and tricks of the trade

I do realise that there are some businesses, especially start-ups, who may not have the budget available for copywriting, and need to write their own content.   So, for you, I've put together this page of tips that I hope will help.

There are several basic principles to writing effective copy.   It should be authoritative, but not authoritarian. . .  friendly, but not overly familiar.   Regardless of its informality, the text must set the scene, create a perceived need, keep the reader engaged and encourage them to contact you!

a guide to effective copywriting

First or third person?   When authoring any copy, you must decide whether to use the first or third person.   Should it be couched as I,  me,  we,  us,  our. . .  or he,  she,  they,  them,  their?

Copy written in the first person presents as narration by an involved character, and is why 'We are good, we are clever' is far less persuasive than the third person;  'They are good, they are clever', which subtly infers an endorsement.

There are, however, times when the first person can be effective. . .  such as when personalising a local 'practitioner' service.   That is the case with this site, which is why I elected to write it in the first person.

Active v Passive voice.   Simplistically, in the ACTIVE voice, the subject of a sentence (in this example, 'Copyfix')  performs the action. . .  'Copyfix is writing the text'.

In the PASSIVE voice, however, the focus is shifted to the entity receiving the action. . .  as in;  'The text is being written by Copyfix.'

Although the active voice is more immediate, there are circumstances in which the more subtle, dispassionate, tone of the passive voice can be used to good effect when, for example, you want a reader to focus on the action being described, rather than the agent carrying it out.

This is why the passive voice is often used to convey scientific objectivity in reports or technical copy (and can also be used to minimise less positive aspects of a product, service, or its delivery! ).

tap to call 0796 115 2281

Who are you talking to?   The voice also refers to the 'colour' or 'style' of copy;  the degree of formality, the vocabulary, grammar and syntax employed.

Pace and rhythm.   Copy made up from sentences of similar length becomes monotonous and stilted.  It causes the brain of the reader to adopt the pace and rhythm of the written work.   Paragraphs composed like this become nothing more than a series of disconnected statements.   With nothing to break the monotony your message can be lost in the hum-drum.

. . . are you yawning yet?

To use a musical analogy;  without variations in pace, copy can read like a dirge. . .  devoid of light and shade, with no middle eight, chorus or key changes.   In a word, boring.

Breaking grammar.   Rules, they say, are there to be broken.

Whilst ending a sentence with a preposition is considered 'bad' grammar by academe, there are occasions when the 'correct' alternative would be ugly or convoluted.   To illustrate the point, consider this tongue-in-cheek quote often attributed to Winston Churchill;  "Ending a sentence in a preposition is something, up with which, I will not put!"

Also note the title used for the section above, 'Who are you talking to?', rather than the pedantically correct, but horribly awkward, 'To whom are you talking?'   The same consideration given to readability applies to other rules of syntax, such as splitting infinitives. . .  do we boldly go or go boldly?

Some linguistic faux pas, however, are to be avoided at all costs!   There are not 'less' people, there are 'fewer' people. . .  an action is not 'wrong', it is, more correctly, 'incorrect'.

A spelling error or a typo?   In these days of real-time spell checking, there is simply no excuse for either!   Failing to proof read before publication is unforgivable and demonstrates a profound lack of attention to detail.

Avoid obvious lists.   The reader's eye tends to skip comma separated lists entirely and search engines see them as a device to 'stuff' the site (see the Bonus content 'More about writing for SEO' below).   There is also a sound psychological principle that even bullet pointed lists should be limited to five items. . .  six at a push.

Less is more.   Very little is guaranteed to lose a visitor's attention faster than opening a brochure or website and being submerged in a sea of words!   Perhaps the most important copywriting skill is the ability to condense copy to its essence. . .  the fewer the words, the greater the impact of each.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)   When writing website content there is the additional discipline of including words and phrases, including geographical terms (see the following bonus content), that are likely to be used by potential customers looking for your goods or services.

[ BONUS:  More about writing for SEO ]

The 'near me' function in search engines is unreliable and should, for local services, always be augmented with place names that reflect your geographical reach.   For example;  even though I live in Pembrokeshire, my home IP address (and therefore my 'near me' results) comes back to London. . .  because my broadband is supplied by BT, via their Tele City data centre in Canary Wharf.

Proximal searches on mobile devices tend to be more accurate, the location of the device being determined by GPS co-ordinates or the physical point of network connection (the active cell tower).

The 'Ripple Search Effect':   Consider how YOU search the web.   If you live in, say, Marloes and need your lawns mowing, your first search may be for 'grass cutting Marloes'.   Should you not find a suitable supplier, you will probably extend your search to the nearest major town. . .  perhaps 'grass cutting Milford Haven'.

Still no luck?   Predictably, the next outward ripple in your search would probably be;  'grass cutting Pembrokeshire'.   Incidentally, 'Buzzcut' is one of mine and should be highly aspected in all three!

Another very common error is writing copy with multiple repetitions of a subject noun, in the mistaken belief that increasing the incidence of such a key word will positively affect their SEO.   On the contrary;  not only does this make text sound unnatural, all search engines have algorithms specifically designed to penalise websites that engage in this activity, known as 'stuffing'.

It's also unnecessary.   The large language models (LLMs) employed by major search engines are able to accurately determine the subject noun from natural text.

You may come across the term 'Black hat', which refers to SEO activity that stretches the rules and may be considered 'cheating' in some circles!

Let's say, for the sake of example, that you have a competitor called 'Mouse Mat World'.   Because their trading name is made up from English words (which cannot be protected by copyright), there is nothing to prevent their inclusion in both the visible and meta content of your website in order to harvest visits intended for your competitor.


Avoiding esoteric language.   Unless you serve a B2B (Business to Business) market exclusively, technical or industry specific terminology should be used with caution.   This same principle also informs the key words and phrases that are likely to be used by potential customers searching for your goods or services.

Consider this example:   Whilst that plastic box mounted high on the wall of your downstairs loo is referred to as a 'Consumer Unit' by qualified electricians, to the man on the Clapham omnibus it is simply a 'fuse box'.

Unnecessary capitalisation.   Another mistake often made by non-professional copywriters is to capitalise random words in the mistaken belief that doing so will add emphasis.

In English, only the initial character of a sentence (and proper nouns), should be capitalised.  Why?   Interestingly, it's not about slavishly following rules.   When English speakers read a passage of text we mentally pause at the end of each sentence. . .  NOT because we are responding to its terminal full stop, but to the far more obvious capital letter that announces the beginning of the next!

Far From Increasing The Impact, Unnecessary Capitalisation makes a Sentence Halting to Read.   See?

Calls to action.   This principle, often missing from self-authored or AI copy, entreaties the reader to call or otherwise contact you and can be couched with varying degrees of urgency, typified by the 'call me' entreaties scattered throughout this site.   Speaking of which. . . 

. . .call me on 0796 115 2281

Copywriting slogan: read, hear, speak

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