Did you know that language is not static but evolves over time?
You see this with new words like “chillax” and “stanning” entering our vocabulary, or the way that we no longer type two spaces after a full stop.
Because of this, copywriters need to adapt their practices to better engage the readers of the day.
These days, copywriters need to craft inclusive and accessible writing to speak to diverse audiences.
And because much of what we write is for the internet, we also need to understand how people read on screens.
So does your copy pass the accessibility and digital-first test? Read these 7 traits of good copy to find out.
1. Is it simple?
Have you ever read a colleague’s email that was trying to sound professional but just didn’t make sense? I bet you wished they had written the thing in “plain English”.
Avoid confusing and frustrating your readers by writing copy that is simple and easy to read.
Simplifying doesn’t mean you think your reader is stupid. Actually, it’s more respectful of their time.
Here are a few ways you can simplify your copy:
- Use simple sentences with only one clause
- Choose everyday words, don’t try to be fancy
- Use strong verbs instead of adverbs (“-ly” words) and nominalisations (“-tion” words)
- Use active instead of passive voice
2. Is it snackable?
Another way to write copy that makes sense and is easy to read is by sectioning.
Organise your words into small paragraphs of just one or two lines. Dense paragraphs are very hard for the eye to follow on screens.
Another thing to note is that readers don’t read from top to bottom online like they would with a book. Instead, they often skim up and down the page, grabbing the info in order of relevance.
To help them along, you can break your copy up into bite-sized chunks by using headings, subheads, bullet points and lists.
3. Is it readable?
The Australian Government’s Style Manual says that copy can be more inclusive if it’s no more advanced than what can be read at a school level of Year 7 or Year 8.
Check your copywriting is at a lower secondary reading grade by using one of the many readability tools out there.
4. Is it polished?
Have you ever spent ages crafting a beautiful piece of writing, only to return to it days later and find it riddled with typos?
According to psychologist Tom Stafford, this happens to the best of us because “what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads”.
One hack for revealing those pesky typos is changing the font to something different, even outrageous, while proofreading — but do remember to return it to something sensible once you’re done! For example, change the font colour or make it huge. Reading aloud is also a good tip.
Better yet, hire, or partner with, other professional copywriters to do your editing and proofreading.
5. Is it direct?
One of the simplest yet most overlooked ways to better engage your audience is by addressing them directly.
Shift the tone of your copy away from your own brand and towards the reader. In other words, make sure you use the word “you” more than “we” or “I”.
This will also help you focus on your audience’s needs and pain-points while you craft engaging messaging.
6. Is it engaging?
Once you’ve mastered readable copy, you can flex your creativity to better engage your reader.
Be sure to use your judgement about what tone of voice is appropriate for your purposes.
Here are a few examples of literary devices you can use to create interest:
- Hyperbole (exaggerating)
- And many more
7. Does it tell a story?
Storytelling is another literary device that you can use to engage your audience.
You can use storytelling for a variety of copywriting purposes, from advertising to blogging.
Storytelling is particularly good for creating a brand identity. By telling an authentic story that resonates with your audience, you can get people to like and trust your business.