Copywriter and Copywriting Communication Skills – 5 Top Tips for Great Copy

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Today I welcome Charlotte Fleming to my blog. Charlotte is a copywriter from Great Copy, a business based near Forfar in Scotland that provides copywriting and proof reading services for business websites and brochures. So here are our five top tips on copywriting for your website, brochure and online marketing newsletter.

One. Remember it is written English and not spoken English. Spoken English has developed short cuts to allow people to communicate quickly with friends and colleagues. If you write as you speak it will look very odd on the page and potentially put off or annoy some of your readers. Please remember you are writing copy that is to be read.

Two. Remember your audience in your copywriting and that your aim is to communicate effectively. Will your copy be read by specialists who commonly use jargon or is it for a more general readership? If you are writing for a non-specialist audience stick to plain English otherwise you risk not being understood and if the reader does not understand what you are writing he or she will stop reading. Even if you are writing for a niche audience it may be wise to adopt a plain English writing style, especially if it is not your speciality. A liberal sprinkling of buzz words and jargon tends to put-off readers. Remember you are writing to communicate your ideas so write clearly. Do not try to impress by your knowledge of specialist language, impress by conveying your knowledge and ideas. Your audience is reading your copy because they want to learn and learn quickly so use your communication skills to allow them to do that.

Three. As a good copywriter you should aim at using proper punctuation. If you have never been taught it, and a lot of people have not, go and learn. But do not use it badly because again it puts off a huge number of people. Punctuation is for the written word what intonation is for the spoken word. Both help to convey your meaning. Good use of punctuation really ought to be part of your communication skills tool kit. Here are three examples where the meaning of a sentence changes depending on the punctuation.

A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Let’s eat Dad.
Let’s eat, Dad.

A man killed a lion that attacked him with a knife.
A man killed a lion that attacked him, with a knife.

For more details on comma usage see this page by the University of Sussex: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/comma

Also, beware of an Apostrophe Catastrophe lest the Grammar Police come and get you! If you are unsure as to whether you should use an apostrophe and you are in a hurry the non-use of the apostrophe often looks better than the inappropriate use. For a little more information on the Apostrophe see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe

Four. This tip relates to quotation marks or inverted commas. There are in fact there are two types: single quotes (‘ ‘) and double quotes (” “). Generally, in Britain the single quotes were more common in the past but double quotes are now more; American usage has always preferred double quotes. So normally use the double quotes and only use quotation marks if you are making a quote. For example: Mrs Thatcher declared “I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!” Do not put them around individual words because it looks as though you do not actually know whether it is the right word or not, so it looks messy. If your intention is stress a word or phrase then do so with italics.

Further useful information on quotation marks, and punctuation in general, can be found by following this link: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/quotes/marks

Five. Lastly and perhaps most importantly proof read. Check and re-check what you have written. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar in your marketing material can wreck the image you set out to create. Charlotte and I use three tactics that help to catch errors that have managed to creep in: a) Read the copy out aloud. Hearing what you have written often highlights obvious errors; b) Put the copy aside for an hour or more and do something completely different. When you come back to check what you have written you will spot your errors. If you try proof reading immediately after you finish writing, your brain sees what it expects to be on the page and not what you actually typed; c) Give the copy to someone else to check. Often they will spot mistakes or odd meanings that you have inadvertently let slip through.

The video Copywriter and Copywriting Communication Skills – 5 Top Tips for Great Copy can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/IiTozuVtNAk

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