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How to edit your copy so it keeps readers glued to the page

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I’m back in the UK and enjoying the much cooler weather after a scorching 3 weeks in Italy. This week I started working on aa very interesting email sequence optimization project for a SaaS client. We want to increase their sign up to paid trial conversions. So I got to thinking about copy editing. Maybe deeper than anyone would dare (or care) to…

Your job is not done when the writing’s over.

That’s when editing comes in. It’s what injects your copy with that spark that captivates the hearts and minds of your readers.

Copywriting legend Bill Bernbach (familiar with the “Think small” Volkswagen ad?) himself was an avid copy editor:

Editing extreme requires attention to detail, lots of stamina, and a methodical approach.

You can’t just wing it.

So, how do you edit well?

The best approach I’ve found is what Joanna Wiebe at Copyhackers calls “The 7 copy sweeps“.

You hit 7 editing points: clarity, voice and tone, “So what”, “Prove it”, specificity, emotion, and zero risk.

You “sweep” the copy point by point, and after each one you double check again for the previous.

Like this:

This takes you to a great 95%.

But what’s the 5% that a lot of copywriters overlook?

It’s what I call the “relevance and context sweep”. It stuck with me after diving into UX design for 2 years and it stems from the idea of “information scent“.

See, your copy doesn’t live in a vacuum. Especially online, every page, every email, every ad, every social media post, sits in between other assets and creatives, which make up the user journey.

You need to keep it as consistent and as relevant as possible if you want to convert.

That’s why, even before going through the 7 copy sweeps, the first thing I look at is relevance and context.

A few questions you can ask yourself to do this:

  • Is the copy I’m leading with relevant with what my reader has consumed before?
  • Do they have all the context they need when they land here? Or should I add any?
  • Am I keeping the copy relevant throughout the page/email/creative?
  • Am I leaving them with enough context for them to continue their journey?

Try it out with what you’re writing, and let me know how it goes. It would be cool to see a before and after.

✅ In case you missed it

  • Often being hyper consistent can be counterproductive. Here’s my antidote
  • A new episode of The Grind Mastermind is up on Youtube. This is a bi-weekly live session that I have with my buddy Josh where we talk over our business goals and review/plan around them. If you want to get an insider scoop at what we’re working on or you’re just curious about how we operate our businesses, this is for you.
  • I’m planning to do more coaching and consulting in the next few months and I’d love to help you. One of my clients, Jim, an amazing UX / UI designer recently shared his experience from our 1 on 1 calls:

📚 3 things to get better at copywriting

1. Do a “post-mortem” review: This works so well for consolidating your thoughts and your learnings. It creates space that you can use to objectively look at your past and at your decisions.

Which I’m a firm believer, makes you a better thinker – and a better thinker is a better copywriter

I use it in my daily review and planning process, and at the end of every client project. Simply write down your thoughts about what happened and how it happened. Keep it fast and free flowing.

For my daily review I might jot down how I felt about my workout, or how a specific project or task went, and my energy level throughout the day.

For a client project I typically reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Did the time I put into it match my initial estimate? Did I enjoy the type of work and the relationship with the client? Did I like the market / industry I wrote copy for? etc.

Give it a go.

2. Use “Emotional resonance maps”: Yet another great thread from Patrick Campbell. Good way to keep you on your toes when writing copy because it makes you think careful about each section of your argument and at what its purpose is.

3. See your writing in an entire new light: I loved this interview (and the whole series by David Perell). Here are 2 ideas I can’t stop thinking about:

Looking for the “empty space in the bookshelf: If you’re here you’ve likely thought of writing a book, at least once. Whenever you think of putting creative work out into the world ask yourself:

  • Am I the right person to do this?
  • Does the world need a book like this?
  • Is this going to be interesting to spend years and years of my life on?

Then, start your “books I should write someday” list.

Writing like an athlete Treat your writing like a sport, and you’ll write better and more efficiently:

“if you start to think of your writing process as an athlete you treat it very very differently, you do reps, you do sets, you think about recovery, you think about training, you think about discipline, you think about time management, you think about energy management…” – Jimmy Soni

🤔 Thought of the week

“To remain stable is to refrain from trying to separate yourself from a pain because you know that you cannot. Running away from fear is fear, fighting pain is pain, trying to be brave is being scared.” – Alan W Watts, Wisdom of Insecurity

Refuse to acknowledge pain and pain will just become another part of you. Something you don’t need to run away from but deal with on a daily basis.

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brain dump?

Every week I write about what I’m learning at my copywriting/UX desk ,with fun, insightful and quirky stories.

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