What Copywriters Really Think of Your Writing

two oranges talking behind another's back

When you’re in the business of copywriting, you can’t help but pick up on misspellings, poor grammar and badly written copy – it comes with the territory.

Since no-one likes a busybody, we tend to keep these thoughts and opinions to ourselves, occasionally sharing some shockers with those within our circles of trust.


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Never had your website critiqued by a copywriter? Well, let me enlighten you with what copywriters really say about your writing behind closed doors. Warning: you may need a thick skin.

All Features No Benefits

With some exceptions, the best copy tends to sell on the benefits.

Benefits are those things that add value to your customers’ lives – the things that make them smarter, healthier, sexier or whatever. Whereas features are there to inform and impress, many businesses make the mistake of focusing too heavily on the specifics of their products and services, e.g. ‘our web design service includes a custom-built CMS, access to stock images and 24 hour technical support’.

Although these things are certainly useful for a customer to know, they won’t necessarily have people reaching for their credit cards.

By focusing on the benefits of your service, you’ll improve your conversion rates and make more sales, e.g. ‘our web design companies in Seattle will attract more customers to your website, enhance your brand and make you more money’. This approach is more likely to persuade customers to buy as it explains more clearly what’s in it for them.

Not Call to Action – what?!

One of the most common mistakes businesses make with their website copy is not having a clear call to action. Whether email marketing, writing a landing page, a whitepaper or a brochure, anything sales-related needs to direct the reader to take some sort of action.

Don’t assume that people will instinctively know what to do when they read your copy, you need to tell them. And you need to tell them regularly.

I’ve written about how to write a call to action on this blog before, but I’d like to add an extra point about adopting ‘the rule of three’ approach to sales copy.

The rule of three pops up quite a lot in reference to copywriting and Heather Lloyd Martin covers the approach really well on her SEO copywriting blog.

In the context of calls to action, the rule of three applies by including a call to action three times throughout a typical 400 word sales page or email. Don’t be put off by sounding too pushy.

A sales page is designed to sell so don’t hide behind your content or pretend it’s anything other than an attempt to get your customers to buy from you. In most cases, the most effective sales pages are those which are transparent.


A Lack of Social Proof

When it comes to sales, people follow by example. There’s a reason that the first thing a busker does before they start playing is put money in their cap. Social proof is a powerful tool.

By including testimonials and reviews in your copy, you instantly add credibility to your brand, which gains people’s trust. Remember, when you say it, it’s branding’ but when your customers say it, it’s social proof.

If you shop online, think about what persuaded you to buy your last item from Amazon or book your last hotel on Trip Advisor.

If you’re anything like me, you made your decision based on the reviews of people who have bought these products and services before. So, if it’s good enough for Amazon and Trip Advisor, it’s good enough for your business too. As the father of copywriting, David Ogilivy writes in his book Ogilvy on Advertising:


”If you include a testimonial in your copy, you make it more credible. Readers find the endorsements of fellow consumers more persuasive than the puffery of anonymous copywriters. Says James Webb Young, one of the best copywriters in history, ‘Every type of advertiser has the same problem: to be believed. The mail-order man knows nothing so potent for this purpose as the testimonial, yet the general advertiser seldom uses it.”

David Ogilvy


And who can argue with the man himself.


The Wrong Tone of Voice

Finding the right tone of voice for your brand can be tricky but get it wrong and your customers won’t make it past your first sentence.

Consider what kind of brand you are and where your business fits into your industry. Just as you don’t want to sound too corporate selling to creative start-ups, you don’t want to be too informal if you’re selling to Fortune 500 companies.

It’s all about finding the right balance and being consistent.

In order to create a suitable tone of voice in your writing, consider who your audience are and think about the kind of language that’ll keep them engaged.

Are you ‘making an enquiry’ or are you ‘emailing for a chat’? Are you selling ‘bespoke products, manufactured by highly-skilled craftsmen’ or are you selling ‘quality, handmade goods’?

Unless you’re using storytelling techniques to sell a product (in which case, writing in the third person works really well), in most cases, your copy should be written in the second person, addressing your customers directly, using ‘you’.

At the risk of sounding all high and mighty with this post, what kind of copywriter would I be if I didn’t invite a critique of my own website copy?

Writing for other companies often means copywriters don’t have the time to spend updating their own sales pages. Noticed anything I could be doing better on my own site?

If so, please let me know, but remember to be gentle – we copywriters are actually quite sensitive souls despite what the tone of our headlines suggest.


Jamie Thomson

Jamie Thomson is an award-winning senior copywriter and the owner Brand New Copy copywriting studio. With over 15 years professional writing experience, he helps companies engage with their target audience through tailored content strategies and exceptional copywriting.

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