Recently I decided I was tired of driving balls 250 yards into the woods and picked up a book on golf by Jack Nicklaus. (And by “picked up” I mean “stole from a friend”, but he has my putter so we’re even.)
About halfway through I had this epiphany. The stuff he was saying was nothing like the “Hot new grip technique that’ll add 10 yards to your drive” tips you see in golf magazines. Instead, the whole book was stripping a golf swing down to the basic fundamentals.
Now, I’m sure the tips in those magazines are all well and good. But the average golfer (tree-hitters like me) isn’t going to change his game overnight with one small tweak. What Jack’s book made quite clear is that if you want to play well consistently, you’ve got to learn the fundamentals then practice them until their automatic.
Same thing for copywriting.
“Copy hacks” are only going to take you so far. If you want to write good copy consistently (and be able to tell if what you wrote is any good) then forget about weird tricks or gimmicks. Instead, know the fundamentals and practice them over and over — in everything you write. (You can even practice in your texts/emails to friends. I can’t tell you how much time I spend editing stupid emails. I may have a problem.)
What are the bare-bones fundamentals of great copy? In my opinion, it comes down to 3 things:
Being clear, compelling, and authentic.
If you want to get good writing copy, here are three questions to ask yourself after you’ve written something:
Is this clear?
Is it compelling?
Is it authentic?
Other ways to phrase that:
Is it confusing?
Is it boring?
Does it sound market-y/stiff/like everyone else?
I know, I know. You might be asking: “But what about features vs benefits! And the Attention Interest Desire Action formula! Or all the points Cialdini mentions in The Science of Persuasion!
Valid question. That’s all great stuff. But that stuff comes naturally when you focus on being compelling, authentic, and clear.
Personally, the place I trip up most is being compelling. There’s always so much I want to say that I try to cram everything in and the point I’m making gets lost. Or I spend too long at the computer and my brain turns to jelly and my words become dull. That’s when I know it’s time to get fresh air and try again with a new brain.
What’s the biggest struggle you face when writing copy? Vent away in the comments below. My guess is you’ll have an easier time avoiding it once you’ve defined it/shared it.