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Is it copy writing or copywriting? And other FAQs answered

Read Time 17 mins | Written by: Sarah Poll

Most business owners today know that they need to be creating content that engages their audience both online as well as off. Copy writing or copywriting (as it is more commonly spelt in the industry), is the name for this writing skill that combines writing to a target audience with compelling the reader to take action.

In this article, we explain what copywriting is, explore what goes into writing copy and how to finesse your skills to best position your business.

Copy writing or copywriting: FAQs

Let's answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the art of copywriting:

Is copywriting one word or two?

The distinction between the correct spelling of 'copywriting' vs 'copy writing' is a fine one. If you're wondering is copywriting one word, the answer is generally yes. Both Collins and Cambridge dictionaries define the noun 'copywriter' as a single word, so it makes sense that the verb would be conflated the same in the same way.

However, you could argue the difference between basic copy writing and copywriting goes further - that copywriting is a craft and a profession rather than simply an act you do. 

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is the act of creating promotional materials such as advertisements, brochures and website content for businesses to use to help sell their products or services. It involves crafting persuasive copy that will appeal to customers and motivate them to take action. Copywriters must understand how to create compelling messages that will grab the readers attention and motivate them to take action.

Read More: The ultimate guide to persuasive copywriting

How to practise copywriting

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Professional copywriting requires you to develop a skillset that puts the reader’s emotions at the centre of your writing. It also includes learning techniques such as SEO-optimised language to help your content rank highly in searches. But of course, mastering these copywriting skills takes practice and staying power.

Whether you’re starting out in this field, have some level of experience, or are transferring from another writing discipline, it’s important to remember that there are certain secrets to developing the flair and style that will lead to the ultimate aim of your writing: to persuade the reader to take action.

Just like learning to drive a car or riding a bike, our muscle memory plays a key role in how we write copy. This is where practice comes in, and training the brain to approach copywriting using a set of principles that will eventually become second nature, will give you the discipline to succeed and develop those killer skills.

Essentially, you need to ask yourself whether you are simply writing copy for your website without much thought as to who the intended audience is, or whether you are committed to producing words that don’t just sell but also engage, inform and inspire.

When to use copywriting

Here are some instances when you can use copywriting to promote your business:

  • creating pages for a website
  • crafting an advertisement
  • putting together a brochure or pamphlet
  • writing product descriptions or packaging
  • creating email newsletters
  • sending direct mail to customers
  • writing scripts for videos or radio spots
  • putting out press releases
  • publishing white papers
  • creating social media posts 

How to start writing copy that converts

If you need a little guidance to get started, there are several ways you can craft and structure your copywriting to convert a casual browser into a customer. Follow these steps to develop your copywriting skills and create copy that converts and engages:

1. Tap into your audience’s pain points

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When you receive a copywriting brief, it’s up to you to make sure you clearly understand the details and ask questions if you’re unsure. This will help you research the target audience and tap into what makes them tick.

This may involve speaking to colleagues who have previously engaged with the intended audience or carrying out your own desk-based work to establish company objectives or financial information. This will support you in positioning your offering when it comes to copywriting.

If, for example, you’re crafting copy to engage business people to buy IT products, you need to work out what some of their current problems may be, and match up your products, services and expertise that you’re selling, in a way that solves their current issues.

This could be because they want a system with less infrastructure or maintenance required by their in-house IT department.

A simple formula for this is:

  • What is the feature that you’re selling?
  • How does this benefit the customer, i.e. solve their pain points?

From here, you can then wow them with the ultimate convincing reason to choose you and your products/services; the differentiator. Why should someone buy what you’re selling over your competitors? In the case of IT products, is this that they are the easiest to install on the market, meaning less disruption for those working for the company you’re selling to? Building trust in knowing what you’re talking about will create affinity and a strong reason to buy.

2. Use your inner critic as your own best friend

Writing to sell is fundamentally different from any other form of writing, as it has to resonate with the customer on a personal level. People buy people first and products second. If you can tailor your writing to develop an emotional link between your product and your audience, you can get them on side quickly and captivate their minds.

This is where your own self-censoring comes into play. Once you’ve written your copy, read it through with these points in mind:

  • Does this content create a rapport with the intended audience?
  • Would you buy these products/services based solely on this copy alone?

If the answer to either of these is ‘no’, go back and rethink how you can tap into the mind of the audience to greater effect. Does this mean creating more of an effective link between the audience and the people of your organisation? How can you sprinkle in a little more reassurance that your staff will solve your potential customers’ problems?

3. Picture the audience as one person, not a panel

It’s easier to sell to a single person, rather than a group of people. This is because it’ll focus your writing to make it seem like the copy is talking to one customer only. This technique will make them feel special and that you are there to support them exclusively.

4. Don’t leave room for confusion

The smaller the sentences, the better. Longer sentences can confuse people and can even result in contradictory messages. It’s a real skill to be able to write copy that explains concepts and ideas simply, rather than over-complicating them. Practise writing one sentence at a time. Read it out loud if it helps to refine what you’re trying to communicate.

5. Use the right language

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Knowing your intended audience and how they operate will propel your thinking when it comes to using the right style, tone and language to make a sale. Copy can be written well, but if it’s inappropriate for the intended audience, it will not only alienate the reader and could even damage your brand. Getting it right requires an understanding of what’s socially acceptable within the context of your audience.

A good example to illustrate this point is the use of humour. When used well and at the right time, humour can be a key tool when it comes to delivering a powerful message. Times when this is appropriate may be when selling consumer products to young adults.

The Got Milk range of adverts uses celebrities with the iconic milk moustache accompanied by copy that is both informative and funny. One of these adverts featured Kermit the Frog, with the slogan ‘milk isn’t just for tadpoles’. The effect of this line prompts a laugh but is also telling young adults that milk still has health benefits now, not just when they were kids, encouraging them to drink milk as part of a healthy diet.

Finally, perhaps the golden rule of copywriting; if it doesn’t sell, cut it out. There is a fine balance between telling enough of a story to get the audience’s attention, and including irrelevant details such as what you ate for lunch. The basic rule is that if it overcomes any objections to buying your service or product and builds a picture of trust with the reader, keep it. All the rest can be deleted. Executed well, effective copywriting should instil the reader with the impetus to act.

What is the difference between copywriting vs content writing?

As you might have guessed, copywriting is different to content writing in that it influences a specific target market to want to hear more details about a product or service, or inspires them to make a purchase.

Content writing is usually more editorial in nature, more detailed and sometimes has a journalistic tone. However, the two do cross over and often sit hand in hand, especially in the online world.

Image Credit

Main image credit: Daria Nepriakhina UA

Image credits: Kelly Sikkema, Sebastian Dumitru, Towfiqu barbhuiya 

Sarah Poll

A passionate and dynamic copywriting professional with 10 years experience in writing and editing bids, blog posts, news stories, feature articles and web copy. I have written for a range of clients in different sectors, from construction and landscape gardening, to wedding planning and beauty. I enjoy applying the right tone, impact and context to content when responding to briefs resulting in compelling content to effectively target your audience.