A Focus on Writing Copy

Nobody can teach you how to write marketing copy, not a professor in any university, not another copywriter, and not this article . You have to be able to create the concepts for your copy, and you have to be able to successfully transfer those words onto paper or into a word processing program. Even the most skilled copywriter can have difficulties finding the right words, and it can be especially challenging when you are first starting out. However, while nobody can teach you to actually create marketing copy, you can be taught the science of what makes marketing copy effective - and what does not.

Terms to Know

Locate the terms below in the dictionary, then fill in the meaning of each word in your "Student Dictionary" by using Google or another search engine to find the definition.

1.    Copy (marketing)

2.    Swipe file

3.    Marketing collateral

Learning by Example

The best way to learn what effective marketing copy looks like is to study effective marketing copy. You do this by saving physical mail that you receive and researching marketing copy on the Internet to create a swipe file. A swipe file is a collection of marketing collateral that you keep for learning purposes and inspiration.

You should save every piece of marketing collateral you receive in your mailbox, including advertisements. You should also bookmark websites that market products or services. For example, you can google IT companies, then look at their websites to see marketing copy in action. Read the copy. Read it again and again to get a sense of how marketing copy "sounds".

The types of copy you want to find and save include:

  Emails regarding products or services

  Website pages

  PDF's that offer information about a product or service

  Social media posts made on a company or product page


  Door hangers (a type of marketing/advertising)



Immerse yourself in any piece of marketing collateral or advertising you can find. You will find that studying effective copy will make writing effective copy easier. In addition, your swipe files can be used to help familiarize yourself with industry jargon. Let's say you have a client whose industry is anti-aging. Your swipe file can help you learn the terminology for that industry. It can also help you learn your target market and the type of copy that is more likely to persuade them to take interest and respond. In other words, your swipe file can teach you how to "talk" to your audience.

Use Short Paragraphs and Sections

In high school English class, most of us learned that a paragraph should consist of at least five sentences. Your teacher may have suggested one less or a few more. This rule means that some paragraphs can get long-winded and hard to read. This is what you want to avoid when writing marketing copy.

The entire purpose of writing copy is to educate your audience and turn strangers into customers. You cannot successfully do that if your paragraphs are too long. The fact is, if someone visits a website or opens a brochure and sees large chunks of texts - or long paragraphs - they are not going to read even the first word. They want to be able to read quickly and easily. They want to find what they need, then move on.

Keep paragraphs limited to three or four lines at most. If your copy has different sections, keep the sections as short as possible. Use subheadlines or numbers to divide up the sections. If you have a lot of text to include, use plenty of white space to make it look less daunting to read.

Below is a snapshot taken from the UniversalClass.com website.

Take notice of all the white space used on this page. Even though the first paragraph is more than a few lines, the use of the white space makes it much easier to read. The other paragraphs are kept short. In addition, you can see how the different sections are broken up by using subheadlines, graphics, and - again - white space.

Any visitor that lands on this website can find what they want to know immediately. However, if all the text on the page had been formatted like a report, chances are most visitors would have left the site before they read more than a few words. Take a look at the snapshot below to see what we mean. In this snapshot, we gave the text a more "report" look and feel.

As you can see above, it is not as easy to read. You cannot find what you need nearly as quickly. That said, although you, as the copywriter, will not be responsible for designing the layout for web pages or other marketing collateral, it will be your job to know what needs to be done to get your copy read.

Use Simple Words

Part of writing clearly is using words that all of your readers can understand. Do not try to impress people with your vocabulary or try to sound intelligent. Those things do not lend to effective copy. They detract from it. Instead, use words that everyone can understand.

