5 language hacks to instantly become a better copywriter
Every word on the internet is a barrier. It’s a barrier between the reader, and the message. Sometimes even between the reader and the action you want them to take.
Copywriting is about lowering that barrier.
About helping your reader absorb your message with as little friction as possible.
Part of that means facilitating the flow of the sentence. Another part is using descriptive language that conveys the idea with maximum accuracy.
Here are 5 tried and tested no-brainer hacks to improve copywriting, no matter what your experience level is.
1. Forget the word “get”
Strike the word “get” from your vocabulary.
It is the most useless word in the English language and is only used by lazy writers.
The word “get” means absolutely nothing by itself and can ALWAYS be replaced by a more accurate, precise, descriptive, and therefore, helpful, word.
Here are some examples of how a lazy writer writes:
- I got a car
- You get the idea
- She gets upset
Here’s how a smart writer writes:
- I bought a car
- You understand the idea
- She becomes upset
Bonus? It makes you sound more intelligent, and who doesn’t want that?
So when you’re tempted to write “get”, think about what you’re really trying to say.
2. Avoid the word “very”
In a similar vein to “get”, “very” is also a considerably useless word to use. When combined with an adjective, you’re taking the easy way out. Often you can find a word that is a much more “juicy” option, which will simultaneously embellish your sentence.
Here are some ways to avoid “very”:
Very smart -> Brilliant
Very hot -> Scalding
Very interesting -> Fascinating
Very useful -> Integral/Indispensable
Very bad -> Terrible
Very good -> Incredible
The word “very” is also vague. How bad is “very” bad? It would be much more helpful to your readers if you quantified how “very” bad the situation was — it would give more insight, precision, and interest to your sentence.
Here’s an example:
The situation is very bad.
The situation is categorized as a level 10 catastrophe — the worst we’ve seen since Hiroshima.
More often than not, a sentence that avoids “very” will be more interesting to the reader and will boost your copywriting.
3. When in doubt, use contractions
Unless you’re the most stiff AF corporate brand in the world, your online copy should be easily readable.
The more friction there is in your sentence, the more difficult it is to mentally read, the less likely is a person to want to continue reading.
By using “we are”, you’re breaking a readers mental reading flow. You’ve just chopped it up. A regular person talking wouldn’t say that, because it’s awkward.
It’s equally awkward if you do it in writing, too.
Read these in your mind:
Sentence nr. 1:
“Tonight we’re going to a movie”
Sentence nr. 2:
“Tonight we are going to a movie”
Did you feel that? That break in syntax, the little hiccup between “we” and “are”, that wasn’t present in the first sentence?
It might not seem like much, but it’s enough of a nuisance to throw someone out of their flow of reading.
4. Avoid using passive voice
If you’re going to write content….own it. I don’t mean literally own it, but rather write with clarity, conviction and confidence!
What is passive voice?
Google says it’s:
“A form of a verb in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g. they were killed as opposed to the active form he killed them ).”
In layman’s terms, it’s when the action is more important than the subject of the sentence.
Passive voice also has a tendency of making the writer look unsure about the topic at hand.
What you want to use is active voice.
Here are some examples of passive voice vs. active voice
- The ebook was written by the author
- It is demonstrated by research that water improves productivity
- One million dollars were raised by the ICO
- The author wrote the ebook
- Research shows water improves productivity
- The ICO raised 1 million dollars
We see that active voice sounds more convincing, requires fewers words to get the idea across, and clearly states who is responsible. These are all things you want to demonstrate in your copy.
Pro tip: If you’re unsure about how to identify/use active voice, use Grammarly. They’ll automatically catch passive voice and offer an active voice alternative.
5. Improvise with punctuation, bolds and italics
Oh. My. God. I love playing with punctuation!
Peppering your copy with punctuation and italics is like garnishing a bland meal with spices — it makes all the difference that your consumers will enjoy.
Punctuation, hyphens, ellipsis points (the three points in a row -> “…”), bolds and italics are all tools a copywriter has in their arsenal to draw attention to certain parts of the copy.
Why not make use of them?
Punctuation, such as what I did at the beginning of this section, gives the reader an indication as to how the text should be read. They make text more interesting. Every. Single. Time.
Hyphens in the middle of a sentence are a nice break, and emphasized what comes after it.
“We make headphones — good ones.”
“My name is Bond — James Bond.
“We write the best content — every time.”
Bold text does exactly what you expect it to do — make words bold, draws attention to them, and helps them stand out among the rest. Bolding words is perfect for the modern day reader who skims the page. Bold texts draw the eye to the important messages that have to be seen. Use wisely. And sparingly.
Italics, on the other hand, lend the reader an idea of the tone of the word in italics. The kind of swoopy, drawn-out tone that when speaking, emphasizes how important that word is. Take this as an example: “It’s really important to wear a helmet.”
Instant copywriting improvements aren’t that hard
The good news is, you can implement all of these tips immediately. No waiting. No learning. Just doing.
The bad news?
You have no more excuses.