Pre-script: I’m chopping off the lengthy introduction and heading straight to deliver what you’re here for.
Here’s the list of the most important copyediting tips you can use right away. Let’s go.
|1. Avoid structural confusion|
|2. Focus on the main goal|
|3. Use shorter sentences|
|4. Skip everything the reader skips|
|5. Too many commas confuse the heck out of the reader|
|6. Throw your reader right into the story without wasting time|
|7. Always question the benefit of your sentence|
|8. Pick a lane|
|9. Use these 24 connectors to make a smooth landing|
|10. Cut complexity – innocent example included|
|11. Format your writing for UX|
|12. Back up your claims|
|13. Don’t copywrite|
1. Avoid structural confusion – Stop using passive voice
What’s wrong with passive voice?
Passive voice makes your writing dull and heavy.
It makes it hard to understand by delaying the delivery of the message.
Look at this example:
Passive voice doesn’t convey the message until the very end.
Let’s look at another example.
The above sentence has too many things going on. It sounds complicated.
Converting the sentence into an active voice paints the picture faster because there is less uncertainty in the language.
In addition to that, using words like “some” makes the human brain struggle to choose. Especially if you understand visually.
Well, passive voice has its right time and place.
Passive voice is used to place attention on the object or activity instead of the subject.
Sometimes, you use passive voice in direct communication to eliminate blame, to not offend people at the workplace, or to give feedback.
Simply put, passive voice is used to convey ‘the what’ instead of ‘the who’
Passive voice can be powerful too!
Here’s an opinion example I totally agree with
2. Focus on the topic’s ONE main goal
The content you write should be 3 things:
Look at the below example. This is a content email sent by a calendar app.
This email sounds complicated to an average person and rightly so.
Their target audience is normal people who just want to use a calendar scheduling app to book calls.
And if you send emails like this – with irrelevant, jargon-filled sentences, users give up. They unsubscribe.
Don’t make your messaging shoot up your SaaS users’ tech-anxiety.
Keep it simple. Focus on the one thing you want your users to do.
3. Use shorter sentences
The next time you’re struggling to write something, pause.
Take that one complicated sentence that’s hindering you from moving forward and break it into core ideas. Now rewrite the lengthy sentence into multiple core ideas. This makes yoru writing easy, AND delivers a clear message – faster.
For example, go through the below paragraph.
Take the underlined sentence in the picture above and feed it into the Hemingway app.
The above sentence is obscure and hard to read.
Let’s break it down and rewrite it to make the message clear.
Breaking down a sentence into multiple sentences makes the message:
- Easy to understand
- Easy to write
- More clear
- More specific
Sentences that convey one idea are called kernel sentences.
Kernel sentences also make effective value propositions.
I first learned about using kernel sentences inside CopySchool from Joanna Wiebe – the original conversion copywriter.
“Reduce your sentence to one single thought and break it there.” – Joanna Wiebe
4. Skip everything the reader skips
It’s ok to murder your favorite line for the sake of readability.
Most blog intro copy is overkill. If you noticed, I skipped the introduction and jumped straight into the meat and bones of the subject. Now, I don’t guarantee that it works all the time. But it works if you have juicy content from the start.
The No.1 Mistake Most Writers Make With Introductions
Even if you’re writing the intro section for a traditional blog, at least start by NOT repeating what you just said in the title.
Most writers make the mistake of twisting and rewriting their H2s, just to increase their word count. Mostly because they don’t know how to write engaging introductions.
How to do content research to make your introductions worth reading?
Start your intros like this:
A. Use a hard-hitting stat to let them know what’s happening in the industry
B. Tell a story – it could be a customer story, a situational story or an industry incident/activity/experiment. If you’re explaining a difficult concept, use analogies and tell stories to help the reader learn faster and remember better.
C. Use a quote from an industry authority or an anecdote to get their attention
D. Ask a question they cannot ignore
E. Share a desirable result that’ll keep them hooked
Example of intro copy that’s poetic, but fails to enchant the readers.
On the other hand, here’s an example of an ultra-specific blog introduction:
5. Too many commas confuse the reader
Anything more than 3 (oxford) commas, is gasping for breath and a recipe for disaster.
If you find a sentence with more than 3 commas, it’s an indication that it’s too much information stuffed into one sentence.
Break it down.
Connect back to the kernel sentence approach to write better.
Look at the example below:
“..regular basis, either daily, weekly, or monthly” – This phrase sounds highly uncertain and unsure. The last thing you want you to do is – to confuse the reader.
6. Throw your reader right into the story without wasting time
In Media Res – means to start in the middle.
This is another copywriting principle I learned from Joanna Wiebe.
Start in the middle to hook their mind to your version.
In Media Res is a copywriting/screenwriting principle used in the very first scene of your favorite shows.
If you’ve binge-watched five full seasons of Money Heist like a maniac, blame the first scene.
The first scene got you hooked. It threw you right into the story and you became a Money Heist maze runner forever.
Let’s look at an example:
This is an email from Samar Owais, one of the best email strategist and copywriter I know.
This is a no-BS email.
No greetings, no lovelies – her emails jump straight to the point and get the job done.
To set the context,
Target audience: SaaS CXOs, Directors, Marketing Managers
Offer: Email Conversion Audits
Goal: Book an Audit
This is just half the email to show you how Samar wastes 0 seconds in conveying the message and getting the audience hooked.