Below is a list of big words you might be tempted to use, as well as suggested substitutions. The substitutions follow the equal sign (=).

assist = help

automobile = car

container = bottle, jar, package

database = information

diminutive = small

eliminate = get rid of

employ = use

facilitate = help

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Marketing Copywriter course?

facility = building, factory, warehouse

finalize = finish, complete, conclude

garment = suit, shirt, dress

indicate = tell, say, show

obtain = get

Working with Clients to Create Concepts and Copy

Just as it is important to get to know your target market when you write copy, it is also important to get to know your client as well. Your client knows his or her company, product, and industry better than anyone else you could ask - or any research can provide. That is because this is their business, and it is important to keep it successful. You can gleam important information from the client, so it is important to take the time to get to know him or her. Once you are handed the account or assigned the project, set up a meeting with the client. This is a crucial first step.

Do your own research before the meeting. Research the company and any products you will be marketing. Familiarize yourself with some of the industry terms used, the competition, and customers. The client does not expect you to know his or her company or industry like the back of your hand, but they do prefer that you do your homework and are familiar with it. If you have any questions, write them down so you can ask the client. Copywriters ask a lot of questions. Your client expects it.

Take the time to learn as much as it takes that you do not feel like a stranger to your client's company and industry - and do not be afraid to formulate too many questions. When you meet with them for the first time, you will be surprised how much more you will be able to contribute to the conversation.

Terms to Know

Locate the terms below in the dictionary, then fill in the meaning of each word in your "Student Dictionary" by using Google or another search engine to find the definition.

Spec sheet


Draft (writing)

About Working with the Client

Chance are, your first meeting with a client will either be in person or on the phone. Your client is going to tell you about the company, about past marketing efforts, about the product or service, and what he or she has in mind for the campaign for which you will be writing. In other words, the client will tell you why a copywriter is needed and what goals they want your copy to achieve.

During this meeting, it is a good idea to record the conversation. Just let your client know you will be recording it for future reference. Do not bother with taking notes. When you take notes, you can miss out on something important that the client tells you.

During the initial meeting with the client, you can also inform the client as to how you like to work. It is advisable to let the client know that you prefer all information pertinent to the project, such as added details, preferences, suggested revisions, etc., are sent by email. This way, you have a reference for when you are writing. Ask any questions you may have about the company, product, or customers. Good copywriters ask a lot of questions, so do not ever feel like you are asking too many.

What to Get from the Client

Your client has run previous advertising campaigns before, meaning the client has worked with other copywriters. That means there is a lot of information you can get from the client that will help you create an even more successful campaign.

Ask the client for the following things:

-Literature from all past campaigns. This includes copies of advertisements and other marketing materials. You can even ask how well each campaign converted. This means how many people responded to the ad versus how many people viewed the ad.

-If it is a new product or a new company, you ask for spec sheets, business and marketing plans, reports, proposals, and anything that will allow you to learn more about the product and company.

-The company website if you did not look at it before meeting the client.

-The competition. You will research your client's competition, but you also need to know who the client believes is their direct competition.

-Testimonials from customers. These testimonials let you know what customers love about the product. Since these customers are part of your target market, they can help you craft a more effective message.

-The company's brand message. What do they want to say to their customers? What does their brand stand for in their eyes - and in the customer's eyes? This is important and should be woven into the copy. You want every piece of copy you write to represent the brand.

-The USP.

-The websites of competitors, as well as ads from the competitors' past ad campaigns if available. You want to see what worked for your client, but it helps to also know what worked for the competition.

Use this information for a point of reference, but also use it to get to know what your client wants a little better.

-Ask the client about the brand. How does he or she view the brand? What is the brand message? If the client is not sure how to answer this, ask what the client thinks adds value to the product, as well as what makes the product unique from similar products.

-Based on the client's current marketing collateral, does the client think the message is effectively reaching consumers? What does the client think works? What does the client think is not working?

-What do they want to do differently? If you do not already know this, now is the time to ask. Ask about their vision for this campaign and what they hope to accomplish. You are a copywriter, not a mind reader, but you must be a mind reader with your clients.

Gathering Product Information

Your client is the best source of information about the product you will be marketing. That said, it is important to ask questions about the product so you can successfully sell it. You can pick out selling points from the product information. You can also use the information when studying competitors.

Below is a checklist of things you need to ask about the product.

-What are the benefits of the product? The features?

