“What makes good writing?” This was the question that my College Composition teacher Mr. Moore asked us to write about my senior year of high school.
Being the smartalec that I was, I wrote my essay saying the answer was just as abstract as the question. I believe that if you thought your writing was good, then it was good writing. I can’t quite remember the logic that was behind that answer, as it has been quite some time now, but it did get me an A on the paper.
Well many years later, I find myself pondering the same question that Mr. Moore posed oh so long ago… And I’m not quite convinced that I would answer it the same way.
As a Project Manager, Writer and Marketing Director, I have the pleasure of writing and proofreading the bulk of the copy/text that comes through our office and I’ve seen what writing in Northern Colorado gets results and what doesn’t.
Here is what I have noticed that all of our pieces with results have in common…
- They are EASY to read
- They fit the purpose of the publication
- Meets the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple …. (you can insert your own amusing “S” word for this one)
- For the most part they are entertaining/keep the reader interested in what is being said
Easy to Read
The most common mistake that I see people making is that they get WAY too wordy when they are writing their copy. Referencing back to what the great Mr. Moore taught me, a good rule of thumb is that if your sentence takes up more than two lines then it is too long. A good tip is to have a good variety of sentence lengths. Use short sentences and hyphens when appropriate – they add emphasis!
Fit the Purpose of Your Publication
Keep in mind what you are writing for. If you are writing a brochure, often times the most basic explanation will do. Items like brochures, presentations, and direct mailers should cover enough information to make the reader feel informed and also drive them to contact you to find out more information.
Keep It Simple S……
On to keeping it simple…,keeping your copy easy to read is to include words that your readers will understand. Sometime writers get too caught up in trying to sound overly professional that their word choices ruin their copy. Using big words may make you feel more intelligent, but if your reader doesn’t understand the word they will get so caught up on trying to figure it out that your message will be lost.
Keep in mind that most people don’t really like to read all that much; it’s sad, but true. Using headlines and bullet points to highlight your key points can help keep the attention of your readers. My best example of this is the newspaper. Be honest, unless you are a die-hard newspaper reader, you probably skim the newspaper looking for the headlines that seem most interesting to you. This is how your customers think too! Make your headlines bold and catchy so they grab the reader’s attention. It’s a simple way to make a statement.
Okay, okay, now entertaining is definitely relative because I personally do not consider reading about migrating paterns of insects all that exciting… but hey it does it for some people. But if your copy writing is about the migrating paterns of insects, you better make it the best darn copy writing on those creepy crawlers that it can be!!! If the content you have written doens’t keep you, your mom, or your best friend Joe entertained while reading it, it’s probably not that interesting. Have fun with your writing, let your voice come out a little.
If Mr. Moore were to get ahold of this blog now, I wonder what he would say. The real world has taught me a few things since I sat in the back left corner long, long ago. I hope that these tips can help you find your own copy writing voice, not just to write, but to write well!
-from the Writer’s Corner Office Desk