from written materials that accompany a lecture series on copywriting and marketing design)
"A copywriter is a salesperson
behind a typewriter"
Judith Charles, President of Creative Communication ad agency
"Selling is placing 100% emphasis on how the reader will
come out ahead by doing business with you."
Luther Brock, freelance copywriter
The First Commandment
of Copywriting: Write first, and always, to sell.
If you do not, you are an entertainer or an artist, but not
a copywriter (worthy goals both, but not what we are here to
The Second Commandment of Copywriting: Clarity,
When choosing words, phrases,
and layouts, everything should support, not interfere with clarity.
#2: Brevity, Brevity, Brevity (or Cut, Cut, Cut)
Clarity is always served
by choosing words and styles of organization/expression which
are as short as possible, regardless of the size of the project. If your first
draft of an annual
report is 10,000 words, I guarantee you could do it in 7,000 or less.
This does not mean you
write like Hemingway in single syllables, just that you use
only the right words, and as few as possible, for the audience
you are addressing. Obviously a piece for medical or legal
personnel requires the use of polysyllabic words. Just don't
use three where one will do.
And above all else, avoid
ROSWAO: Run-On Sentence with Adjective Overload, such as:
"To increase the richness
of your theatrical experience here at the Playhouse we have
planned an exciting, innovative, and challenging season
to take place in our dramatically new, and attractive theatre
be some kind of instant karma for this like an electrical
shock delivered straight to the writer if this makes its way
before the public unedited.)
The Third Commandment of Copywriting: Always
worship substance over form. The copywriter's job is to
increase sales at the lowest possible cost. The substance of
the message makes the sale, the form(format) should support
it, not overshadow or eliminate it.
perhaps the place to mention that these triggers can also be
misapplied. Done correctly and ethically, marketing is the attempt
to persuade people to buy a product or service. Marketing
gains a poor reputation from those practitioners who slip (or
boldly stride) over the line into manipulation and deceit. Besides
being unethical, this makes everyone's job harder, as buyers
become jaded and cynical. The following techniques can be used
to effectively present your client's product in the best possible
light and give the buyer the reasons and the opportunity to
buy, which is your job. Anything further is the quick route
to "The Dark Side." You will find plenty of clients
who are happy to travel there with you, so long as the profit
is good. It is a decision you must make and live with yourself.
I won't be joining you there.]
• The need to
belong often called "bandwagon", as in
"jump on the..."
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• Desire, of any kind for love, for sex,
for safety, for comfort, for convenience....
be without protection in a disaster!"
Also includes the fear of being left out:
"Don't miss out! This is
your last chance to buy at this price."
Personally, I use this
one sparingly, as it is the fastest route to "The Dark
The Fifth Commandment of Copywriting (and Sales): Sell the benefits, not the features.
Features do not evoke an
emotional response. People care what's in it for them, period,
which means selling the benefits.
A list of features, such
- "ABS anti-lock brakes, a 6-liter fuel injected engine,
and Goodyear run-flat tires"
is stark and meaningless compared
- "Unparalleled safety for your family"
with a TV commercial showing the car avoiding an accident, stopping
quickly enough to miss a child running in the street, or driving
to safety on a lonesome, stormy highway after the tire
List the features, but sell