James Joyce was rumored to prefer writing while lying down on his stomach, wearing a white coat and using oversized blue pencils to combat his poor eyesight. Hunter S. Thompson famously rewrote F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ word for word every time he was suffering from writer’s block, just to get himself in the headspace of a successful writer. William Faulkner’s secret for his influential writing was… Whiskey… Lots, and lots of whiskey…
In other words, every writer tends to have their own unique routines, quirks, and methods when it comes to approaching and preparing to transcribe their thoughts onto the page.
But for the fast paced world of copywriting, multiple projects, impending deadlines, and daunting client expectations typically don’t allow for rewriting classic 20th century literature and multiple Jameson refills.
Time is always of the essence in the life of a copywriter, which is why having an arsenal of writing tricks and techniques to instantly spark inspiration is crucial to thriving whenever a due date looms near.
So for those looking to shake off some writer’s block or are merely looking for a few practice tips to get you in the mood for cranking out copy, here are ten essential copywriting exercises for you to add to your repertoire:
What Is A Copywriter?
First, let's define the position -- a copywriter is the person who indirectly speaks for a company. They aren’t the ones at the podium when a crisis hits. They’re the ones behind the scenes producing advertisements, websites, brochures and other marketing collateral, curating the brand’s message through tactful writing. (They might have even caused the crisis in the first place.)
They are message hounds, brand evangelists, psychological gurus, unabashed liberal arts majors - and most likely a little eccentric. But that’s a good thing. Online copywriters with a good sense of humor often have the most success in the field; Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be roasted by a room full of copywriters.
Copywriters need to know a wealth of information about a litany of different topics. A normal day as an ecommerce copywriter for example, could include anything from writing a blog post about dog training, to developing a video script for wiring motorcycle headlights, to corresponding with industry professionals for guest posts.
1) Exercise Your Hand Writing
When push comes to shove and you feel like your brain can hardly summon any words, let alone a full sentence, perhaps it’s time to go back to basics. Writing out your thoughts and ideas with a pen and paper may seem arbitrary, but multiple studies conclude this ‘ancient’ transcribing technique can provide you with a creative boost.
Scientists from Indiana University have found that handwriting in any capacity will help engage the brain’s neural pathways and enhance cognitive activity. Even if you’re writing down notes instead of typing them out, you can be improving your memory and cognitive capabilities, such as retaining information longer. Taking a little time out of your day to write by hand may go a long way for sharpening your copywriting skills.
2) Stream Your Consciousness
Part of what can hinder our writing potential is the inability to be present. With all our phones vibrating, email notifications ringing, reminder alarms sirening, etc., it’s impressive that we’re able to get anything done with all the technological distractions surrounding us. Stream-of-consciousness writing is a free writing form exercise that helps us disarm whatever is distracting us so we can solely focus on the act of writing itself. In fact, Harvard researchers have found that this form of expressive writing is found to reduce anxiety and increase efficiency.
The best part of stream-of-consciousness writing is that there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Just open up a blank document and start typing whatever comes first to your mind. Type whatever happened to you the night before or the morning of. Write about a favorite pet you had growing up or all your favorite examples of the color blue. Anything that can get your brain cylinders firing might be just enough to unlock your copywriting potential.
3) Write To Who You Know
A great copywriting exercise is zeroing in on a specific audience or even person to write for. Excellent copywriting is all about knowing how to speak, influence, and relate to various target audiences. It’s easy to get caught up in your own head over whatever it is you’re writing about, which can make it difficult to write about a specific brand or product that may not relate to your own personal interests or needs.
Instead, try writing copy as if you were trying to convince or sell someone you know who you feel would be interested in whatever it is you’re writing about. What words or tone would entice your mother to take a look at an article about cycling? What cliches would turn off your roommate from opening an email regarding health supplements? You can ever try writing from the perspective of that friend or family member who personifies the target audience you’re writing for. How would dad pitch a hair strengthening shampoo to his balding buddies? Getting out of your own skin and stepping into someone else’s shoes is an essential exercise for any aspiring copywriter.
4) Read Out Loud
We’ve all been there; something about the last sentence or two you’ve written has you stuck in terms of where to go from there. You’ve read the paragraph over and over again in your head, yet you still can’t seem to figure out what’s off about it. Turns out that all you might need to find our flow is simply reading whatever it is you’re writing out loud.
