Writing clearly and simply is an art to which many aspire but few achieve. Crisp and concise content will make sure that your message comes across loud and clear.
Whether you’re blogging, tweeting, writing a speech, copywriting a brochure, developing a white paper, podcasting or crafting a video script, compelling copywriting is all about being understood.
Keep things simple with these 5 no-nonsense copywriting rules.
1. Use clear language
Write clearly to get your message across. Short and precise words are better than flowery prose.
Have you often racked your brains, thinking of fancy words to sound smarter? You’re not alone. But there’s really no need to use big words to impress your audience.
There’s nothing more annoying than having to keep re-reading something in order to understand it. Sometimes, we forget that the simplest word can have a bigger impact. So use specific, easy-to-understand words, instead of vague ones.
Simplifying your copy can makes things easier to read and helps your audience to understand your message more quickly.
Tip: Try writing as if you are explaining your material to a 12-year-old. Your writing should be clear and simple enough for a 12-year-old to understand.
2. Keep it short and concise
Good writing is concise. Short sentences are easier to read than longer ones.
Why use three words when you can use one? Example:
Do not write longer than you should.
Do not ramble. (shorter = better)
Simple sentences are more appealing to audiences, especially in web writing where short is sweet. This is because people tend to scan pages rather than read them.
The secret to writing shorter sentences is to get rid of the “mumbo jumbo” and go straight to the point. Get rid of unnecessary or repetitive words.
Tip: Make use of punctuation – use periods to break up longer sentences into two. If there are two ideas in a sentence, split them up.
3. Edit ruthlessly
Less is always better. If it’s possible to cut out a word, do it.
Every word, phrase or sentence should add meaning or value to your subject. After all, who wants to read a long-winded article when a short, sweet and to-the-point version can be just as impactful.
Having the guts to ruthlessly edit your work can be difficult. But it’s a lot easier to do so once you realize that not everything from the first draft will make it to the final version.
Leaving out the fluff can mean the difference between an average piece and an awesome one.
Tip: If you do find it a struggle to trim the fat, leave your piece alone and tackle it again the next day. There’s always something that can be scratched out after looking at it again from a fresh perspective.
4. Strip out the jargon
Your piece needs to be accessible. So use easy-to-read language.
Jargon is the technical, scientific or business language only people in the same trade, specialty, industry or organization will understand. Sometimes it can be easy to get carried away with jargon when writing a technical piece, especially in business writing.
But you can never be sure whether the reader is familiar with the terminology or has an in-depth understanding of the subject.
So if there’s an everyday-English equivalent for a technical term, use it. After all, you do not want to alienate your readers. Layman language makes more sense to your reader.
Tip: Always make it a point to understand what you are writing about, especially for a technical piece. Then try to explain it in simple English.
5. Use active, not passive, language
Most of the time, it’s easier to read in the active voice. So try to use it more often in your writing.
Consider these sentences:
The structure was designed by a famous architect. (passive)
A famous architect designed the structure. (active)
The active sentence is shorter, punchier and more direct. It is more powerful and clearly identifies who’s doing what. An active sentence has more energy, keeping your readers more engaged.
On the other hand, a passive sentence is wordier and can make your piece lifeless. It won’t be surprising if this turns off your readers.
Use the active voice when you want your writing to be clear, direct and simple.
Tip: You can spot passive sentences by the use of “was” or “by”. Try rewriting them into active voice and you’ll see how the overall tone of the sentence has changed.
Writing clearly, simply and concisely will help your audience easily understand your message. This helps to capture and keep their attention. So choose your words carefully.