7. Appeal to your reader’s first instinct
By asking “so what”.
Let’s see how to do that.
You’ve written something, cool. Now, if the reader asks “so what?”, there HAS to be a benefit to back up your claim. If not, your readers drop out.
Look at this value proposition example:
Value Prop: Digital Assurance is the Bedrock of Digital Transformation
My first instinct after reading this is – I don’t understand what you’re saying. My brain goes digital digital and that’s it. I have to read it multiple times to really comprehend what they’re meaning to say.
To top that, there’s no crosshead copy to support the message and help me understand their purpose.
The value prop ends there –
- Without talking about the ‘real’ benefit of digital transformation
- Without talking about why the reader should reach out to them
- Without talking about why the reader should trust them to digitize their business
- Without explain the scale of digitization
- There’s no social proof to back up anything this value prop says
With no benefits to back up your claims and no reason to reach out to you, you become any other brand who fades away very quickly from the reader’s memory.
8. Pick a lane
You’ve got to take a stand. Your copy should convey ONE big idea to the ONE reader with ONE goal. If you don’t do this, your copy spreads all over the place talking about many random things but actually speaking to no one.
Here you go:
I started this post by saying – 13 Copyediting Tips To Make You A Kickass Copywriter
This one line does 2 things:
- Selects the audience – Writers/copywriters/editors have identified themselves with this piece of writing. It’s the first step towards conversion
- Gets the reader interested – Because every writer wants to improve their copy chops. That’s their end goal.
Now, why do listicles like this one work? Basic human psychology. It boils down to one basic emotion. You and I (and everyone you know) have lived this emotion. It’s greed. We’re greedy for more. We don’t say no to more. That’s why #buzzfeed listicles go viral in no time.
9. Use connectors to make smooth transitions
Here’s a list of 30 connectors I use to make copywriting transitions look natural and effortless in your copy:
- Here’s the thing
- Don’t forget to
- Here’s how:
- Before <we do that>/<go ahead>
- That’s not it
- That’s not all
- Let’s look at an example
- The thing is
- The truth is
- In fact
- But first,
- But wait, that’s not all
- But wait, there’s more
- On that note
- But, is that even possible?
- On the other hand
- But how can you achieve it?
- But, what’s more important is
- While we’re on it
(You see what I did there? I used a connector to make a concept clear by explaining it with an example)
The email below sets the mood: Heading to holidays with BFCM
Goal: To get the readers to listen to a podcast episode of Limited Supply
The email copy uses connectors just before he reveals the goal. He does that to reignite the reader’s attention – by connecting two interesting actions. Take a look.
10. Cut complexity
And cut complexity.
The most common mistake 90% of writers make is to paralyze the reader’s already stressed minds with convoluted, complicated sentences.
Unnecessarily lengthy sentences not only make the reader undergo information fatigue, it’s also painful to sit through.It distracts your reader.
Example: How do edit for clarity and brevity?
You see how one single hazy sentence was turned into 3 simple sentences that conveyed one idea – clearly.
11. Format your writing for UX
I cannot stress this enough!
For whatever’s sake! Format your copy for readability, usability and user experience.
Yes user experience is for writers as well. Not just web designers.
You cannot deliver a chunk of sentences and call it a day.
Even if you’ve applied all the copywriting principles and copyediting tips we’ve talked about so far, even if you’re a terrific writer – in the online world – Formatting Matters.
- To make lengthy copy legible without overwhelming the reader
- To break monotonous patterns
- To justify the importance of a point
Just like I did now. I conveyed the above points in a bullet format to help the reader grasp information faster, and remember better.
12. Back up your claims
Before you finalize a sentence, make sure you do enough research to explain what’s going on.
If you’ve made a claim, back it up with ample proof.
Proof could be anything. Stats, facts, survey results, research data, examples, testimonials, excerpts from case studies, screenshots of reviews, proof of concept in the form of infographics, flowcharts, diagrams etc.
HockeyStack does a very good job at highlighting achievements and leveraging social proof.
13. Don’t copywrite – Have a conversation
People want to feel like they matter. Acknowledge it.
Genuinely, address their situation as is.
Without sugarcoating it.
But also without watering it down.
And you’ll have built a following of people who trust you.
Because eventually, it’s the trust that makes someone invest in you.
But how do you do that?
Here are 5 ways to make people feel like they matter:
1. Address “the ONE reader’s” problems in the copy
2. Talk about “the ONE reader’s” primary concerns.
3. Solve “the ONE reader’s” problems in the copy
4. Speak 1:1. Avoid convoluted sentences and go for simple language instead. The point of copywriting is to connect with people and make it easier for them to connect with you. If you make the reader think hard, the reader quits. They don’t owe you one bit, so they quit. That’s why it’s important to write like you’re having a conversation. Even if it’s B2B writing.
5. Don’t “Copywrite”. Have a conversation. Address your reader as “you” in your copy. Give them an experience by making your copy easy to read. Remember, you don’t talk like a bot with your friend. Talk human. Imagine that the person is sitting right in front of you and you’re having a conversation about << the subject>>.
Here’s a sales page I wrote that brought in $61k+ in sales within 3 weeks of launching.
You see the copy flows like you’re having a conversation with someone. This not only makes the reader read until the end and gets hooked to the message, it also converts into a high 5-figure launch.
If you’re looking for product messaging like this, write me an email: [email protected]