That was a lousy headline for sure. But let’s say copywriting editing is one of the most crucial pieces of crafting a high-converting, hard-hitting sales letter or page.
It is not only me saying this. Here’s what one of the real “Mad Men” of the world thinks.
“I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.”
― David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather
Let’s just say that beauty shines through after regular polishing.
Every writer inherently knows the importance of editing the rough drafts. Kill your darlings … kill your babies … kill every unwanted word from your sight. Every writer knows this. More so for a sales copywriter whose very livelihood depends on how effective every word he spouts out is.
To add to it, every writer knows the editing process is rather tedious. As R.D.Ronald would probably say, “Remove the comma, replace the comma, remove the comma, replace the comma…”. Yes, editing is not glamorous at all. If you thought writing is banging your head on the typewriter until it bleeds, editing is probably poking your eyes with toothpicks until they start to either “see” or go blind.
Okay, enough rant about editing. The question is how to edit your sales copy. Is it any different from editing a novel?
Nope, writing is nothing but trying to impose your will on someone else. Whether it is a sales copy or a poem, you are trying to get your thoughts across so powerfully that your reader has no choice but to succumb to them.
Sales writing is no different. Just like editing the future bestseller novel.
To start with, every sales copywriting must conform to the following standards:
Clarity – if the reader does not get the message, why even write it?
Brevity – the more compact the message, the more powerful it is.
Accuracy – the more accurate the facts, the more credible it sounds.
Relevancy – if it does not interest the reader, they won’t read it.
Substance – a tricky concept to understand but can help a lot.
These are not fancy terms to think about while copywriting. Instead, these are what makes copywriting “copywriting”.
Here are a few good editing tips to start polishing up your copywriting piece today.
Keep the sales writeup aside for a bit.
Whoa! Hold your horses for a bit, my friend. Don’t jump into editing your copy right away. Why? If you hit it too soon, you suffer from a little problem called “copy glow-comma” (okay, I made that one up but you get it, right?).
What happens is your eyes are already accustomed to the current copy state and you can’t see any potential changes in it.
Every word, every sentence, every punctuation . . . seems right at first. It’s like the initial stage of falling in love with someone. You can’t see his or her flaws right away but eventually, you do. You need to give it some time.
Mine for a reason.
Okay, I am going to let you in on a little copywriting editing secret―something that most writers do not know about. Do not edit without a purpose.
You have to zero in on what you are looking for and then start dissecting the copy with your visual scalpel. It sounds bad but it’s almost like looking for flaws in your partner. When you look for it, you will see it―or so the saying goes.
Here are a few things you can look for.
Remove excess adverbs. Don’t add too many adverbs. Instead, make your verbs stronger. Make them express more than they are used to. Don’t help them with props unnecessarily (see the pun here?).
No drooling over adjectives. Alright, the big, fluffy and child-friendly stuffed elephant you like? Too long. How about some shorter like a cute stuffed elephant? Much cuter, isn’t it?
Use simple words. You are not Shakespeare in the Elizabethan Age. You live today where misspelled SMSes and #igpoetry are the rage. You don’t have to write like that but you have to know your customer’s daily language. “May I call you?” sounds much better than “May thy hath the pleasure to virtually connect with thou over auditory medium?” (Really bad example but it makes it clear, I guess.)
Use the active voice. Well, mostly. Not always though. In business emails or white papers, you might want to stick to passive voice from time to time. But when you are writing a sales copy, it’s my request that you stay in the active voice throughout.
It makes it sound more convincing and informal.
Keep your sentences small. Continuing on to being informal and clear to your reader, you cannot write 25-word sentences or 6-sentence paragraphs. Too busy.
Use the white space, my friend.
Write the way you talk.
Cut the B.S., will you?
Copywriting with personality or not?
Last but not least, your copywriting must have a ‘voice’. Are you a mafia don talking to his capos? Are you a Colonel talking to his Lieutenants? Are you a real estate agent talking to house property owners?
Are you cranky? Are you jovial? Are you sarcastic? Are you a professional?
Whatever you are … however, you are … you have to put it in your copy.
Your readers need to know who they are speaking with, and no, they don’t want to hear anything from a robot.
Once you decide your voice, stick to it through your sales copy.
In case you are wondering, voice includes words, imagery, and everything that might create your picture in the reader’s mind.
A strong voice will create your own brand that your audience will recognize right away.
So, that’s it.
Always remember, editing is what makes copywriting perfect―even for those true “Mad Men” out there.