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Why Microsoft’s Copywriters Need To Be Better Liars

Empathy’s a powerful tool.

But it’s frustrating when it’s not used intelligently. You find that frustrating, don’t you? I know how you feel.

I’ve worked on lots of copywriting projects which demanded a touch of sympathy. A friendly voice that understands your financial predicament, or shows the warmth of a family GP.

Of course, empathy isn’t always real. It’s slight of hand, a trick we use to make copy connect with people. In short, it’s one of the irresistible lies we tell.

But, as I found out when dealing with Microsoft’s Live Support, some people aren’t very good liars.

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Swiped: .rising’s Incredible Generosity

You don’t get something for nothing.

Take this blog. I spend my time writing and promoting posts, sharing thoughts and advice on life as a freelance copywriter. And I don’t get paid for it.

But I still expect a return. It’s nice to see my subscribers list growing. It’s lovely to get some feedback. It’s great that people share my website through social media, and Google (reluctantly) starts caring about what I do.

If I didn’t believe that blogging delivered some kind of return, I wouldn’t do it. I have better uses for my time.

So you get to read the blog for free.

But not for nothing.

And it turns out that giving something away is a particularly potent form of persuasion.

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Swiped: Econsultancy’s Presumption

Copywriting is about getting people to do things.

You might want someone to buy. Or think about a specific idea. Or hire you as a freelance copywriter (hello).

But there’s a problem – people don’t want to do what you say.

In this Swiped post, we’ll look at an example of overcoming that natural resistance to persuasion – by putting the initial decision firmly in the past.

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When a Freelance Copywriter is a Seal of Approval

“Hello. What seems to be the problem?”

“Doctor, I’m just not sure what’s wrong with me.”

You slept eight hours last night, but you’re still tired. It’s like you didn’t sleep at all. You tell the doctor about that niggling pain in your abdomen. He asks about food.

You tell him you hate things you thought you loved, and love things you thought you hated. And, worse than that, sometimes you just throw up in the morning for no apparent reason.

It’s all since that wild night when you weren’t as careful as you could’ve been…

You know what’s causing your symptoms. You know what’s happened.

The positive test you did last week probably gave it away.

So what on earth are you doing here, and why are you pretending to be uncertain?

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Swiped: Skoda’s Bland Background

Freelance copywriters love long copy.

But we would, wouldn’t we?

In terms of work, we like projects we can sink our teeth into. Excuses to get creative, to go deeper, and to be clever. Long copy lets a copywriter show off. We also like to read them, because we’re the type of people that read. We’re interested in advertising, and how a writer can hold attention beyond a strapline.

But what about customers and prospects, the people that really matter? Have time-short consumers really got time to read all that copy?

In this Swiped post, I’ve chosen a long copy example that’s uniquely aware of the debate. It doesn’t expect anything from its audience.

But it persuades prospects effectively, whether they go long or short.

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Swiped: Apple’s Full Stops

Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m a hack.

When I started Swiped, this series of posts that pulls together great copywriting examples, I set myself one rule.

Don’t do Apple.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Apple, and I love their copy. I even liked that recent long copy ad more than most. But using Apple in a copywriting blog post is just so obvious. Everyone has done it. Now, just a few posts in, I’m breaking my rule and joining them. But bear with me.

It’s a look at Apple’s copy, and website copywriting – but I’m going a bit deeper into a single, specific technique. It’s one that I’ve stolen already. One you’ve seen fifteen times already on this page.

Make that sixteen.

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Swiped: Race For Life’s Positivity

Copywriters and creatives debate negativity and positivity all the time.

I’ve heard respected freelance copywriters say you should never use negative words. Never say bad. Never say never.

But most people make exceptions when it comes to certain industries. If you’re writing about health, security, or safety, emphasising the negative emotions can really help to solidify fears and drive people to take action.

The problem is it feels a bit dirty.

Just this week, I was interviewed by Glenn Fisher at All Good Copy. We talked about everything from my unusual approach to planning to my favourite words to use in copy. Then, we got onto the subject of whether negative or positive emotions work best.

So, for this Swiped post, I wanted to use one of my favourite examples that shows how people respond to a positive attitude – even if you’re talking about something that’s quite frankly terrifying.

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Swiped: Copyblogger’s Inverted Emphasis

This is Swiped. It’s a series of posts that’s like a swipe file, but with some insight into why I like particular things.

For the first post, we’ll be looking at one of the content marketing greats – Copyblogger. Whether you agree with what they say and the processes they recommend, it’s undeniable that their website features some great copy that’s tailored to the right audience.

But Swiped doesn’t look at generalisations. This isn’t an expansive post, but a precise one that focuses on one aspect of copywriting.

This time, it’s something that I’ll call inverted emphasis.

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Website Copywriting That’s More Than SEO

I’ve got into these copy-heavy bits of work designed to promote myself as a freelance copywriter.

They’re stylish, efficient, and a great way to present my views on copywriting in a way that isn’t a 140-character tweet or a blog post.

The latest one covers that tricky issue of SEO. You can view it by clicking the thumbnail below.

It’s designed to showcase copy, provoke opinion, and steal attention. But, while I love how SEO has expanded the market for copywriters online, this is also fairly reflective of what I really think.

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