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To All the Words I’ve Loved Before.

Copywriting is a different style of writing

It’s time to say goodbye to the clunkers that are killing your online copy

You’re a coach or consultant.

An experienced entrepreneur.

A pillar of professional services.

And now you want a slice of the online pie.

You’ve had enough of those Facebook ads with smug Millennials in their cars, boasting about making thousands of dollars in online sales while buying coffee at the drive thru.

And you’re thinking, if these chumps can do it, you can too.

So, you put fingers to keyboard and pour out your wisdom, creating the most authoritative course or program on your subject.

Then you write some equally authoritative blog posts, web copy or emails and launch your product. 

Thousands of dollars in non-billable hours invested.

Total money made?

A giant heap of squat.

The Copy Did It

What went wrong?

Well, I’d bet my first-born child (not really sweetheart), that you need to pay closer attention to your sales copy.

Nothing kills a great offer faster than bad copy.

Hey, chill. I’m not saying that you’re not a good writer.

But copywriting is a different animal.

Copywriting is persuasive writing – convincing your prospect to click on that download, subscribe to that course, book that strategy session or whip out that wallet.

This takes specific knowledge of ad writing, storytelling, conversion principles and buyer psychology.

Above all, the language of copy has to be clear. No flowery prose, excessive cleverness or high-falutin’ speech.

As a former journalist and corporate communicator, when I started writing online copy, I found it hard to say goodbye to some words and phrases that work well in editorial and business content, but bomb big-time in sales and marketing copy.

Copywriting is not about showing off.

Vanity Upon Vanity. All is Vanity.

It’s surprisingly difficult to write with the clarity that great copy demands.

Why? Because vanity runs deep in all our veins.

I remember a story about Donald Trump being asked why he named all his buildings after himself. “How else would people know that I own them?” he replied.

Whether this story is true or false, (I just had to physically restrain myself from typing the word “apocryphal”), it makes a telling point.

For most of us, it’s not enough to have a particular attribute (in Trump’s case, a billionaire bank balance and perhaps in your case, a high-level education).

We want people to see it. We want to show it off.

So, when writing, we throw in words of unnecessary length or obscurity, trying to appear more intellectual.

Because how else will they know you went to grad school?

When Writing Copy, Don’t be an Ass.

Unfortunately, when it comes to online copy, any complex language just makes you sound like a pompous ass. (Donkey not buttocks).

In my native Nigeria, there is a cliché that my people – the Igbo people – love to show off their Western education with “big grammar”.

So, for example, with the famous nursery rhyme: –

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I Wonder What You Are.”

The Igbo version is supposedly: –

“Scintillate, Scintillate, O Diminutive Asteroid,

How I speculate at your Identity.”

Somewhat less catchy.

Write online copy at below 8th grade level

Nobody Wants to Work that Hard.

Multiple marketing studies have found that most North Americans read at below an 8th grade level. If you’re thinking, “my audience is highly sophisticated”, well, the same studies confirm that below 8th grade-level writing is also more effective at convincing educated audiences.

I realize this is tough to swallow. After all, you’re an accomplished professional, you hold top qualifications and now you’re being asked to write like you never made it through middle school!

The fact remains, your readers are not looking to your copy to sharpen their critical reasoning or expand their vocabulary.

Keep your writing conversational.

The ability to sound like a human power-point presentation may fly in certain circles, but it’s not going to help you make any money online.

Sprinkling in some industry jargon can be a good way to show that you’re an insider. But be sparing and very selective.

You need to sound like a person with whom someone would actually want to have a conversation.

So, you’ll have to retire your inner Frasier Crane.

Frasier Crane could never have been a copywriter

For starters, drop any foreign lingo.

 Just say “non” to phrases like vis-à-vis. And if you feel the urge to write ergo or per se, please walk away from your laptop.

Don’t refer to a plethora when you can say many. Don’t obviate when you can remove. And for the love of all things Holy, never utilize when you can use.

This type of language doesn’t work in copy because it’s pretentious, which Google dictionary defines as: “attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture etc., than is actually possessed.”

In other words, you risk coming off like a talentless twit.

That’s not a good look when you’re trying to drum up business. Remember, people buy from people they know, like and trust.

Share Big Ideas. Simply.

Writing effective copy means simplifying your language, not dumbing down your content. The two are not the same.

So, bring on the full force of your brilliant thinking, your unique insights, your point of view. 

But you’ve got to present them in a manner that is easy to read, easy to understand and easy for the reader to act upon.

Yes, it’s a heck of a task to explain complex ideas in simple terms, to engage the audience and persuade them to take action.

That’s what makes great copywriting so hard to pull off.

Good Copy Means No Friction.

When you’re not marketing online, feel free to indulge your passion for polysyllabic prose.

Lose yourself in Finnegans Wake.

Dazzle your friends with your classical references and witty repartee.

But when it’s time to sell, put your game-face on.

Strip down to the bare bones of the language.

Speak to your customers in the words they understand and most importantly, in the words that they use.

Copywriting is not the place to be “creative”. Your goal is to be clear, specific and persuasive.

Closing a sale requires removing anything that causes friction between you and your buyer.

And silly words like “synergize” will give you friction for days.

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