What Makes Great Copywriting?

Between books, the Internet, flyers and much more, there is more copy out there today than ever before. However, not all of this copy is compelling or otherwise worth reading. Some copy even turns off its intended audience and completely fails to achieve its purpose. There are ways to avoid this. All it takes is knowing what makes great copywriting. Here are twenty characteristics of such copy, in no particular order:

  1. An Incredible Lead-In Sentence: Great copy is copy that people actually want to read, and nothing encourages people to pay attention to the written word more than an incredible lead-in sentence. Such opening sentences lay hold of readers and draw them in. Bold statements that evoke pleasant memories and humorous accounts or turns of phrase are some of the best lead-in sentences for copywriters to use.
  2. Understanding the Readers: Every piece of copy has an intended audience, and the copy will not be successful if it fails to connect with those readers. Addressing subjects that do not concern them, using language unfamiliar to the audience and other errors are sure signs that the writing will be ineffective in reaching its intended readers.
  3. A Compelling Headline: To get an audience to read the copy, a compelling headline is even more important than an incredible lead-in sentence. People might read a bit further than the lead-in sentence if it is not that strong, but they will certainly ignore a piece of copy altogether if it has an uninteresting headline.
  4. The Active Voice: While use of the passive voice is not grammatically wrong and may even be required at times, avoiding passive voice as much as possible should be one of the writer’s chief goals. Copywriting that mainly employs the active voice is sharp, not clunky, and readers will be glad to read it.
  5. Good Grammar: Good grammar is not an option in great copywriting. If commas are put in the wrong place, words are misspelled and other grammatical mistakes are made, readers will be put off by the sloppiness. Furthermore, they will be unable to understand the point that the author wants to make in the copy.
  6. Evidence of Research: Readers can figure out when writers do not really know what they are talking about, especially when those readers are familiar with the subject being addressed. The best writers research their topics as thoroughly as is necessary for the copy, and it shows in their writing.
  7. An Embrace of Simplification: Great copy is not simplistic, but it does not speak over the heads of the readers either. Particularly if the copy is intended for a broad audience, writers should avoid unfamiliar terminology, and they should strive to explain difficult concepts in an interesting and understandable manner.
  8. A Willingness to Tell a Story: Readers tend to respond better to personal copy that relates how a person or a group dealt with a problem that the audience shares. A simple listing of facts has its place, but using those facts to tell an engaging story is far more likely to draw readers in and retain their interest in the writing.
  9. Keeping it Short and to the Point: The direct approach is usually best in copywriting, especially when producing copy for the Internet. That is why great copywriting typically includes concise sentences and short paragraphs. Such things force the writer to address the problem in as few words as possible, and they make it easy for readers to skim the copy and decide if they should read it more closely.
  10. Avoiding Cleverness: Readers can tell when a writer is trying to be overly clever, and that can be a great turnoff. Great copywriting does not include forced cleverness. When it comes to sales copy in particular, readers will respond much better if the intent to sell is not hidden behind clever jargon.
  11. Focusing on Specifics: This goes hand in hand with the use of solid research techniques. Although copy that refers to the topic more generally is appropriate in many cases, the use of specific examples should be embraced as often as possible. Do not talk about a product or service in a general way; show examples of how it has helped people.
  12. A Conversational Style: As noted above, it is important to understand readers so that the copy will connect with them. But connecting with readers involves more than just understanding their wants and needs. The tone is important as well. A conversational tone that makes it sound as if the writer has walked in the shoes of the audience is a great way to increase interest and improve the readers’ experience with the copy.
  13. Repeatedly Emphasizing the Main Point: Meandering copy that does not seem focused on a main point will confuse readers, causing them to stop reading altogether or to come away perplexed as to what they should do with what they have read. Reminding the reader frequently of the main point and how the information presented supports it will keep the copy focused. Great copywriting does this without seeming overly repetitive.
  14. Not Being Overly Repetitive: Though the main point of the copy should be referred to again and again, readers will be bored if the writing is too repetitive. Great copywriting refers back to the main thought only as often as necessary, striking a balance between mentioning it too much and not mentioning it regularly enough. Great copywriting also avoids repeating the same words in close proximity to one another.
  15. The Use of a Thesaurus: In line with the importance of making sure copy is not repetitive, the willingness to use a thesaurus will improve any piece of copy. A thesaurus gives the writers alternate options for referring to the same topic and ideas, which keeps the copy from being overly repetitive and makes it far more interesting to the reader.
  16. A Sense of Humor: Great copywriting does not incorporate forced cleverness, but it is not devoid of humor either. Using humor at the appropriate places will make the copy far more entertaining, keep the reader engaged, and increase the odds that the audience will respond in the manner that the copywriter intends.
  17. Persuasive Speech: — Great copywriting does not just present the facts or a call to action; rather, it uses persuasive speech that naturally invites a response. Writers should strive always to persuade the readers to take the desired action. Sales copy that stresses the benefits of a product, how it meets a need and so on helps persuade readers to buy the good or service.
  18. Editing and Proofreading: Even the best writers need their work checked for grammar mistakes and to receive feedback on how the copy can be improved. Without editing and proofreading, the copy will likely be no better than average, but time spent to edit and proofread the copy will repay the effort with much better audience response.
  19. The Human Touch: Readers do not want to read something that sounds overly clinical; they respond much better to the human touch. Copy that sounds like it was written by an actual person and not a computer program is more compelling and enjoyable to the intended audience.
  20. Evidence That the Writer Had Fun: If a writer has had fun writing the copy, it will show in the final piece. The best copywriting comes from writers who enjoy the topics or products that they are writing about, so writers should strive to write on those things that interest them most.
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