Researchers from the University of Iowa say that reading passages out loud, as opposed to internally, can, ‘improve information processing skills, vocabulary, and comprehension.’ More often than not, hearing your words out loud can enlighten you to any grammatical errors or sentence fragments that you may have been overlooking while internally analyzing.
5) Rewrite For Clarity
Again, most of us in need of sharpening our copywriting skills don’t have time to take on the Hunter S. Thompson exercise of rewriting classic literature. However, truly rewriting (not duplicating) other people’s work is a completely applicable tactic that can spark copywriting ideas you may not have ever thought of in the first place. Start with headlines.
Let’s say you're writing an article about the health benefits of rollerblading. Search around to see if there are any existing articles pertaining to rollerblading’s health advantages. After reading the article, what would you title the story? Write down as many alternative headlines as you can. Then, try flipping the exercise and attempt to write a few paragraphs based on any likeminded headlines you come across. Delete the passages of an article you disapprove of and rewrite them as you would. Revising others or your own work can often be the key to opening new approaches toward the subject or tone of your project.
6) Envision the Mood
Before even writing anything down, it’s crucial to brainstorm and visualize what the overall ‘vibe’ of whatever you’re attempting to write is. If it’s your first time writing for a particular client or company, take a look at any other published content they have available.
Write down the words you think or feel when you read previous articles or copy of theirs. Is the tone lively, empathetic, or playful? Are the paragraphs more informative and educational, or more conventional and conversational? Putting yourself in the right state of mind is an underrated aspect to the copywriting process.
7) Extensive Editing Exercises
Another great marketing tip, especially for struggling SEO copywriters When you’re writing article after article, day after day, it’s inevitable that your writing will become stale and repetitive at some point. Sometimes the answer to effective copywriting isn’t writing more, but writing less. Try taking articles or stories you’ve written in the past and see if you can rewrite them using only half the number of paragraphs you wrote the first time. Condensing sentences and information will help you stop beating around the bush and get straight to the point.
Also, try looking at what words you tend to use the most. Hit ‘control’ and ‘F’ on your keyboard and type in words or phrases you use as a crutch. If anything stands out as extremely repetitive, go back and replace them with appropriate synonyms. You should do this with essentially everything you write to avoid slipping into cliché copywriting.
8) Practice Copywriting in a Diary
For most of us, writing is the last thing we want to do when we’re out of the office and off the clock. However, carving time out of your busy schedule to keep a journal or write a diary entry can not only help you vent out any work-related stress, but can also help you process, manage, and treat any underlying issues that could be hindering your copywriting progress.
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggest daily journal writing as a healthy resource for reducing anxiety, stress or depression, and Harvard researchers have alluded to expressive writing as a means of relieving physical complications, such as frequent migraines, respiratory setbacks, and sleep difficulty. Worst case scenario: starting a diary might not spark total copyright inspiration, but could alleviate stress factors that are holding back your best work.
9) Form Your Formula
Before a screenwriter writes a script, they usually write an outline. Before a director sets foot on set and yells ‘ACTION!’, they probably plot and study a shot chart for months before production. Case in point, providing yourself with a consistent, yet flexible formula you can apply to your copywriting will help you predetermine what your upcoming paragraphs will require from your typing. Breakdown your article beforehand, section by section.
Start with the introduction; how long should it be? Do you start with a statistic, or joke, or relatable scenario? Move onto the next paragraphs, or your second or third ‘acts’. Where do you tug at the reader’s heartstrings or bombard them with evidence? When do you compel them to take action or convince them to subscribe or purchase? Does your conclusion recall or answer your introduction’s segments or questions? These are the inquiries a solid outline or formula will help you answer before you even get there with your writing.
Searching for more great ways to practice copywriting? Read our post: The Best SEO Copywriting Tips to Improve Your Website Today
10) Ask Yourself ‘Why?’
At the end of the day, the question most copywriters fail to ask themselves or their work is simply, ‘why?’ Like any work of art, taking a step back, scratching your chin, and examining the motives, emotions, and incentives that went into your piece of writing is the only way to determine whether or not it’s worth reading.
Why would anyone like or share this article? Who is this story speaking to? What emotions resonate with someone who would come across this content? Trying to answer these questions before and after your piece is written is an essential copywriting exercise that will help put your work above and beyond where it already is.
When it comes to your brand copy, perfection pays off.
The team at Frahm Digital develops results-driven content marketing strategies that increase conversions. Whether you need to target new audiences with keyword implementation, craft more creative headlines or write digital advertisements, we can help.
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