8 Top Tips for writing successful copy

Successful copy gets your readers to notice it, gets them to engage with it and gets them to do what you want them to do. People skim read, quickly trying to work out whether they're going to be wasting time vs finding out something interesting. So the words you use, the order you put them in, and how you lay them out are critical to success.


1/3/20224 min read

Make the reader your hero.

Your headline has to arouse curiosity, impart some news, and appeal to your reader’s self-interest, e.g. what needs it will fill, what advantage it will give them etc.

Focus on the problem they’re facing right now and the solution you’re selling. Then, be single-minded about choosing the problem/solution. 

Make the reader your hero and have a beginning, middle, and end. 

selective focus photography of boy wearing black Batman cape
selective focus photography of boy wearing black Batman cape

Think of the brief.

Go back to your brief and answer these questions:

  • Who am I writing to, and how do they feel about what I’m selling?

  • What does your reader think about your brand?

  • What does your reader think before receiving this message?

  • What do you want your reader to think after reading this?

  • What do you want your reader to do?

  • What proposition are you making your reader?

  • How do you back up the promise you’ve just made?

  • Which of your reader’s other problems will your product solve?

Think about features in terms of their benefits to the reader; facts beat flannel every time, and simple can be more challenging than complex. 

man sitting near black chair
man sitting near black chair

Get the message in the correct order.

Think about the reader's problem, the solution and the resolution.

Then think "AIDA". The opening headline wins the reader's attention and prompts them to go further. The description and explanation that gains interest by picturing the proposition in mind. The argument or proof creates the desire for the product by showing its value and advantages. Then finally, the climax, which makes it easy for the reader to act at once

Also, try to anticipate your reader's resistance, e.g. what obstacles do you have to overcome to make them say yes?

white letters on brown wooden table
white letters on brown wooden table

Obsess your Headline.

“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. So when you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents of your dollar.” David Ogilvy.

  • The headline needs to help your reader get into the copy.

  • Start with one sentence - a tagline is a one-sentence description of the idea that you have - it’s a “hook”, a catchphrase, something that’s memorable and will leave your reader wanting more.

  • Use abruption to get your headline noticed, e.g. putting news into the headline will attract readers, so will a phrase that arouses curiosity, but nothing beats a benefit.

  • A benefit prompts a response of “Why and how does this work?”

  • Buzzfeed headlines work - ask a question and focus on the problem.

  • The subhead is vital as it serves as a bridge to the body copy. 

woman in gray top
woman in gray top

Get your body in top shape.

When writing your body copy, write as you speak. Make your first paragraph track from your headline, and start where the reader is, e.g. try to understand what they think as they read the copy, and remember that the reader's favourite subject is the reader.

Use your own experience to understand their emotional needs - seeing the world through your reader's eyes blossoms into empathy - the story's hero is the reader. Finally, give them the facts - empathy wins hearts, facts win minds and turns interest into desire.

Appeal to their self-interest and anxiety levels surrounding the purchase - use awards, endorsements, new/breakthrough technology, testimonials etc. Always have a clear call to action - how they can get the solution.

woman doing yoga meditation on brown parquet flooring
woman doing yoga meditation on brown parquet flooring

The second draft - put these in.

  • Does my headline grab this person’s attention?

  • Have I shown that I understand their problem?

  • Have I been clear about the solution?

  • Have I given proof?

  • Have I anticipated and overcome their doubts?

  • Have I told them exactly what I want them to do?

  • Have I broken the copy up with subheaders?

  • Have I used the right words - the basic rule of vocabulary is to use the first word that comes into your head.

  • Use active verbs instead of passive verbs.

  • Write chronologically and use the dynamic of cause and effect, e.g. if you do A, then, as a result, B will happen.

  • Use the most powerful word of all: You, e.g. ‘you’ should appear at least three times more than ‘I’, ‘We’ or ‘Our.’

  • Use short sentences - the ideal sentence is between 14-16 words. Anything between 20-25 is just about ok.

  • Use short paragraphs, usually 2 or 3 sentences long. 

  • Use one idea per paragraph.

person pouring flour on table beside eggs and whisk
person pouring flour on table beside eggs and whisk

The third draft - cut these out.

Cut out jargon; otherwise, people will think you’re hiding something and come across as insecure.

Avoid cliches and make sure your subheaders are clear.

Cut the extra - in most cases, you can remove up to 25% of the text and not lose one iota of meaning.

Read your work out loud - does it sound natural and conversational?

sliced yellow fruit beside knife
sliced yellow fruit beside knife

Lay it out properly.

  • Use headlines that stand out.

  • Use subheaders.

  • Use short paragraphs.

  • Have white space between paragraphs.

  • Use a typeface created for the screen, e.g. Verdana, Tahoma, Nina or George.

  • Use a serif face for headlines and text.

  • Don’t use upper case or italics.

  • Only use bold for highlighting the odd few words or keyphrases.

  • A body type set wider than about 60 characters is hard to read.

seafood dish filled pot
seafood dish filled pot