Copywriting secret of the masters 9 power-proofreading tips for sales copy - john forde


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Copywriting secret of the masters 9 power-proofreading tips for sales copy - john forde

  1. 1. Copywriting Secret of the Masters: 9 Power-Proofreading Tips for Sales Copy by: John Forde
  2. 2. 9 Power-Proofreading Tips for Sales CopyWhen money talks, nobody notices the grammar it uses. I dont rememberwho said that. But it was probably a copywriter.Yep. Were universally renowned for not sweating the small stuff. And,unfortunately, for not always proofreading our work before turning it in.Anyway, today Im going to talk about proofreading. Not just theconventional kind, done with "AP Stylebook" and red marker in hand … butproofing that applies DIRECTLY to sales copy in particular.So, without further adoo … adue … (er, ahem) ado …First of all, writers of all kinds constantly mistake the task of proofreadingfor copyediting.Proofreaders look for so-called "surface flaws." Grammatical speed bumps.Klutzy word choices. Creative spelling. And all those other little wrinkles thatrankle your reader and distract him or her from your message.A copyeditor, on the other hand, goes deeper.He looks for leads that go straight to the point … structure that worksthroughout …descriptive images that are relevant … moments of sarcasm orspecialized humor that might lose a reader …In short, he does what you should be doing ALREADY when you re-craft yourown first draft. Only he does it a second time. As a fail-safe.As I said, there are general rules of proofreading that apply to almost allwriting. You can look those up online. Lists of common spelling mistakes andthe like ("there" vs. "their," for example) are posted on about a thousanddifferent websites.However, while I wont get into those more conventional ideas ofproofreading … I WILL share something more up my alley today.Proofreading secrets as they might be specifically applied to writing bettermarketing copy.This wont be a comprehensive view. Just a sampling. That said, here are 9quick tips: 1. NUMBERS HAVE IMPACT: Statistics, percentages, dollar amounts … numbers can hit harder than words, if used properly. A small personal preference – wrong as it may be according to the style guides – I prefer to use the actual number in print (9 … 3 … 5,632%) when possible. Rather than use the spelled-out "nine" or "three" or so on. (Though "five-thousand-six-hundred-and-thirty- two percent" has a nice ring to it.)
  3. 3. 2. GET BACK THAT "CONVERSATIONAL TONE": The grand-daddy of rules about copy is that were supposed to "write like people talk." This is NOT, however, an excuse for sloppy writing. Rather, it means, among other things … using more clipped phrasing … shorter sentences … smaller words … lots of contractions …and even a lot of these ("…") things.You get the picture.In some ways, making yourself do that while writing the first draftrequires MORE vigilance, not less. Because were taught in school thatgood writing is dense and literary.If you worried you didnt get it right the first time around, no problem.Simply hit the "find" feature on your word-processor and startsearching. See how many words you can find ending in "tion" and"sion" … or "ance" and "ate" … or "able" and "ment." You might be ableto eliminate some of them.Then go back and search for "cannot" or "is not" or any otheropportunities to pull words together.The basic idea – you want words that are easily absorbed and let themessage shine through.3. A GUARANTEED PROSE ACCELERATOR: "Americans say that very often," observes Silvie, my French teacher. Indeed we do. However, its a good rule of writing to cut back on that where one can. And here once again, the "find" feature is your friend. Pluck out as many that occurrences as possible. Youll find it wont change the meaning in about half of your sentences. But your "flow" will vastly improve.4. REDUCE THE "COMMA CURVE": Call me guilty as charged. About half the commas dont belong where I put them. The other half are grammatically correct but create one long sentence where I shouldve written two short ones. Apply seek-and-destroy tactics to excess commas too. Youll be shocked by how much better your copy reads afterward.5. BULLETS, VERBS, AND NUMBERS: Heres something the average grammarian wouldnt think of (of which the average grammarian wouldnt think?): Bulleted lists of benefits, features, and facts are ubiquitous (that means "all over the place") in sales copy. On a
  4. 4. second pass, I like to make sure most of those bullets start with a number, a powerful verb, or – at least – a hook phrase like "how to. 6. THE RULE OF THE RHETORICAL "YES!” Have you ever noticed how copywriters inject a lot of rhetorical questions into their copy? Have you also noticed how a lot of those questions are written so the most likely answer is "yes"? Dont you think this is done for a reason? And. if "yes", dont you think it would be a good idea to SEARCH for "?" and make sure youve done the same? Yes, I thought youd say that. 7. THE ARMS-LENGTH EDIT: Another step for a copywriter proofing his or her own stuff: Hold the page at arms length. See any big blocks of text? Too much consistency in the length of your paragraphs? Or anything else that looks awkward? Break it up. Pace it. Open with lots of short paragraphs. Hit them with a 3-5 line paragraph. Then a couple of two-liners. And so on. Thats a suggestion, not a formula. Point is, keep it interesting. Said Molière, "Tout le plaisir … est dans le changement." (I got that from a postcard. It means, essentially, "Variety is the spice of life.") 8. PUT IT TO PULP: The idea that you – or even a third-party proofreader – can find your mistakes without first printing out the document is a myth. (Sorry, trees, but its better to do a proofing scan on paper than on a computer screen.) 9. GIVE IT VOICE: Ive said it a dozen times. Ive only done it a couple (to be honest), but I dont doubt that reading a piece of prose aloud is also an EXCELLENT way to find mistakes – both superficial and under the surface – that you otherwise might have missed.John Forde will be a guest speaker at the AWAI Fast Track to SuccessBootcamp and Job Fair. Learn the copywriting tricks of the trade frommasters like John Forde, Michael Masterson, Don Mahoney, Bob Bly andothers at this year’s bootcamp. Find out more.For more great copywriting articles, free copywriting reports, copywritingtutorials and more please visit
  5. 5. John Forde:A Master at WritingMore Controls More Often"If you write copy … how many chances to sell your talents to the businessesyou know and trust have you overlooked? Company websites … local salesbrochures … online ads and sales letters … print ads in local papers … evenP.R. pieces or ezine editorial.It might be the small gigs that get you started. It might be the bigopportunities that let you smack the cover off the ball at your first at bat.Either way, I’ve met plenty of people who had no grasp about what rolecopywriters play.Masterson’s [Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting] offers themost thorough and well-organized approach to the subject I’ve seenanywhere. There’s not a technique or secret in there that I haven’t foundhelpful over the years. I owe a great deal of my own success to MikeMasterson. And I tell him so regularly. As for the program, I’d recommend itto anybody – not just direct-mail copywriters, but anyone who’s trying to geta grip on what makes marketing work."— John FordeJOHN FORDE has been writing winning controls for going on two decadesnow. He’s made untold millions for clients in the financial, health, and travelindustries. John also works as a copy coach, hosting intense seminars fortwo or three hundred marketers and copywriters at a time.John Forde also writes the successful and very useful eletter, TheCopywriter’s Roundtable.