Los Angeles Freelance Copywriter’s Words to the Wise
Before we get into this blog post on copywriting tricks of the trade, I’d like to make a few points for those who may not be as familiar with professional copywriting. Often, startup entrepreneurs and small business owners fall into a dangerous trap of thinking that copy is just the words we need to fill in on our website or whatever the tactic of the month may be. Due to everything on their plates, they forget that clarity around why they even exist and how to properly communicate their value to their prospects are sales and success imperatives. Just as you wouldn’t hire a mumbling, meandering, monotone salesperson, you shouldn’t go to market without the aid of a professional copywriter at your service.
Another misconception is that copywriting is just about words, that what you need is a wordsmith. In my opinion, genuine copywriting has less to do with the actual words on the page than it does with determining the key concepts and ideas that will resonate with your targets. This is why the most highly paid and awarded talents on Madison Avenue are, first and foremost, the strategists. Then come the idea generators, and “writing” at this level includes the ability to conceptualize and think visually. After that, it’s those who can write on-brand, conversational copy across all media. Then, the media-specific specialists. Then, everybody else.
Watch your language!
All of that said, when it does come to the actual writing, you do need to keep things flavorful. But great copywriting is the art of balance: if you go overboard, you wind up with flowery, purple prose that may gild the lily but will fail to persuade or sell. But if you pay insufficient attention to the language tools and figures of speech that make reading or hearing something easy and enjoyable, you will lose attention, interest, excitement and, ultimately, readership.
8 Copywriter’s Tools and Tricks of the Trade
1. Alliteration is something we all probably remember from a class or unit on poetry. It’s the repetition of the same sound, occurring at the beginning of the words. Sentences with similar sounds show smooth style… but be careful of overuse. Blatantly boring.
2. Allusion is a reference to something other than the subject matter, used to illuminate the topic at hand via a (hopefully) known commodity. For example, if we describe your company as the King Kong of widgets, we know you’re big in the industry (and perhaps a tad angry.)
3. Anaphora is the repetition of a series of words. A series of words establishes a rhythm. A series of words can increase drama and impact. A series of words can make for more engaging speeches and marketing collateral copywriting.
4. Antiphrasis is just another word for sarcasm; we say one thing but the intention is the opposite. I’m thrilled about my recent weight gain. Aren’t you impressed?
5. Euphemism is when we “soften” the potential harshness of something. A trouble-making toddler becomes high-strung and curious. A warehouse full of unsold goods becomes a sea of opportunities. As you can imagine, euphemism is popular in advertising, especially when you need to describe the “before state.” Your clients’ businesses aren’t tanking; they’re experiencing cash flow challenges.
6. Hyperbole is probably advertising’s most commonly used figure of speech as the exaggeration of things helps us get to a more concrete understanding of what is being communicated. Also, it intensifies the emotions and promises that speak to the buyer’s desires. But before you dismiss it, consider this: many of the most effective marketing communications throughout history were deeply rooted in hyperbole. Taking things to their logical extreme (often via metaphor), provides copywriters (and comedians and screenwriters) a useful device for making their points memorably.
7. Metaphor is a comparison. While with simile we use the words “like” or “as” to make a direct comparison, metaphor cuts out the middleman, as it were, and simply substitutes the reference for the original. Whereas Chevy used to be “Like a rock,” a simile, Prudential used to promise you your “Piece of the rock.” Nobody was hurting for rocks; they got the idea. Want to be a better copywriter or marketer? Work on your metaphors. Rock on!
8. Oxymoron is the use of two words that seem to not go together, sometimes by outright contradiction, other times simply by the clash in their worlds of reference. For the former, familiar example would be “mud baths” or “deafening silence.” For the latter, Pluto, before it lost its cred, used to be referred to as the “dwarf planet”. Often used for sardonic, humorous effect, other examples could include “airline food”, “tax advantage”, and “bipartisan cooperation”.
If you enjoyed this first list of 8 copywriter tips and tricks, please let me know. I’ll get to work on the next 8 for you pronto!