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Wake up your words!

Is your copy feeling flat? Here are 14 quick tricks I use to inject energy when I'm editing.



1. Vary the length of your sentences


Are your sentences all uniformly one length? Try cutting some of your sentences up. Balance longer sentences with short ones. Even single words can work on their own. Why? They help to keep your reader on their toes.



2. Get active


Check your writing for passive sentences and change these to the active voice.


Switch phrases like:

'The decision to close the account was made by our customer service team'

To:

'Our customer service team made the decision to close the account'

Which can then be edited to the punchier :

'Our customer service team closed the account'


Make sure the subject of your sentence is performing the action and your writing will sound bolder and more decisive.



3. Simplify!


Does your writing sound like an instruction manual? Drowning your reader in complex, industry-specific language that requires years of experience to unpick is a surefire way to sap all life from your copy. Try to write as you speak - imagine you're explaining your product to a friend in the pub. Aim for something natural rather than robotic.


Rather than something like: 'The fully upgraded uToast3000 utilises an integrated temporal modulator to precisely adjust the heating element's power output, resulting in the optimal level of heat distribution across the bread surface during the toasting process.'


Try: 'The new uToast3000 has an adjustable timer, so you can decide how long your bread is toasted.'



4. Check your punctuation


That doesn't mean adding exclamation marks to the end of every sentence. Scan your copy for long, complex sentences that need close reading thanks to multiple clauses, commas and semi-colons. They'll slow your readers down and get them tangled up.


Can you cut your sentences up? Is there a simpler way to say the same thing?



5. Sound out the rhythm


It always pays to read your copy out loud. Does it flow like speech? Are you running out of breath? Are you getting stuck on a specific word or a tricky phrase? Do the natural stresses (think drumbeats) fall on the important words?


Read these two examples from Copywriting Made Simple by Tom Albrighton out loud:


Choose from loads of beautiful patterns, including smart stripes, fun spots and sophisticated Argyll.


Choose from dozens of beautiful patterns, including snazzy stripes, funky spots and classy Argyll.


The first starts with a run of single beats and then squashes too many beats together before running out of steam with 'sophisticated'. The second is more balanced and flows more naturally, without major changes to the meaning. Instant energy!



6. Swap features for benefits


Which piece of paper are you more likely to buy?


  • Piece of paper A is composed of cellulose fibres that are arranged via controlled distribution and manufactured with acid-free additives. It has a porous nature and possesses moderate opacity.


  • Piece of paper B keeps your writing looking neat. It's smooth and absorbent so your notes don't smudge. It's just the right thickness so you can use it for tracing drawings without your words bleeding through from the back. And it'll stay strong and white even if you file it away for years.


A lot of writing falls flat because it doesn't address the real concerns of its readers, so it fails to connect. What happens then? Readers switch off. Make your writing relevant to the real, day-to-day challenges of your customers and keep them reading on.



7. Break it up


Monolithic paragraphs can be an instant turn-off for readers as they're hard to navigate and hide the most important information in a sea of text. This is especially true for digital content, which readers are more likely to skim.


Try breaking up your writing with headlines, sub-headings, paragraphs, bullet points, lists and numbers and you'll make it more dynamic, with an all-important sense of pace.



8. Stay positive


If you want to make your words pop, scan your writing for negativity. Rather than focusing on the problems, try flipping the perspective and see what difference this makes.


'No more annoying streaks' becomes 'sparkling and streak-free'.

'Tired of endless grey days' becomes 'escape to the sun'.

'Worry keeping you up at night?' becomes 'get complete peace of mind'.



9. Start strong, stay strong


Punchy verbs will add power to your writing. Lead your calls to action with bold words like 'go', 'get', or 'discover' to give them energy.


Single, well-chosen verbs are clear and bold. So choose 'sprinted' instead of 'ran quickly' or 'grinned' instead of 'smiled widely'.



10. Delete unnecessary words


Take out words that aren't working hard and you'll leave your writing leaner and meaner. This includes words like 'practically' or 'really' or words that have the same meaning, like 'free gift'.


Reduce long phrases like 'concerning the matter of' or 'the reason for this is', to single words like 'about' and 'because'. And watch out for words that hedge their bets like 'might', 'could', 'can help' or 'some' as they'll drain the power from your copy.



11. Keep it real


Many people worry their writing is too simple so they dress it up with confusing abstractions to sound more professional. This results in less energy, not more. It's best to address your reader directly with concrete language and real examples. Aim to paint a picture in their mind.


So:


Should further assistance be required, we recommend speaking to one of our many helpful members of staff, who will be able to resolve any enquiries.


Becomes:


For more help, speak to a member of staff.



12. Ditch the clichés


Don't bore your readers with phrases they've read before. Have you used tired expressions like 'piece of cake', 'read between the lines', or 'back to the drawing board' in your writing? Can you find more unexpected ways to say the same thing to bring your copy to life?


Don't forget: every industry has its clichés. How many times have you seen a plain white tee described as a 'wardrobe hero', 'a go-to', 'must-have', 'effortless' or 'endlessly versatile'? Get to know your industry's unique clichés, use them sparingly when you need a convenient shorthand but don't rely on them entirely.



13. Have a bit of fun


Depending on the tone or situation, you might have an opportunity to play around with your writing. Experiment with alliteration, puns (as long as they aren't over-used), rhymes and more. Get inventive and you'll help wake up your words - and your readers!



14. Find a new angle


Sometimes copy lacks that vital spark because it approaches a subject in the same way as everything else. Ask yourself if there is a way to tell a story rather than just relaying a list of dull facts. What's the human angle? Can you find an analogy that brings your subject to life? Can you find a way to make it sing?



Still need a helping hand bringing your copy to life?


Get in touch, I'll be happy to help.


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