As with most things in modern art, the first time it happened, it was down to Picasso…

He painted a picture of a chair, but not satisfied with paint alone, he stuck an actual chair on the canvas.

Surrealist Marcel Duchamp, took it a step further, and in 1917, he just signed a toilet, turned it upside down and said “finished”.

More recently, for the Turner Prize, Tracy Emin brought her bed in, didn’t bother to make it and didn’t clean up around it.

It’s known loosely as ‘found art’. Or as the French say: objet trouvé.

What’s it got to do with copywriting?

Well, I’d like to recommend you do start to use something a lot more in your copy…

Something that will help you engage on a much deeper level with your reader…

Something I call ‘found copy’.

It works along the same principle:

You take something from everyday life, that’d otherwise seem plain and dull and mildly pointless and rather than use it to inform your art, you use it to inform your copywriting.

Naturally, as we’re in the arena of written communication here, what I suggest you ‘find’ are words and phrases.

But not just any word or phrase.

When I talk about ‘found copy’ , I talk about words and phrases that are used in everyday conversation. I’m talking about words and phrases that people REALLY use, not the imagined dialogue you so often see in copy.

You’ve no doubt been told at some point that you should sell a product or service to someone as though you were selling it to a friend whilst sat at a bar sharing a drink.

Well, it’s by using ‘found copy’ that you’re more able to create this feeling with the written word.

Listen to how people talk. Listen for phrases that cut off and go nowhere but still make sense. You see, people don’t talk in structured sentences and paragraphs. And people don’t usually speak in a strictly grammatical way. Neither should your copy.

Pedants and language purists will despise you for writing like this, but then pedants aren’t paying you.

My best advice for this is to take a small notebook and sit in your local pub or coffee shop. Look like you’re doing something but actually eavesdrop on as many different conversations as you can. Really listen to them and jot down what words and phrases you can.

At home, write out your notes over and over. Don’t rewrite the conversations to make sense; write them as they were spoken.

Do this a few times until you have a fair few pages of notes and then review your notes, keeping a specific eye out for repeated words and phrases.

This is now your ‘found copy’ notepad. Whenever you come to write a new piece of copy, you can refer to it and look for real life words and phrases that you can add to your copy to make it feel more authentic.

I admit it’s difficult to prove that the use of found copy will improve a promotion as its something that should run through the entire sales letter naturally, but from a number of tests I’ve done on more casual writing versus a stricter, more accurate style…

The casual copy always wins.

Found copy is something I use religiously and encourage my trainees to use as much as possible. And whether it’s adding a small phrase such as “you get that, right?” into an explanation of a complicated system or a more thorough use of found copy throughout your promotion…

From my own experience, using it WILL help you better engage with your reader and see you write more effective copy.

Thanks for reading,


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