Copywriting is the craft of delivering compelling prose, of grabbing a reader’s attention and keeping it, usually toward a journalistic, marketing, or otherwise sales-oriented purpose. Copywriting, then, is an important tool for generating interest in a service or product. As such, it requires delicate handling. One does not want to bully the reader into submission, with the “hard sell”, thereby alienating potential customers, nor does one want to alienate with overly vague or misleading content. There is a verbal economy in persuasive writing – between the descriptive, declarative, and the imperative – that demands practice and fine tuning. Such specifics will be dictated by the exact needs of the copy. After all, a charity courting donations to alleviate global poverty will have very different verbal requirements to, say, a car magazine selling subscriptions. The point is that each client will have particular stylistic and tonal characteristics that need to be followed. Good copywriting consequently necessitates thorough research, both into the client one is writing for as well as the customer they intend. When one has a grasp on the appropriate register for the job, one is more likely to deliver an effective message. Because copywriting is a heterogeneous species of writing, the formal characteristics of different jobs will probably be very distinct. A good copywriter needs, therefore, to be chameleonic in prose. One’s writing style will be defined by adaptability to the task at hand. This means that one needs to understand the act of writing as a commitment to a craft, with various tools for various jobs, each of which needing to be learned, explored, and finessed over time. As with any craft, then, mastery in copywriting will come through perseverance.
One of the most important copywriting skills to learn is how to hook a reader from the get go. This might be achieved through a punchy strapline or tantalising opener, an initial sentence that sparks something in the reader’s heart or mind. This will of course be context dependent, but certain overriding rules may nonetheless be established. For one, you need to make it personal. You should engage the reader as an individual, using pronouns (“you”, “your”), so to bring home the personal relevance of the message. This will summon more empathetic resonances to the piece; the reader will find it easier to relate. Also, you want to move the reader, to evoke emotions. So you should use expressive language that stirs and provokes. Again, this is where verbal economy is important. You do not want to bore the reader with excessive jargon or technical language where it is not needed. A pudding mix should not be described in molecular formulae; instead, one might cite the “rich and creamy texture”, “oodles of chocolate”, and other appetite-whetting consonance-rich phraseology. Similarly, a government pamphlet promoting vaccination would avoid such whimsy, alluding instead to the “essential health benefits” of “protecting your family” from the flu virus, perhaps even broaching some level of technical speak. The art is to assimilate as many writing modes as possible; that way you will be able to employ the appropriate words for the given task.
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