When I was at middle school (also known as junior school), I started reading the dictionary every night. I did this because I believed I needed to be more intelligent. I thought that knowing more words would help dramatically.
Now that I’m a grown up, I’ve had various copywriting training and I like to write, but I’m by no means the best writer, I know that. Whether I’m writing for this blog, other articles or for clients, I use various reminders to help me make the copy more interesting and fit the need. One of these is finding synonyms for variety of language, because unsurprisingly, I never did make it to the end of the dictionary.
Here I’ll share some more of my tips on how to write intelligent copy for your business. What do I mean by intelligent copy? I simply mean a piece of writing that achieves what it needs to achieve. That could be to educate, to entertain, to share a story, to build interest in something, to sell…the list goes on. Let’s get stuck in.
Varying sentence length
I feel that when you read a book out loud and with expression, it really highlights the variation in sentence lengths. To add drama. To make a humorous statement. Or perhaps to deliver a character’s long, drawn-out, complex, but still amusing, story-telling sentence to another character. See what I did there? More so than when you’re reading with your internal, muted voice. This variation provides pace, mood, atmosphere and builds interest. Readers will notice the repetitiveness of many similar-length sentences bundled together and may struggle to enjoy the copy.
Breaking the rules
I was taught in school that sentences never begin with and. And why would they, given that the word is a coordinating conjunction, designed to join two clauses in one sentence? Well it is a myth. It is perfectly acceptable to begin with and if it is suitable for the audience and also if you do not accidentally turn a supporting sentence into a fragment. This could happen if you were missing a subject or a supporting clause in the sentence. Beginning with and often adds character and changes the pace, just don’t overuse it in that way. Rules can be broken to make writing more captivating.
The length of a piece of writing is often important and a word count limit can be set. Examples might be; an award or funding application, an exam paper, a feature in a magazine, a short story, an advert or a blog post. A restriction can make a writing situation fair to all, or relate to the space available for words. If you are asked to write within a set word count, you really must adhere to that. Sometimes, I have found, a word limit can even make your piece of writing better because you are forced to go back and edit suitably to get your point across in fewer words. There’s a great article on why word count matters at Writers’ Treasure.
Acronyms have their place, but they can also often be found where they are not wanted. It happens in the majority of professions, of course, but there are good reasons to keep them at bay. The abbreviation of a group of words or terms relating to something in particular, into a tight bunch of capital letters stood alone, can stop the reader in their tracks. If you do need to include an acronym, be sure to provide an explanation in brackets on its first inclusion. Unexplained acronyms in a piece of writing can make the reader feel excluded and can be unhelpful.
When I have written something, I always go back over it and see if I can make some language adjustments. Have I started too many sentences in the same way or overused a particular word perhaps? Does it keep my interest and does the content relate well-enough to the title it has? Seeking synonyms can often make the content more interesting for the reader and if I feel that the style needs livening up this is a great way to help with that. You may also need to make careful considerations about the situation you’re writing about or for, or the climate you are in e.g. war, death or recession.
Remember the objective
Once you’re close to your final draft, either read it over carefully and slowly again yourself or get someone else to cast their eyes over it. What is the main message that comes across? Do the words convey what you needed them to convey? For example, if I am writing promotional copy, I check that it is benefits-led and that there is a clear call-to-action present. It can be easy to go off at a tangent and think you have fulfilled the brief only to find it’s not quite hitting the mark.
Hopefully some of those suggestions will support you to write some brilliant copy for something, somewhen. Let us know if you try them and it works out splendidly!
Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative