School is back in session, and the nostalgia has set in. It is easy to think about that initial excitement of getting new school supplies and walking into a new classroom searching for the desk with your name on it. Although those are the fond memories most of us think of, it is easy to forget about one fundamental we learned at such a young age: how to write.
We all know how to put together a sentence with the proper subject-verb agreement, but sometimes we need to take a step back and revisit the simple lessons that have become seemingly complicated in our day-to-day workplace.
With a little research into elementary education, I have (re)learned some simple lessons that can be applied to copywriting 101. For copywriters like myself, these easily forgotten practices can actually improve your writing process by following these quick tips:
When we first learn about writing, we start as simple as possible: a prompt. The subject matter can be daunting when all we have is a topic and a blank page. One of the first styles we learn is the persuasive essay, a lesson that actually provides great structure for copywriting.
After you have your subject, we learn about the technique called brainstorming. This is a judgement-free zone that can help you to jot down any idea that comes to mind. Imagine a big whiteboard and the teacher asking for words to describe a character in a story. There are no limits on what can or cannot be written down — it is just an exercise to get creative.
While brainstorming, you can consider these concepts to help develop your work:
- Provide logical reasons and evidence to support your claim (or prompt)
- Use words that describe the relationship between your topic and evidence
- Use emotional appeal appropriately
Ultimately, there is a goal for copywriting, so drop any underlying resistance and write out what you want to accomplish, followed by some quick bullet points to address in order to get there.
Brainstorming can also include research. Once you get down some ideas, consider exploring those topics in depth and writing down what you find. Sometimes procrastination is imminent, but deadlines are even more so. Brainstorming may be your best bet to understand how to proceed.
Get out your crayons or colored pencils! This is an exercise we all miss.
A graphic outline is a more visual way to lay out the material for your writing and establish some key connections to the prompt. Graphical outlines can be as simple as a bubble chart or as elaborate as a drawing of the product you are writing copy for.
Visualizing your topic can help your brain elaborate on the topic and draw out additional subject matter that comes to mind. With a graphical outline, you can pin down the structure of the copy and begin to build.
Although most copywriting is not a story with characters, you are still writing for the purpose of drawing a potential customer in, and you need specific words or phrases to do so. This can be as simple as a chart or diagram or as elaborate as a story map. (Remember that nobody will see it; the only purpose is to help you color outside the lines.)
On a more educational note, a study comparing the brain mapping of children that either type or hand-draw a single letter showed that the handwritten version activated three distinct areas of the brain and increased retention rates, while the typed version did not. Because handwriting is a neurosensory exercise, by putting pen (or colored pencil) to paper, you are strengthening neural pathways that control brain function. In addition to brain strength, you activate the left side of your brain when you draw, which will aid in the creative process – and who doesn’t love a quick doodle to spark a little imagination?
In layman's terms, the introduction is the first paragraph that tells the reader what they are about to uncover in your writing. If you are stuck with writer's block, this may be the most difficult place to start. Since the introduction establishes the tone of the content, you should usually come up with the subject matter first so that you can develop a stronger driving force for the reader to continue reading.
When writing short copy, this may just be one sentence or even a couple of words, but you will still need to give the audience a reason for reading your work. Even if, for instance, you are writing a guide on how to complete a purchase on a website, sometimes it is best to write the steps and then go back to the start. Once you have your subject matter, you can then consider the types of introduction we were taught make a good hook.
Have you ever been in a class where the teacher used “popcorn” style reading, where every student took turns reading one sentence or paragraph at a time? When we read out loud, we unconsciously start to comprehend the rhythm and pace of the sentence, and develop this skill over time. Sometimes we don’t pick up on awkward word structure unless we physically hear it.
No matter the length of the copy, you can understand the flow of your writing and rid your work of unnecessary and powerless words. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a necessary tool for advertising. To help immediately uncover words that can make your copywriting go flat, Smart Blogger has provided a list of weak writing words to eliminate from your work.
Although there are various ways of writing structures, we are initially taught to have an introduction, a body and a conclusion — a short and sweet structure. Write as much as you think is necessary, then go back and re-read it out loud and cross out words that aren’t needed. A study on red ink’s use in proofreading has actually shown to boost performance on detail-oriented tasks, and allows you to see all the necessary changes at once when you are going back over the piece. You can develop your brand's unique tone and style by developing captivating writing without the fluff.
As a part of our school curriculum, we were taught what a rough draft is: the very first version of your writing, with a title (“rough”) that fits.
The point of the rough draft is to establish the paper’s structure and see the areas that either need to be removed or the subjects that should be further developed. Although copywriting can be subject to a variety of different prompts and lengths, nobody wants to publish their very first draft.
After years of writing hundreds of different prompts, from book reports to midterm papers, our ability to write without remorse has been hindered by our pressure to get a good grade. The great thing about your rough draft is that you have the ability to write, rewrite, and write some more. Even before we pass it off to our editor or run it by a coworker, it is important to consider writing a rough draft for your eyes only and writing down the first thing that comes to mind, even if it is rough around the edges.
Although we cannot force ourselves to sit down and write based on the given topic, we can start with the fundamentals we all learned as kids.