How can you evaluate the quality of your writing?
Good copy increases conversion rates, leaves a positive and memorable impression on readers and places you at an advantage to your competitors.
You may know brilliant copy when you read it, but what rubric can you use to build towards a better skill set?
Here are seven defined characteristics of great copywriting that content creators of all stripes can emulate:
Brilliant copywriters know what they want to say and how to get it down on the page in a logical sequence. Their words make a clear point right from the get-go and use an introductory paragraph to hint at what is coming.
This is especially important when producing copy for the web, as readers tend to focus predominantly on the first two paragraphs. Eye-tracking studies have shown that, online, ‘people read in an F-shaped pattern‘, meaning the intro and headers must grab a reader’s attention.
Another factor in being engaging is maintaining a logical flow throughout, providing smooth transitions between points. The writer covers ideas sequentially, rather than using a scattershot approach, and when all the necessary points have been made, a good conclusion summarizes salient points. A good call to action can send readers to other relevant information, or encourage readers to make a purchase.
Before starting a writing task, all top copywriters ask, “where will this copy go and what does it need to achieve?”
The best writers ask the right questions to get any additional information required before they write. Quality writers should always consider SEO, seamlessly working in keywords as they go along.
By understanding the purpose of the writing, the copywriter can also ask the right questions, to get the most interesting and relevant information to write about. If a magazine interview aims to highlight a new product in a quirky way, or maybe it needs to show an executive as a thought leader, the writer should know ‘ how to get the information they need .’
As well as ensuring the words on the page are suitable for the format, the best writers meld their language into the company’s style.
Even when working in-house, different writers may be asked to produce separate sections of a website or brochure, and a savvy copywriter will always check the overall tone, and ensure that what they’re writing fits and achieves consistency across the board.
To better connect with the reader, a writer should directly address his or her audience and write in a conversational style.
Gauging how formal or informal to be is important. Complex jargon should be avoided to maximize comprehension, but excessive dumbing things down can be patronizing.
Top copywriters also strike the right balance between authenticity, while still arguing persuasively for their thesis. There’s a knack to using just the right amount of hyperbole.
There are two main ways that being original is important.
One comes into play when writing about a topic that’s been covered a lot before, such as travel. In this case the best kind of copywriting is written in an informative way that’s fresh and avoids industry clichés. If a product or service is described as ‘innovative,’ the term becomes distracting filler, whereas great copy cites the unique features and benefits of a product.
The other key to being original comes when repeating information found elsewhere. If a potential customer clicks onto your website and sees a line they’ve already read, they’re unlikely to stay.
To make sure they’re writing something original about your company, a quality copywriter will first check out how competitors describe themselves and put all those words into a banned list. Then they’ll think about your company’s ‘unique value proposition‘ – or how it does things differently – rather than how to say the same thing in a different way.
All writers have a word count in mind, but reaching it should never be at the expense of quality. There’s a skill to using just the right number of words.
As well as word count targets, copywriters also work to deadlines, and excellent ones use their time to scour for relevant information that will make their claims substantiated and specific. Being succinct is a talent that’s particularly important for online purposes where consumers skim articles, and quickly click away from dense writing.
Good spelling and grammar establishes trust in your brand and a lack of it will leave potential customers thinking you don’t value quality and consistency.
The best copywriters are also unswerving when it comes to tone and formality. IF they start using the inclusive pronoun ‘you’ to address readers, they stick with it and customers don’t suddenly get referred to as simply ‘holidaymakers’, ‘insurance buyers’ or other generic terms.
Amy Young is a copywriter with WooContent.