The Best Copywriting Advice I Ever Received
Updated: Mar 9, 2019
When I look back at the first features published under my name, I wince a little. There's nothing actually wrong with them. They're factually correct. The grammar is perfect. They're decently constructed. So what's making me cringe? They're just so… wordy.
One day, my editor pulled me aside and started reading out my article. It took a quite a while and I started to drift off. "Exactly!" she declared. "You've even bored yourself!" What she told me next was the turning point in my career.
“You need to write less and say more.”
The secret, she explained, is to write on a ‘need to know’ basis. Only tell your readers the very bare minimum you need to get your message across. If you’re writing any more than that, it’s just an ego boost for you and your vocabulary. You’re wasting their time with your babble.
People don’t read features, or blogs, to increase their general knowledge. They read because they want to know what you promised to tell them in your headline. So give them just that and not a word more.
Five ways to cut through the waffle:
Narrow the focus – Try to explain the focus of your writing in one simple sentence. Can’t do it? Then your subject matter is probably too complex.
Give your readers some credit – Forget ‘explain it to me like I’m a three year old.’ Your readers don’t need you to over-explain ideas. Give them a chance to use their brain cells.
Write like you speak – Read your writing out loud. Does it sound forced or unnatural? Then switch that business babble for normal language.
Forget word counts – Are you trying to hit that magic 1,000-word mark? Once you’ve said what you need to say, stop. As long as you made your point, word count doesn’t matter.
Edit your work – It’s just like holiday packing. You know, when you take everything out of your suitcase and only put back half. Cross out every word that isn’t necessary. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at the surplus.