Better Writing and Tighter Copy - Brian WatkinsUnless you’re writing a book (and even then maybe so) your audience probably has a short attention span. It’s true of web copy, social media, and especially ad copy — you’re not dealing with someone devoted to 300 pages of an evolving story.

You have to grab them by the balls. It’s not just better writing, it’s more direct writing.

That being said, let’s get straight to a few tips you can use to create punchier, more memorable content.

1. Efficient Phrasing

Don’t use 8 words when 5 will do. In literary writing “I picked up the book” is bad, whereas it’s better to say “I slowly reached down and picked up my old leather-bound journal, admiring its design and taking in the memories the scuffs on the cover and painstakingly written pages contained.”

For other mediums, though, not getting to the point right away can frustrate or confuse readers. “Our product alleviates your joint pain quickly and easily!” might seem like an okay headline at first, but it sounds salesy and doesn’t deliver enough impact to reliably get someone interested unless they are really in pain. “Stop joint pain now” is very direct. It may not be as creative-sounding, but you’d better believe a reader who is in pain will keep reading after seeing that.

Consider The Logical Process Behind The Phrasing

Approaches like “Because [circumstance] is the case, [subject] performs an action and influences [outcome]” can be tough to process. This is because for the second part to make sense the mind has to understand the first circumstance, but it may not be clear till the end. When that is the case, the mind has to revisit the first part to reach a conclusion. This is inefficient.

That’s not to say you should never use that format stylistically, but in a lot of cases a more direct approach reads better. You can still rely on a compound setup, such as “[subject] does [action/consequence], which means that [circumstance].” These sentences tend to be shorter and less convoluted.

Considering the process behind sentence structure is good for any communication, but especially if you’re writing ad copy. Statements that are harder to process/understand are less trustworthy (and have a lot less impact).

2. Being Clear > Sounding Smart

If you’re trying to explain a complex thought where only a big word will do, fine. Generally speaking, simpler is better. Don’t use big words just for the sake of using big words. At best, the reader won’t understand everything you’re saying, and confusion will prevent engagement. Or in a worse case the reader may understand your copy, but will be turned of by what comes off like pretentious writing.

Specific Writing Is Better Writing

Vague statements create confusion and slow the pace. Depending on the type of writing you’re doing, failure to use specific numbers or situations can make your copy seem less believable. Don’t say “A lot of people prefer…” when you have access to information like “4 out of 5 people prefer…”

One person’s definition of “most” or “a lot” is not the same as another’s. If by “most” you mean the majority, you could be correct with 51% and not even be close to what I might consider “most”. Numbers and facts are a constant.

3. Pacing

Alternating your sentence lengths and complexities will help mix it up. Reading three long, compound sentences in a row can be fatiguing — even if the reader isn’t conscious of it. Short sentences have impact.

Be careful, though. Too many short statements in a row read poorly. They make the language seem pedestrian. We don’t want that, either.

Often what separates decent writing from better writing is how naturally it reads. If it’s comfortable it’s accessible and memorable.

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