Five steps to better copy
There’s nothing worse than a journalist or copywriter who gets on her high horse at the slightest mention of passive voice, meaningless business jargon or split infinitives. So forgive me in advance for this post.
Here are my top tips to take your copy up a notch:
1. Write drunk, edit sober. I stole this from Copyblogger.com. Figuratively speaking, it makes a lot of sense. While I don’t advocate spiking your morning coffee, I agree with the sentiment that first drafts should come from a place of uninhibited honesty and passion. Be real and enthusiastic, and give your copy some personality. You can always reel it in during the editing process.
2. Cut. Edit. Refine. Repeat. There’s a reason they call it word economy: If every word you kept cost you, you’d rethink your use of the phrase “innovative and cost-effective solutions.” And remember: Even the best writers need a really great editor/creative director to tell them when they’ve crossed over into wordy self-indulgence.
3. Simplify, de-jargonize. Come to think of it, get rid of anything with “ize.” You know what I’m talking about: utilize, incentivize, monetize, etc. Simpler synonyms are just as worthy. When it comes to leaning on other self-important business jargon, I’m as guilty as the next person; but I make a conscious effort to avoid it as much as possible, and you should too. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to lazy-sales-speak recovery.
4. Be active. Lots of people have trouble with passive voice, but chances are, most can tell which sentence is stronger:
- “The areas of practice served by the firm’s 75 attorneys include …”
- “The firm’s 75 attorneys serve several practice areas, including …”
The first sentence is passive voice, the second is active voice. Avoid the former at all costs.
5. Get to the point already. When it came to meeting those ridiculous length requirements for high school and college papers, no one filled up four double-spaced pages with fluff and repetition like I did. Old habits die hard—but it’s time to kill this one once and for all. With marketing copy, less is more, and the days of bloated, meandering paragraphs are long gone. Your new M.O.? Short, sweet and to the point.
There’s plenty more where that came from, but if you follow those tips, you’ll be well on your way to better copy. And for good measure, here are a couple sites that offer great writing tips: