5 copywriting cheats to write better and faster

Copywriters are not starving artists living in ivory towers slaving over delicate poetry. They are sales people with word processors.

If you’re a copywriter, you have to write copy that works and stick to schedules. And no matter how creative and energetic you are, you can’t just pull great copy out of thin air day after day.

What I’m getting at is that it helps to have a few “cheats” up your sleeve to help you get the job done, better and faster.

So here are a few copywriting cheats that I’ve found helpful.

Lift key ideas from existing promotional materials. No, this is not plagiarism. There is no such thing as plagiarizing your own company or client. Most existing businesses have brochures, sales letters, print ads, annual reports, a website, product sheets, trade show materials, and all sorts of information ready-to-go.

Not only should you study all this as background, you should take notes on some of the better copy. Often you can find buried copy that would make a great headline or theme. Look at testimonials especially, since these can be a gold mine of copy ideas.

Steal “smart” from your swipe file. You DO have a swipe file, don’t you? Most good copywriters have at least a box where they collect samples for future reference. A few copywriters I know go all out and have multiple filing cabinets filled with carefully categorized samples of direct mail, brochures, ads, and other formats.

You can do the same thing online by creating a computer file and cutting / pasting copy or saving Web pages (on Windows, right click, then save page as).

Stealing smart means looking at what others have done successfully and adapting the idea for your own copy. You could write a spin-off headline, borrow a technique, use a similar format, get ideas for offer presentation, etc.

Use a stock letter opener to get started. Sales letters can be challenging, so it helps to have ways to start that important first sentence. You don’t want to limit yourself to writing the same letter over and over, but if you’re stuck, a stock opener can bail you out and get things moving.

Here are just a few stock openings:

Write things out of order. Who ever said you have to write copy in order, start to finish? It helps to first outline what you want to write then write all the easy things first, such as the order card, guarantee, feature list, and call to action.

This not only gets your fingers moving, it helps you ease into the subject matter so you have some momentum to tackle hard things like headlines. I don’t recall ever writing anything in order. I write in chunks and piece things together. It’s much faster and the copy generally turns out better.

Modify successful headlines to fit your project. Headlines are so important, you should be spending significant time on writing them. Some people say you should write 100 headlines to get the one headline idea that’s best. But how do you get started?

One way is to rework existing headlines, such as this list of 117 tested headlines. Another way is to study vintage ads, such as the ones at AdClassix.com.

In the previous tip, I said you should write out of order. But I’ll admit that I usually have to get a handle on the main headline or promise before I can do any serious writing. Modifying old headlines gets my engine running and I usually end up with a completely fresh headline by the time I’m done.

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One Response to “5 copywriting cheats to write better and faster”

  1. pligg.com on January 9th, 2010 6:34 pm

    5 copywriting cheats to write better and faster…

    Copywriters are not starving artists living in ivory towers slaving over delicate poetry. They are sales people with word processors. If you’re a copywriter,…

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