To my mind, good copy – articles, brochures, social media posts, and any other written material – has two functions: to inform and to engage.
Information presented dully is bound to make your eyes glaze over in a few minutes, and engagingly written waffle adds no value to you whatsoever.
It sounds relatively simple to combine the two, but we’ve all sat down to write something we thought would be easy and stared at a blank screen for far too long. The cat’s out of the bag: writing correct, informative copy that piques your readers’ interests is harder than it looks.
So, here’s how to make your copy flow in three simple steps.
#1: Let the data inform your basic narrative
In my experience as a copywriter, the data you’re presenting is like the synopsis of a really good movie.
If writing good copy was as simple as presenting the data in its purest, most efficient form, nobody would ever watch a movie – they’d read the Wikipedia synopsis and be done for the day.
Take Titanic for example. The data part is straightforward: two young people from different backgrounds fall in love on a ship that is heading for a fatal collision with an iceberg. One survives, the other drowns.
There. You know what happens in the film, so there’s no point in watching it, right?
Wrong. That two-sentence synopsis didn’t keep you glued to a screen for 3 hours and 14 minutes. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s chemistry, James Cameron’s direction, and the iconic voice of Celine Dion make Titanic one of the most-watched movies of all time.
The same theory applies to copy.
The data you’re presenting should inform the narrative you create. Typically, an article (or section of a brochure) should go like this: problem, solution, call to action.
For this reason, it helps massively to plan your work. Think about that structure I mentioned (problem, solution, call to action) and come up with subheadings that make it easy for your readers to scan through and get the gist before reading the piece in depth.
If you need more help with forming a narrative in your copy, my colleague Gareth wrote an in-depth article about just that. And, if subheadings are your Achilles’ heel, Charlotte has some wise words for you.
Now you’ve got the data sorted, it’s time to fill in the gaps. Cue step two.
#2: Signpost your work with handy sentence starters
Once your data has formed a strong structure for the copy you’re writing, now comes the slightly more challenging part: you’ve actually got to write the damned thing. And unfortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet seem to be busy right now.
Most of us are fairly competent with the written word, but it can be hard to make your writing “pop” if you aren’t accustomed to writing snappy copy.
One tip that has really helped me and my colleagues is “signposting”, which essentially means using clever sentence-starters to sew up your points and keep your copy flowing succinctly.
Here are some handy sentence starters for you to refer to later. There are quite a few to look at (I’m breaking my own rules about flow here, sorry!) so save this blog to your browser and refer back later if you need to.
Don’t’ go yet, though – step three is perhaps the most important one.
Compare and contrast
|On the other hand||However||In comparison||Whereas|
|Similarly||Likewise||Still||In the same way|
Introduce a list, section or table
|Given below are||Here is a list of||The below table refers to||This table explains how|
|Keep reading to find out||Read on to see||Here you’ll find||Discover […] below|
Add a thought or idea
|In addition to this||Also||Furthermore||Additionally|
|Subsequently||Moreover||To elaborate||More importantly|
|In the same way||Just as important||Equally important is||Besides|
|Another instance||Then||As well as||To add to this|
Reveal an outcome
|As a result of this||This results in||Resulting from this||The outcome of this is|
|The evidence proves||As you read earlier||Studies have shown||The data reveals|
|So||All this leads to||Evidently||This infers that|
|For example||The following examples show||Given below are examples of||An example of this is|
|For instance||Such as||Namely||Consider this example of|
|Specifically||To illustrate||As you can see here||As evidenced below|
Provide background information
|Originally||When this began||Prior to this||Until now|
|In the past||Since […] year||In years leading up to||Previously|
Reference others’ work
|[…] Suggests that||According to||Based on the ideas of||[…] Points out that|
|[…] Challenges the ideas of||Research by […] reveals||A study from […] shows||As proved by […]|
|Ultimately||In summary||Overall||In brief|
|In short||With all this in mind||All things considered||All this brings to light|
Once you start peppering your copy with these handy sentence starters (which can also be used as connectives if you’re feeling really crazy), you’ll notice that your copy is no longer a set of rigid points but a flowing piece that joins up all its dots.
#3: You’re a human – write like one!
By now you’ll have heard of ChatGPT, the AI programme that can write whole articles on your behalf. While impressive, this software has its limitations; I certainly won’t be using it any time soon, and I don’t recommend that you do either.
One important topic that the rise of AI-written copy has brought up, though, is the idea of whether an article sounds “human” enough. Apply this to your own copy, and you might find that you’re clinging to old, outdated writing rules that make your work seem a little rigid and old-fashioned.
Copy is meant to sound like a formal conversation. Make it too colloquial and you risk losing the trust and respect of your readers, but a robotic-sounding blog only makes your copy dense and difficult to read.
Tell it how it is without dressing it up in too much academic jargon, and you’re bound to capture your readers’ attention, as well as making yourself (and your business) seem more approachable.
So, next time you’re writing a piece of copy, remember that people want to read human-sounding work. Little jokes, references to popular culture, personal anecdotes, and even the occasional exclamation mark all have their place, even in “serious” pieces of writing.
Need a hand writing beautiful copy? We have you covered
Writing professional-level copy is hard. While I hope this blog has boosted your confidence, producing articles, social media posts, brochures and guides from scratch can be tricky to say the least.
If you need engaging copy that meets the technical specifications of your financial planning business, we’re here to help. Email email@example.com or call 0115 8965 300 to get started.