At The Digital Picnic, we’re firm believers in the power of lifelong learning and look for every opportunity to upskill and develop in ALL areas of digital marketing [content, copy, advertising, analytics… ya get it, right?]. We’re a proud bunch of self-confessed digi geeks over here in TDP land and to be honest? We wouldn’t have it any other way. [You can sit with us AND geek out with us *winks*].
Recently, we attended an AH-MAZ-ING copy course from the word wizards over at The Good Copy. There was a whole lotta geeking out over commas, style guides, The New York Times and of course, Penny Modra [editorial director at The Good Copy and HUGE advocate for filtered coffee, good grammar and cake breaks *swoon*].
FYI guys? When it comes to writing good copy, style and consistency is just as important as all o’ that grammatical stuff. So before you start calling out every ‘grammar mistake’ you see on social media [seriously though stop being THAT guy], keep scrolling for some top tips and takeaways from our recent deep dive into copy land… byo cake.
STYLE IS EVERYTHING
Do you have a style guide for your business? If you answered no, it’s time to lean in REAL close [seriously your nose should be touching the screen].
All organisations [big and small] should have a style guide that every member of the team can access and reference. This brand bible should cover all of your decisions about punctuation, spelling, capitalisation, numbers, idioms, formatting [basically everything that needs to be kept consistent across all internal and external documents].
Not only will a style guide ensure that your writing is kept consistent, [i.e. it won’t sound like a complete stranger has hacked your website and social channels every other day *head smack*] it will also give you a solid foundation to shut down the haters *insert happy dance here*. Got a boss or client that constantly questions your writing? Show them the brand style guide. Internet troll shaming you for your grammar? Comment back with your style guide [it will shut them down immediately].
So what should you include in your style guide? A few things to consider:
Brand Voice: This IS your brand so make sure you use key adjectives to describe exactly who you are and who you aren’t. Make note of your preference of an active or passive voice in your style guide as well. TDP Tip: If you want to be thought of as credible, reliable and trustworthy, always use an active voice in your copywriting!
Formatting: Rules for formatting numbers, dates, currency, time, ranges, phone numbers etc.
Punctuation: Guidelines for using commas, colons, dashes/hyphens, ellipses, ampersand, semicolons etc.
Content types: Allow a section for your different content types and tones across platforms. Some platforms that might require different tones are your website, blogs, emails and social media, so make sure you include examples of tone requirements across your touchpoints.
Need a bit of style inspo in your life? We got your Tdp’ers! The legends over at Mailchimp made their epic style guide available to the public [not all heroes wear capes] and it’s a great resource to get you started. Grab a cuppa and have a browse right on over here.
SEAL EVERYTHING WITH A KISS [KEEP.IT.SERIOUSLY.SIMPLE]
So what does it take to write really good copy? American writer Kurt Vonnegut really did say it best when he announced, “Writing should not disappear up its own asshole so to speak.” [BRB, writing this on a post-it and sticking it all over our office, ha!].
In other words your writing should be kept simple, concise and straight to the point. Writing in plain english is the most direct method of communicating with your reader and will ensure that your message isn’t lost along the way. In order to understand how to write in plain english, it’s worth having a look at some of the common mistakes writers make when they’re trying to avoid getting to the point.
Here’s some common ways writers avoid ‘eye contact’ with their reader:
Bureaucratese: Wordy, jargon-filled, overcomplicated language considered typical of bureaucrats. Are you a bureaucrat? If you answered no, it’s time to stop sounding like one. Avoid roundabout phrases and non-essential words… kay?
The Passive Voice: The passive voice downplays or removes the subject from the sentence, reducing accountability. In comparison, the active voice makes your writing stronger, more direct, and, you guessed it, more active by having a subject that acts upon its verb.
Jargon: Terminology that is meaningful to a select group of people. It’s very useful for people in a specific field [e.g. doctors] but not so useful to your reader who is stuck wondering what on earth you’re talking about.
BECOME A COPY WIZARD
Let’s be honest when it comes to writing copy, most of the time we’re all on pretty strict deadlines. Luckily, there’s some killer resources out there to help keep your writing on-point:
Grammarly: Introducing your new grammar bff! A chrome extension that checks grammar, wordiness and tone. Psssst… it’s free to download. Get.on.it.
Hemingway editor: A life changing resource to help you write, right. Simply copy and paste your text and watch the app light up in different colours to show you exactly what needs to be changed and corrected for better readability. Fun fact: Most drafts can be cut by up to 50% and this free app shows you exactly when you’re being too wordy and need to get to the point.
Start a book club! Not only can consistent reading help reduce stress and anxiety, it’s also a great way to expand your vocabulary and knowledge. Our recommendations for some good reads on copy prowess are: Copywrong To Copywriter by Tait Ischia, Make Grammar Great Again by Meredith Forrester and Between you and me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris. Find some other A+ recommendations from The Good Copy shop.
Interested in taking your writing to the next level? Whether you’re a language lover, copywriter or just someone who wants to know where to put the damn comma, sign yourself up for a Good Copy workshop. From one lifelong learner to another? You’re going to LOVE it.