-What is the most important benefit?

-How does the product stand out from the competition?

-What problem does the product solve for customers and in the marketplace?

-How does the product work?

-What technologies are behind the product?

-Is the product reliable?

-Is there a guarantee for the product?

-Is the product efficient? Economical? How much does it cost?

-How fast does the product ship?

-Is free shipping offered?

-Is the product easy to use? If so, how?

-Where can customers buy the product if they do not want it shipped - or it cannot be shipped?

-Is any service or support offered for the product?

Getting to Know the Client's Target Market

Although you can do research to figure out who the target market will be, nobody knows that better than your client. Remember, your client is your source for information about the company and product, so never hesitate to ask questions. You are new to your client's company and product, but your client is not. If your client does not have the answers, he or she will find them for you or tell you where to look. Do not do guesswork. Ask the client before you get started.

The mistake most new copywriters make is thinking that asking questions makes them sound like they do not know what they are doing. The truth is, not asking questions makes you seem like you do not know what you doing. That is, as long as you are not asking how to write the copy.

Below are some questions you should ask your client about their target market. Feel free to ask more.

Who is the product sold to? What is the market for their product?

What does the product do for the target market?

Why do they need the product?

Why do they need the product right away?

What is the main concern of the customer? Is it delivery, performance, service, maintenance, reliability, availability, quality, or price?

What type of person comprises the target market? Age? Income? Education? You want to know the general profile of the customer.

What motivates the buyer to buy?

Are there different buying influences that the copy must appeal to? If it is a toy, the ad must appeal to kids and parents.

If the copy you write is going to appear on a page on their website, read other pages of the website that already exist. Study the voice of the copy that appear in it. Detect and define the brand message that is being conveyed.

Working with Drafts and Final Versions of Copy

Writers do not like sharing unfinished versions of their work with anyone. That is just a fact. Writers want anything and everything they write to be polished and as close to perfect as possible before they share it - even with a client. Fiction writers, journalists, and copywriters are all generally this way. And if that is you? Great. But if it is you, get over it now.

Not all clients are going to ask to see the copy while you are writing it. In fact, most will not because they trust your skills to produce the copy that they need. However, there may be instances when you are not sure that the direction you are taking with the copy is right for the client, or the client may want to work with you as you develop the copy for whatever reason. There are even some clients who can actually write copy (but do not have the time) and want to work with you.

If a client asks to see your copy in-progress, do not insist that they wait until it is finished. It may be tempting, because you know how much better the finished copy will be, but do not do it. This is not a fiction novel. The copy you write represents their company, and they know direction they want to take the best. That said, if you are not quite ready to show a client a draft, get the draft to a point where you will feel better about sharing it. This means cleaning up or strengthening what you already have, not rushing to create a final draft to share. In addition, let your client know you want to clean up or strengthen what you already have. Then, give them an exact time when you'll share the draft. Do not make it more than a day later.

Part of being a copywriter is doing a lot of editing and revisions. Even when you complete your final draft, your client and any others on his team will read that copy and offer suggestions and revisions. Do not take any criticism personally, because they are helping to make your copy more effective. That is the goal. Copywriting is a solo sport, but it is always a team victory. The only time you will stand alone is if the copy you write falls flat on its face with customers and consumers.

Documenting Sources

Always document any sources that you use in your copy. For example, if you quote a study in your copy because the study proves that consumers need the product, document the study and where you located the findings. If you use anything from your client's past campaigns, document the campaign and ad you used. Document all sources that you used to create the copy.

There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is the client may want to know the sources that you used. Even if the client does not, it lends to your credibility and professionalism as a copywriter that you provided your sources. You are also protecting your client from any legal trouble that might arise as a result of the copy. In recent years, the FTC has cracked down on advertisers. Truth in advertising has never been more important. Failing to be truthful in marketing and advertising can land your client - and you - in hot water. By documenting sources, you are protecting your client. and yourself.

You should keep every piece of copy that you write for six months to a year. You should also keep the sources you used for at least six months.