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You have sales copy or a blog post to write and you’re stuck.
You know what you have to say, but getting the words to clearly communicate your message is a hard task.
Where do you start?
How do you organize your thoughts into a logical sales message or blog post that people will want to read?
This post will show you exactly what you need to do to get the job done.
Putting the “You” Into Your Copy
There’s an old saying that you should try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – with copywriting that’s exactly what you have to do.
In order to communicate effectively, you need to make sure that you know your audience or target market, and that you are using terminology and ideas that they are familiar with.
You also want to make your copy as personal as you can.
One copywriting technique that works well is to write like you are actually talking to your reader. You will want to use the word “you” whenever you address your reader.
(I know that this information sounds kind of obvious, but go to an accounting firm’s website and see the drivel written. You’d swear they were addressing robots!)
Instead of saying:
“The XYZ motorcycle is a durable bike that offers the rider a luxurious ride. Consumers across America agree that the XYZ is the motorcycle of choice.”
You could write:
“The XYZ motorcycle is a durable bike that offers you a luxurious ride. You’ll see why the XYZ is the motorcycle of choice among Americans.”
The same principle works for blogging as well. You almost never want to write as if you were talking to a generalized audience. Always make your posts as personal as you can.
Layer Your Points like an Educator
As a former educator, I am a big fan of layered education. Here’s how I used to teach my students history:
- First I’d tell you what you were going to learn today.
- Next I’d have you read your lesson from the text book. (Usually I’d make my students read different sections from the chapter. I would call on them randomly so that they would stay alert and not fall asleep in class. )
- After reading each section, we would discuss anything that was important in that section.
- Once we finished our chapter or section, we could have a short written assignment from questions at the end of the chapter.
- After we went through all of that, I’d try to show you video of what you just learned. I would also stop the video and point out important information along the way. (This also keeps students from sleeping in class!)
By the time we have finished the chapter, you’d have heard some of the same material about five or six times.
This is what I like to call “layered education” and it works well in writing copy and blog posts.
So, what you’re going to do in writing posts and copy is to tell your audience over and over again what it is that you want them to know, remember and act on.
Here’s what I mean: In copy, you have your biggest benefits to your prospect in your headline followed by several paragraphs that expand on it. You can then write about other subordinate points in your copy and then reinforce your primary benefits near the end.
Break it All Down
Your writing will be much clearer if you can organize it into short sections of about 130 to 150 words. The best thing to do is to try to have a logical sequence of points that move from one point to the other.
If your points don’t flow from one to the next, you can always use graphics, bullet points, and other supporting material to help break your post or copy up.
If you’ve studied the art of writing copy and blog posts, you’ll quickly figure out that most pro bloggers learned their craft by studying copywriters.
Most pro copywriters make their sentences simple and in shorter sections. The reason for this is that it is not as intimidating for your audience to read.
Take a look at the image below. Which section do you think would be easier for you to read?
For copywriters writing an offline direct mail piece, the example on the right would be extreme; but you should try to keep this principle in mind.
If you are writing for the web the best way to write a longer post or online sales page would be the copy on the right.
You don’t have to write just like this, but it would be a good idea to keep it in mind while you are writing your copy. Keep it simple, because the average person reads at an eighth grade level.
Subheads should also be used to break down the material.
Make it Short and Sweet
You need to make your sentences short.
I have a problem with this, myself. When I write, I usually have longer sentences and use words that aren’t necessary.
Here’s a simple example of what I mean:
“I really appreciate the great help you gave me on writing blog posts. It was a huge help.”
After reading it a second time, I took out some of the unnecessary descriptive words
“I appreciate the help you gave me on writing blog posts.”
This is the same exact message ―just less words and confusion.
One of the rules that experienced copywriters use is to try to write sentences no longer than 16 words long and no shorter than 6. This is just a guideline, you don’t have to count your words but it should be kept in mind while you’re writing.
Simple Words Work Wonders
When you write for blog posts or advertising copy, you need to remember to keep your phrases and your words as simple as possible.
Short sentences with simple words are very important.
The average person does not read above an eighth grade level. So, writing like a university professor is not what you need.
There’s a great scene in the movie “Platoon” where a young soldier arrives in Vietnam and goes out on his first patrol with his unit.
He’s really having a hard time hiking through the jungle, because he’s carrying all of the equipment that the Army gave him.
The green soldier is about to keel over with exhaustion from the heat and load he’s carrying.
Finally, a friendly sergeant comes over to him and says, “You don’t need this, you don’t need that and that and that…” and he throws away a lot of the equipment the Army told the young soldier to carry.
In the real world, the soldier didn’t need to carry all of that equipment. Knowing how to use it may have been important, but out in the actual jungle, practical methods were more important.
Writing for a general audience is like that too. You can take most of what your professor taught about writing and dump about three-fourths of it.
So, write clear and simple sentences using simple words.
Tools to Help You Write
You can use these tools to help you write on a level most people can read; one of them is offline the other is online.
Both of these tools are free.
One of these tools is built into Microsoft Word. Here’s how to find it:
Click on your “File” tab in Word and then on the word “Options”.
Next, click on the word “Proofing” and then put a check in the box that says, “Show Readability Statistics”.
Click on the OK button at the bottom of the window.
Go back to your original document and click on the tab at the top of your word document that says, “Review”.
Click on “Spelling & Grammar”
A box should pop up that says, “Readability Statistics”. At the bottom of that list you’ll see a line that says, “Flesch – Kincaid Grade Level”.
That will be the reading level of your general audience. If it reads above a “8.0” consider revising your document to make it more simple.
The Online Tool
The other tool I would recommend using is a tool called The Hemmingway App.
This tool will make sure that your writing is very simple. It will correct you along the way with basic colors that point out different areas of your writing that you should make simpler.
I really like this app, but it will slow you down if you have a lot to write. It will start highlighting areas that it thinks you will need to improve as you are writing.
If you are going to use the Hemmingway App I would suggest ignoring the highlighted colors that pop up. You’ll find that you are tempted to stop and correct your copy too much.
If you are writing for a living, you know that you need to spend your time writing as wisely as possible. Many times you’ll find that your flow of work can be interrupted.
If you can ignore those highlighted words and phrases until you can come back and correct them, then it’s an awesome tool to use.
However if you can’t, you can always use the Microsoft Word program.
The one area I think the Hemingway App excels in is that it will help you keep your writing concise. It will point out which phrases need revising to make it simpler and which sentences are very hard to read.
Anyway, you should take a look at this app to see if it works for you.
Whenever you write, keep it as simple as possible. You should try to keep the following guidelines in mind as you write:
- Try to write like you are directly speaking to the persons you are writing to by using terms like “you” and “your” in your writing.
- Try to repeat your points throughout your piece. Layer them if you can; it makes it so much easier for your reader to remember your points.
- Make your points flow from one idea to the next in a logical order. If you can’t do that, use graphics, charts and bullet points to lead to the next section.
- Keep your sentences and blocks of writing short and sweet. If you are writing for the web, use only one or two sentences and space between them.
- Write on an eighth grade level or less and enlist some of the tools I’ve suggested to do so.
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