previous point. You won’t always be given an assignment that is particularly exciting, but it’s still your job to make it appear as exciting as possible. This can be achieved through an engaging and snappy style of writing that employs the use of puns and the odd play on words, where appropriate.
The stronger your command of English, and the broader your vocabulary, the more entertaining your style of writing is bound to be.
Clare Barry is a pro in the copywriting field, and her tweets on all matters relating to copywriting are well worth reading.
4. Avoid repetition and find something new to say
There are more than 200,000 words in the English language and, with such a wealth of choice, there is no excuse for repeating the same words throughout the text. Whether you’re writing a piece of copy that is a few hundred words long or a few thousand words, repetition must be avoided.
Instead of constantly referring to a food product as “tasty”, expand your horizons with descriptions such as “mouth-watering” and “finger-licking”. It’s simple but effective. An extensive vocabulary is a major tool for a copywriter, so avoid repetition by making sure your toolbox is overflowing with engaging words.
Networking and building contacts are important in any industry. Before even building a contact, arm yourself with the knowledge of who the influencers are in the business. Follow the likes of Adam Lowe and Brooke Preston on Twitter.
5. Read for enjoyment, not just for work
If you plan to become a respected copywriter, read at every opportunity. Whether this involves reading novels or journalistic features, fill your spare time with reading.
It is through reading that you will not only expand your vocabulary but also become influenced by writing styles, which will lead to you improving your copywriting skills. When somebody pays you a compliment by saying you have a nice turn of phrase, take pride in the knowledge that you’re making real progress.
All writers of substance have been influenced by other writers, and you should be no different. You’re not striving to be William Shakespeare, but you should be setting yourself the target of being the best copywriter you can possibly be. Bradley Williams has put together a highly relevant piece on 6 examples of great copywriting, which is well worth familiarising yourself with.
6. Embrace the potential of social media
Social media is a major tool that you can’t be without. If Twitter is not your thing, make it your thing, because there are a number of influential people in the world of copywriting who are active on Twitter. Follow them and even engage with them. Start yourself off by following ProCopywriters, Hannah Vickers, Kayla Hollatz, Dan Brotzel and Josh Garofalo.
LinkedIn is another great platform for aspiring writers because you can post your insights and projects to professionals and find new opportunities. Become a better copywriter by being active on social media and growing your professional reputation and network.
Main image credit: Gary Butterfield