What Writing Says

Copywriting, copy-editing & proof-reading

In this age of social media with its fake news, clickbait and shrinking attention spans, the quality of the writing we encounter every day seems to be spiralling drain-wards. Copy is rushed out to feed the machine, poorly written, badly punctuated and unchecked by caring eyes. And where standards fall, expectations follow.

At The Fifth Estate, we’re clear about this: writing matters. It communicates, informs, entertains, influences and inspires. It can be incredibly powerful but, as with anything we create, its worth depends on the quality of the workmanship.

All writing says something, quite aside from the literal meaning of words. Writing that represents you might not be saying quite what you think it says. Your website, for example, could be saying you’re a company for whom quality and detail are unimportant. Your CV could be subliminally proclaiming your sloppy, careless nature. Like a sprinkling of dead moths in a shop window display, bad copy, errant apostrophes and clumsy misspellings say to your audience, ‘Hi, look at us – we don’t care very much!’.

But equally, well-crafted copy says good things about you. It says you’ve thought carefully about your message. It says you’ve invested time in getting it right. It says you have high standards – of quality, professionalism, consistency and attention to detail.

Now more than ever, demonstrating high standards will help you to stand out from the crowd. Copy-writing, copy-editing and proof-reading are valuable skills: investing in them can do wonders for your message.

So, with all that in mind, here are our Top 10 copywriting tips:

  1. Know your message: Before you put digit to keyboard, know what it is you want to say. Once you’ve clearly outlined your thinking, you can begin to weave your points into some coherent written content.
  2. Know your audience: Who are you talking to, and how? Use a tone of voice that will appeal to your intended reader and reinforce the relationship you want to have with them. You can express your (or your company’s) personality through tone of voice. Is it formal or informal? Conversational? Technical? Respectful? Serious? Irreverent?
  3. Know the medium: Where will this piece of writing be seen? The medium, or channel, will influence how you communicate. You wouldn’t be overly formal on a social media update, or overly hilarious when describing your professional services in a brochure.
  4. Mind your language: Look for words and phrases that suit your audience. Use their language and terminology. Show that you are connected to their world.
  5. Don’t rely on spell-check: Many mistakes are undetectable to spell-check. If you don’t believe it, just ask any member of the pubic.
  6. Be concise: Remember, concentration spans are shrinking, so get to the point. Don’t use five words where two will do. Make your point in a straightforward, confident and unambiguous way.
  7. Be consistent: Once you know you’ve spelt a name correctly, keep spelling it that way. If you start doing something in a certain way, keep it up. Remember: A) You want to show your attention to detail. Secondly, readers will notice if you keep changing things, and 3) This list is rubbish.
  8. Be correct: Fact-checking used to be a challenge, but now there is little excuse. Check every fact – names, dates, places, products, job titles. If in doubt, Google it. If you’re not in doubt, Google it anyway – you may be surprised.
  9. Be humble: However confident you are that you’ve got everything right, ask someone else to check it through with a fresh pair of eyes. Four eyes good, two eyes bad.
  10. Concentrate: When checking your work, or the work of others, remember not to confuse ‘proof-reading’ with ‘reading’. Reading is easy, proof-reading is hard. Reading is relaxing on autopilot, proof-reading takes close concentration.

Good luck with your copywriting. And if you need help, give us a call.

Lee Baldock

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