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13th November, 2017

Tips from the professionals: The secrets to good copywriting

We recently shared some tips from our translation team—and this week, it’s the turn of the editors and copywriters. How, exactly, do you become a master of language? 

“The more we read, the more sensitive we become to the nuances of language” 

PETER COWELL
Lead English Editor

The best advice I can give to a copywriter—or any writer for that matter—is to read voraciously. Bolt down words as though you are starving. And do it as often as possible.

It doesn’t even matter too much what you read—as long as it’s of good quality. An editorial in The Times can be as beneficial to a copywriter as the linguistic virtuosity of Virginia Woolf’s novels, and a well-written paper in a scientific journal is often as compelling as the spare, driving prose of Hemingway. Whatever you read will show in your writing. And if you don’t read, this will show too. 

Reading literature unlocks the word-hoard. It helps us to avoid clichés, tired metaphors and worn-out similes. Beautifully crafted lines of prose or verse are inspiring, and force copywriters to revise their own work with greater care and attention. The more we read, the more sensitive we become to the nuances of language and how it is used to create an effect.

All copywriters should be passionate about reading. After all, this is what moved us to put down words in the first place.

“Read anything you can get your hands on” 

FREYA SIMPSON GILES
Director

Read, read, read! The best copywriters are also eclectic readers. Read anything you can get your hands on but I particularly recommend Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples, On Writing by Stephen King and anything by Hemingway, the master of brevity.

“If you’re constantly thinking about your key message, it’ll come through in your writing” 

JENNY DEL FAVERO
Lead English Editor

No matter what you’re writing, you need to consider what the reader should take away from it. If your reader remembers one thing from your piece, what do you want it to be? This is your key message. When I’m writing—especially with long pieces, because that’s when it’s easiest to forget—I like to jot down my key message and stick it where I’ll see it all the time. This keeps my writing focused. If you’re constantly thinking about your key message, this will come through in your writing.

Another indispensable tool in the writer’s toolkit is an outline, whether you’re writing a long piece or a short one. It’s a step that many prefer to skip, but trust me, it will save you time and stress in the long run. Before I begin writing, I like to jot down my main ideas in point form. Then I’ll flesh out this basic structure with supporting information. Once I’ve established these basic building blocks, I’ll rearrange them so that one idea flows logically and elegantly to the next.

There are a couple of benefits to this. Firstly, it allows me to write out of order. I find that sometimes, I get stuck on a particular part. If I have an outline, I can just move on and come back to it later. Another benefit is that it keeps your writing concise and focused, because you’ll be less inclined to wander if you know exactly what to write next. Finally—and for me, most importantly—having what are basically step-by-step instructions cuts down stress levels, particularly when there’s a time crunch. As those of us in the creative industry know, nothing kills productivity like stress. So give it a try next time—if you don’t already outline—and see if it works for you.   

Do you have any tips to add? We’d love to hear them—do leave them in the comments, or feel free to get in touch.

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