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Sometimes editing is intuitive. I add a little something here, take away a little something there, all without thinking too hard about why I’m doing it.
I just know it sounds better.
However, there are tried and true techniques for this refinement process that anyone can use to do high impact copy editing. Here are 7 of my favorites:
1. Work the headlines. Spend the majority of your creative juice on headlines. Brainstorm angles that will instantly appeal to you reader. Consider the key pain points and your proposed solution. Review industry buzz to get a feel for what’s top of mind. Dig up a juicy statistic. Ask a provocative question.
2. Respect impatience. Internet users have incredibly short attention spans, yet they are willing to pay good money to the guy who offers a crystal clear “right solution.” Chunk longer narrative into short paragraphs. Group, list and bullet supporting benefits, key features or other like statements.
3. Read their minds. Okay, you don’t have to actually be a mind reader, but read the copy as if you were the prospect instead of the seller. What objections start popping into your head? If you don’t see a satisfying response to one, inject it into the copy at the exact point you felt the word “no” bubbling up inside you.
4. If it makes you scratch your head, delete it. Word play is fun, but it’s also risky. This is because you can’t be certain your audience will “get it” the way you do. Instead, delete the cutesy stuff and see if the copy stands on its own without it. If the surrounding copy appears incomplete, add one sentence at a time until it flows. Then stop.
5. Turn features into benefits. Somewhere in your copy–hopefully after you talk about benefits and outcomes–you will explain features. Know that people will get hung up on things like price or timing if they appear arbitrary or poorly thought out. For example, you might explain how the paced delivery of an online course prevents overwhelm and allows you to address student questions and concerns thoroughly and as they arise.
6. Just say it. You want to make an offer with conviction and confidence. Filler words, while they mimic real life conversation, can sound apologetic and tend to be overused by those who want to sound folksy in their copy. Hunt down these phrases and see how the copy sounds without them. (Example fillers: honestly, really, actually, very, truly, it’s been said that, people like you are, in my mind, to be honest.)
7. Talk it out. When I’m reviewing copy I “hear” it in my head. If you can’t do this, try reading the copy aloud. If something sounds jarring or awkward, it needs fixing. This exercise also ensures the voice and tone are consistent, a key to sounding credible and confident in your offer.
Sometimes copywriting is just an excavation process. You chip away at the words and hone the edges with precision and patience.
You have faith in what’s shining beneath the dull exterior. When you have the right tools and know how to use them, your editorial slight of hand can take the ruggedest of ideas and turn them into compelling narrative that sells.