“No one’s going to read it anyway” and Other Woes of a Copywriter
So you’ve sat with your copy document for hours – switched a few words here and there, added some commas, whipped out that thesaurus you got in high school – and made it just right. It’s a good feeling, huh? Now when millions of people land on this website, they’re going to have the absolute best, most comprehensive understanding of the product, its benefits, and how it will impact their day-to-day life.
Except they’re not going to read it. I promise.
I, too, lived in that fantasy world for a little while. But you don’t cross the threshold of realistic copywriting until you come to terms with this huge, overbearing restriction. In general, people don’t like to read. So when you say that you “love to write” and people say they “hate to read,” you have a recipe for discouragement.
My advice? Beat the system. Make it impossible not to read it.
These days the new saying is, “content is king.” This is extra validating for the copywriters of the world. Basically the thought is that any form of media is likely to fail if it lacks strong, desirable, and relevant content.
So keep your chin up because you’re needed.
So take your beloved copy document and start by condensing the text. There are few people in the world (and yes, I’m one of them – the other is anyone who has made it this far in this blog post) who actually want to read paragraphs of text. And even if they read it, odds are they aren’t paying attention or truly understanding it anyway.
Group relevant concepts together.
Think of it like a menu – you see everything categorized by type: Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Chicken, Pasta, etc. That way, if someone comes to your site or reads your brochure and they’re only interested in mac and cheese recipes, you make it easy for them to find only mac and cheese recipes. Make headings, throw some bullets in there, turn sentences into phrases, etc.
So now you have a bunch of different chunks of information. Perfect, right? Well it’s only perfect until they hit you with the old, “There’s only enough room for 5 lines of copy on the page.” Tough one.
Stay strong, champ. Here comes some more advice.
Now this one is a real shot to the heart for my fellow lovers of elaborate sentences. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to simplify them. Since I’m still stuck on the whole mac and cheese thing, let me demonstrate.
Indulge in this creamy masterpiece American classic, dripping with unfathomably savory cheddar cheese and gently topped with perfectly crunchy breadcrumbs.
Mac and Cheese – An American classic where creamy shakes hands with crunchy
There’s a lot more to it – and anyone who has been thrown the task of “writing” a website remembers the moment they realized that it’s hardly writing in the sense that they’ve always known it. It’s a learning process, and these few points are my small contribution to the population of struggling (copy)writers. The truth is, it’s not anything like what they taught you in school and it’s certainly different than the personal writing you may do on your own.
So the next time you’re sitting at your desk, reveling in the greatness of that last sentence you wrote, remember that you’re not alone. Copywriters everywhere have struggled to find the balance between traditional writing and writing for certain platforms. The key is to be realistic about it – websites need website copy, brochures need brochure copy, and paragraphs are meant for novels.
But along the way, never lose the love of writing that brought you here in the first place.
All the best,
Michelle is a Social Media Strategist with Stream Companies, a Full Service Advertising Agency outside Philadelphia