The One Trick that will Help You Write Better Copy, Every Time
Copywriting, like all writing, has its challenges. It’s not always easy to write about complex ideas in a clear or concise way, which can lead to sentences that sound overly formal, that “try to convey too much,” and that have awkward phrasings. But there’s a simple tip that will help you jump over those hurdles and make any piece of copy you write better.
What is this dark copy magic? Read your words out loud.
IT SOUNDS SIMPLE (AND YOU’LL SOUND CRAZY) BUT…
How we read something and how it sounds spoken aloud don’t always line up. Not only does reading something aloud force us to engage additional senses to gut check if something makes sense, it also forces our brain to approach it differently. Put another way, after you’ve stared at a document for 5+ hours, your eyes don’t work as well as your ears do.
Here’s a few simple and incredibly common copy problems that saying things out loud can help you do:
KILL AWKWARD HEADLINES:
You’ve paired down a list of taglines, headlines or really important statements to a shortlist. Read them aloud and see which ones feel awkward. Kill them.
SIMPLIFY YOUR BODY COPY:
Trying to pare down complex subject matter? This does the trick. Start by reading each sentence individually. What are the words you don’t need to say? Which ones trip up your flow? remove them. Consider rephrasing the statement if it’s awkward or turning it into 2 sentences. And yes, it’s totally ok to talk and type at the same time.
Your copy looks good, it checks all the grammar boxes, but boy does it sound unnatural. This happens especially if you’re not 100% on the message you’re trying to communicate. Simply say it aloud to spot the offending words, then adjust, add conjunctions and get it in a more natural sounding place.
FINDING THE RHYTHM
Speaking your copy helps catch errors. It also helps us understand the natural cadence of how our copy wants to be read. Comedians and politicians need to nail their delivery for their words to land, and you need to nail your delivery for that headline to have an impact too. Sure, delivery is more of a speaking thing than a reading thing, but if your written word sounds powerful when you say it aloud, it’s probably a good sign it reads powerfully too.
SO SPEAK UP ALREADY!
The easiest way to make your final draft of copy better is to speak it. We’re not writing dissertations, we’re using the written word to communicate in a way that often replaces speech. In fact, if you’re going to present the copy at all to any person (client, creative director, Mom), you’re going to say it out loud. Don’t make the mistake of writing something and then sounding silly when you try to sell it.