So this is a trick I teach any copywriter or editor I work with…
It isn’t difficult.
It isn’t time consuming.
And it certainly isn’t fancy.
In fact, it’s a very simple and purely technical change you make to your word processor each time you’re writing copy that will be read via email.
It’s particularly effective for articles, auto-responder copy and email endorsements.
It also returns great results for copy that will be read on a mobile device.
(Interestingly, 68.2% of All Good Copy readers read my emails on their mobile phone – the world is changing people, react!)
But anyway, before I explain how to set this trick up…
Let us briefly consider the philosophy behind it. I mean, I don’t want to encourage a lazy generation of copywriters.
Why this technical tweak improves your copy
I do this as standard now, but I thought it was about time I shared the idea.
People have been complimenting my writing style recently…
They say it appeals to them. That it’s clear and concise.
And hey, to everyone who has complimented me, I must say thank you. I really do appreciate the positive feedback.
But here’s the thing…
There’s no reason why you can’t write in the same way.
Apart from my inherent genius (I’m a copywriter, of course I’m arrogant), the reason my writing is clear and concise – most of the time – is because I force myself to adapt it to the way we consume copy.
Remember earlier I mentioned nearly 70% of you read my email on a mobile phone?
Well, the screen on a mobile phone is relatively thin – you can’t get much on a line.
So, if your copy is ‘thin’ – if you restrict how much is on a line – it makes it easier to read.
But this is nothing new…
Before mobile, people read their copy in email inboxes. They are thin too. Most of the window is taken up by functionality and online adverts.
And before that…
People read their copy in newspapers and magazines and the copy in those was… yup, you guessed it: thin. It was specifically designed to be printed in columns.
Because it meant there was less copy on one line, so it made it easier to read.
As I say, this is not a new idea. It’s just that a lot of people seem to have forgotten about it.
I haven’t and nor should you.
In fact, you should think about it regularly. In the modern world, chances are upwards of 50-60% of your copy is already being read on a mobile device…
Do you think people are going to scroll through long, dense paragraphs of copy?
You need short, sharp sentences. You need paragraphs broken up by exclamations. You need copy that doesn’t give someone thumb-ache.
The good news is – thinking about these factors automatically results in your copy being more clear and concise. It just happens. Like magic.
And here’s where we get to the technical trick I mentioned at the beginning…
Force yourself to write cleaner copy
After all this preamble, you’re hoping this is going to be the revelation of the decade, right?
Jeez, I think I need a lawyer.
Basically, all you need to do in Microsoft Word is set your margin to 13, change your font to Courier New and change the font size to 10.
Hmmm. You’re not satisfied.
You should be. Whether you realize it or not, I’ve just revealed a purely functional change to the way you write that will infinitely improve your copy.
By limiting yourself in this way, you’ll start to notice a number of things…
Firstly, there will be a lot more whitespace around what you write. Whitespace is your friend: you want as much of it as possible.
It means your copy will be much more appealing to the eye, be it in an email or on a mobile phone (and if you’re reviewing copy, when it’s printed it’s a lot easier to edit too).
Good copy should look like it’s going to be an easy read.
Secondly, you’ll notice that when you type over four lines of text, your paragraph will seem a little flabby. That’s because it probably is. So, cut it down.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s pretty damn close. Only very rarely can you make the case for five or six lines of copy in this format.
So, don’t be afraid to break your paragraphs up with exclamations…
Although try not make them as obvious or laboured as that. They should enhance the copy by giving the reader a chance to breathe, whilst still being engaged in the flow of your copy.
Finally, when it comes to longer pieces of copy – an article like this for example – this format will give you a good indication of how long it is.
You’ll be able to see more objectively whether it needs breaking up with subheadings (roughly one per page of copy) or even dividing into separate parts (attention naturally wanes after more than three pages in this format).
All in all, it’s just a damn easy way to very quickly cheat your way to cleaner copy.
Give it a swing and see how you get on, I think you’ll find it useful. Indeed, be sure to comment below if it does help.