There’s a lot of forethought that should go into written communication, no matter the purpose. And while there is something to just getting that first draft out of your head and onto paper (or your laptop), it’s the details that make it shine in the end. Here are some quick copy considerations for anyone writing anything.
1—Define your intent.
We talk a lot about defining audiences in marketing, and there’s no question that it’s important to do so. But beyond that, when we know who we want to talk to, we should also ask ourselves what we want them to do with the message we’re sending. Determine whether you want to educate or entertain, inform or ask, console or instruct.
2—Set your tone.
Now that you know the intention of your writing, how do you want it to sound? Do you want to be formal and serious? Or do you want to be catchy and conversational? If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it,” it rings true when it comes to the style and voice used within your piece.
3—Think about length.
Do you have a whole page to work with? Or do you only have a paragraph? This is tricky, but important. You might not get to lead up to the point you’re trying to make if you only have a Twitter post to work with. In that case, you gotta get right to it.
4—Check for accuracy.
This goes for spelling and grammar of course, but there’s also fact-checking and name double-checking. It never hurts to Google it again just to be sure. And just how accurate do you want to be? The formal (though accurate) teachings of your English Professor may sound a little too stodgy for say, a congratulatory email message. Most of the time, it’s okay to write how you talk. But if it is indeed an instructional poster for how to set the company’s new security alarm, better not have too much fun with your words.
5—Read it out loud.
Here’s your true test. Open your mouth and say the words you just wrote in the sentence you just strung together. Did you skip a word in your fury to type it all out? Did you use the same word three times in the same paragraph? Do you have 18 words in one sentence? Does it flow like it should? Did you forget to mention the thing you were supposed to talk about in the first place? Oftentimes hearing it said will help you detect where improvements can be made.
6—Embrace the tweaks.
Tweaks can be those little nit-picky changes and edits that come from you second-guessing yourself, or it could be feedback from the endless critics that abound. But don’t take anything too personally. Go ahead and tweak the copy a little bit, but just make sure you keep the integrity and clarity of your message.
Truth is, it takes planning, trial and error, practice, and determination to write with clarity, which equals easy reading—the ongoing goal of any good copywriter.
Rachael Witt is Senior Copywriter at WhiteBox Marketing and plays for the creative team. Her unapologetic love of alliteration almost made her use the headline of “Careful Concepting Creates Clearer Communication.” (Almost.)