How to Write Compelling Copy

Don't think that you have to get it perfect the first time. Edit away. Don't think that you have to get it perfect the first time. Edit away.

We’ve all been there−faced with the task of writing an article, company newsletter or content for a blog. Staring at the computer screen, you imagine award-winning copy pouring into the word document (or perhaps you are more realistic and think, how will I ever write this?). Alas, 20 minutes have gone by, and you have barely got a sentence out. As an editor myself, I face this challenge often. So here are some tips I've learned along the way that can help remove the writer’s block and lead you to compelling copy.

Write about your passions. If you are not interested in the subject, it will most likely show in your writing. Now you don’t always have the liberty of choosing your subject, but you can always put your own spin on it. If you are fortunate to have free reign, take something you enjoy and turn it into great copy. Love cooking? Let others in on that recipe you just mastered. Golf on the weekends? Why not share some tips on perfecting your swing. The bottom line is if you are excited about your topic, it will show in your writing.

Know your audience. Be bold, witty and humorous if the arena calls for it (a personal blog or edgy magazine). Be more refined, structured and direct if it is for a corporation or news outlet. You must determine who will be reading your copy and what they will expect from it. If you are unsure, err on the side of caution, keeping it more subdued and professional.

The first sentence is always the hardest to write, so skip it. If you are like me, coming up with that power opener is always a task. So why not jump right to the meat of the story and come back to it when you have a good grasp of your story direction.

Keep it simple. Don’t get caught up in trying to make yourself sound like a wordy intellectualist. Most people want to understand writing easily, so deciphering 15-letter descriptive words will only cause people to lose track of the heart of your message.

Editing is always encouraged. Don’t think that you have to get it perfect the first time (this is not Top Chef). It is perfectly acceptable to come back and change copy multiple times. Better yet, leave it for a day, and look it at with fresh eyes the following day. But it is important not to drive yourself crazy with the backspace. There comes a point when you have to run with what you've created. As Tina Fey said, “It's a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it...You have to let people see what you wrote.” –from Bossypants.

Now that you have some tools to work with, sit down, take a breath, and master that next writing task.

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