Your Copywriting Sucks. Here’s How to Fix It.

Kristina Adams
Jan 22, 2018 · 8 min read

Copywriting is often seen as the black sheep of the writing family.

People presume it’s not as interesting or romantic or fun to write as fiction or poetry.

And if that’s how you feel about copywriting, you’re approaching it all wrong.

Effective copywriting can be just as interesting and romantic as fiction or poetry. If it’s done right.

Trouble is, too many companies think they can do their own copywriting despite having no idea where to start (or finish).

You know where that leads?

To bankruptcy.

I’ve been writing for two thirds of my life. For most of that time, I resented copywriting.

However, copywriting is impossible to avoid when you work in marketing.

So, when I started a new job last year, I decided to take myself on a copywriting journey. I’ve done courses, read books, conducted experiments, rewritten book descriptions, and written a LOT of sales copy.

And now, I almost enjoy writing copy as much as I enjoy writing fiction and poetry.

You know why?

Because I realized that copywriting isn’t the bastard sibling of fiction and poetry like many people think; it’s their fraternal twin.

Before we begin, there’s a few things we need to establish:

And also…

The writing landscape is always changing, but the key (and most effective) elements never change.

One more time:

The key elements of writing never change.

The tactics in this blog post worked 50 years ago, and they still apply today.

The better you get at each of these tactics, the better you’ll become at copywriting.

Copywriting is hard

You must put the work in to get anything out of it. This may take years. But then, when you’re a truly great copywriter, you’ll be able to charge thousands for your wisdom with words.

So, without further ado, let’s look into the key ingredients all great copy needs…

Write in second person

When copywriting, talk to your audience.

Don’t address them in third person.

When you address them in third person, you create a barrier between you and your audience.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

They then won’t see your product as something that’s beneficial to them, but to that bloke down the road.

And that bloke down the road won’t see it as beneficial to him, but that woman across the street.

And soon, nobody will think your product is aimed at them.

Always address your audience like they’re right in front of you.

Always address your audience like they’re right in front of you. It’s the fastest way to create a connection.

Tell a story

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. And I’m sure you think you’re telling a story, but are you, really?

Are you setting up your potential customer to be the hero of your story?

Does your copy have a plot that leads them down the yellow brick road to your call to action?


Then you’re not telling a story.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Tell your audience the story of the problem your product solves.

Then, once you’ve told them how awesome your product is, tell them how they can get their hands on it.

Use emotive language

Words have power. You can use them to make your readers feel something. And you should, otherwise there’s no point to your writing.

Let’s say you’re telling the story of a time machine.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

You start off with a kid who’s bored with his life. So, to really paint this picture, you use words with negative connotations like ‘bored’ or ‘frustrated’.

Then you amp up the story — oh no! Terrorists!

But your time machine helps him to escape because it’s ‘awesome’ and ‘powerful’.

The words you use — and sometimes their impact — will depend on your audience.

To maximize their impact, make sure you use the same language that your audience uses.

For instance, you wouldn’t use words like ‘bae’ or ‘woke’ when writing for a B2B audience. Likewise if you’re writing for teenagers, you’re unlikely to say ‘seldom’ or ‘egad’.

Write a picture

When you write fiction or poetry, you operate on the assumption that your audience will read the full piece. You leave some things open to their imagination. You avoid adverbs and adjectives, because they’re for the lazy writer.

In copywriting, you operate under the assumption that only 20% of your audience will read the full piece. You therefore need to invoke a strong image in their mind. Fast.

The faster you write that picture for your audience, the faster you can convert them.

The faster you write a picture for your audience, the faster you can convert them.

The more imagery you create using your words, the more your audience will be able to see what you want them to see, and feel what you want them to feel.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

You can get them to see the plush, leather interior of your DeLorean. You can get them to smell gasoline as the engine roars to life. You can get them to hear the whoosh as they hit 88mph.

Bet you can smell gasoline and picture the leather interior of a car now, can’t you?

Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t tell your audience what your product does, tell them why it does it.

Why do they care that they can travel through time?

Because it means they can see what their parents were like as teenagers.

Or they can go forward in time to see how they turn out, and what their children are like.

They can even change the course of history!

Shoes tying themselves is a feature, not a benefit. Image courtesy of Giphy.

Telling them that they can travel through time sounds cool. Who wouldn’t want to, right?

But you want to invoke an image in their mind of them traveling through time.

Focusing on the benefits allows your audience to see themselves already using your product.

They’re no longer looking at the DeLorean from the outside — they’re already sat inside, typing in the dates they want to go back to and wondering what they’ll discover.

Ask yourself, ‘Why?’

This one is for when you come to edit your copy.

(And if you don’t edit your copy, please go back through every piece of content on your website and EDIT IT RIGHT NOW. You will have made dumb typos. We all do. That’s why editing is important.)

As I was saying.

Go through what you’ve written. After every statement that you make, ensure that the next sentence(s) answer the question ‘why?’

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Why do people care that they can travel through time?

Why does it matter that your time machine has a Flux Capacitor?

Why travel through time in a DeLorean instead of a police box?

If your next sentence(s) don’t reinforce your statement, you need to go into more detail.

Keep writing/editing until every ‘why’ has been answered.

The more detail you go into, the more likely you are to pique your audience’s curiosity.

Back up what you’re saying with some statistics

Including statistics about how fast your time machine is, or how many people have used it, reinforces the story you’ve already created.

It demonstrates that your time machine is tried and tested.

It gives your audience social proof that your product works.

And if it’s worked for someone else, it can work for them, too.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Don’t underestimate the power of numbers, but don’t expect them to do all the work, either. They should enhance the story you’ve already told, not replace it.

Don’t underestimate the power of numbers, but don’t expect them to do all the hard work.

Borrow from your competitors

If you don’t know what your competitors are doing, you’re not researching your market enough.

Sometimes your competitors know what they’re doing, sometimes they don’t. You won’t know unless you look them up.

They may have ideas you can borrow, or ideas you can make better.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Remember: you can’t copyright an idea. Neither can your competitors. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that.

Practice. And when you’re done practicing, practice some more

The importance of practice can never be understated.

No matter how well your page converts, there will always be more that you can do to improve it and further increase your conversion rate.

The more you write, the better you’ll get at it.

The more you write, the better you’ll get at it.

Don’t ever think that you know everything there is to know about writing. Someone will always be able to prove you wrong.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Stop worrying about content quantity over quality

Quality content wins every time.

You know why?

Because it’s far more likely to create a connection with your audience.

Quality content wins every time.

Something that is clearly written to churn out more content will quickly lose readers.

Something that adds to their experience and creates a connection is what really matters.

If you can answer their question in 500 words, then let the piece be 500 words.

Save the fluff for on your dog; it doesn’t mean anything in copywriting.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Create an emotional connection with your readers

People buy based on emotions, not logic.

It’s your job, therefore, to create that emotional connection as quickly as possible.

The sooner you create that connection, the sooner you can convert your audience. And the higher those conversion rates will be.

Image courtesy of Giphy.

Like this blog post? Please give it a 👏 or fifty.

Need some help combining sales and storytelling? Drop me a line on LinkedIn.

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Kristina Adams

Written by

Author, poet, blogger, marketer. Can be found under a pile of books with a vanilla latte. /

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +724K followers.

Kristina Adams

Written by

Author, poet, blogger, marketer. Can be found under a pile of books with a vanilla latte. /

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +724K followers.

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