by Steve Kellas
If you follow the writing advice of the copywriter websites out there, you could be excused for thinking the life of a copywriter is a bit mad scientist: all formulas and inspired activity of experimentation until ‘success’!
While our spouses, friends and families might describe us copywriters as a bit mad from time to time, that’s not the whole of our being. There is an artistry to copywriting that often gets overlooked.
Composition and inspiration
Copy needs to sell, and in many ways how you go about selling can seem a bit formulaic. We study the subject, target audience, supporting material and buyer process. We ask questions about the business, how the selling process happens, and we get to know the offer inside out trying to find clues that will help persuade prospects to buy.
We outline the argument and structure the points to lead a reader to a decision.
Yet, somewhere between the briefing and the final copy comes a moment of inspiration. I’ve heard it described by some of the great copywriters as the ‘musical’ part of the job.
This is true of my experience as a copywriter. There is a moment when you uncover an angle or a line that nails the brief. Using this inspiration as a base, you ‘compose’ the rest of the copy.
I’d say this outpouring of the words is about 20% of the writing task.
The following 80% of the writing is taken up with the technical side of the job: expanding, rewriting, editing and fiddling around with the copy until it makes sense and persuades the way you need it to.
Anyone can write out words. But in my experience, the best copywriters are the ones who go through this inspiration and composition phase. In infuses a certain energy to the work and gives the writing a life that ‘putting words on paper’ never can.
Rhythm and cadence
When I’m writing and editing my own work, I always read it out loud. This helps me to hear the subtle rhythms in the text; how the words move out as beats and provide a momentum that builds through the piece.
Try it yourself when you are writing copy (or emails, reports, or presentations). You will hear how your words sound together and you will recognise what sections plod along and where the words slink across the page.
Rhyming, alliteration, and phrasing
These techniques can, if used too often, become distracting. Yet preserved and reserved for a reason, they can create phrasing that lifts the copy and gives it an energy and being all its own.
In other words, use them, but use them wisely.
When constructing phrasing, try to get it to sound natural to the reader. We vary the length of our sentences when we speak, and it is this variability that helps to keep attention. Look for ways to mix longer passages with short ones.
It helps keep attention.
So go be an artist and a scientist. Be a copywriter with gusto, just don’t forget who you are writing for and what you are trying to sell them.