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Being Contrarian about the Copywriting Conference

Well, there’s a blog title that seems remarkably on brand…

In this unpredictable new normal where we’re all in it together but staying apart, I’m literally writing this blog post at a copywriting conference. It’s virtual, which makes it a bit like the longest webinar you’ve ever attended.

But it’s also prompting some interesting ideas, even where I don’t 100% agree with the speakers.

For a while now, I’ve been banging the drum of ‘Nobody knows anything’. I apply that to copywriters sharing career advice on social media, so-called ‘best practice’ and the tools clients try to use to assess and analyse copy. We’re all out here making educated guesses.

But, as freelance copywriters or their in-house counterparts, we all have opinions.

So I thought it’d be fun to share my conflicting thoughts as we progress through the day.

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Let’s Stop Being Negative About Being Negative

I was talking to a client the other day about negativity in copywriting. We discussed the notion that you should never use a negative word, like ‘don’t’ or ‘frustrating’ or ‘painful’.

And, reader, it was painful indeed.

It’s another of these nonsensical copywriting ‘rules’ – usually the product of:

  • A copywriter who needed to find a topic for a blog post
  • A client who trusted that blog post to be well-researched and informative
  • An understandable desperation to make copywriting a one-size-fits-all science – something that’s easy to do and judge for quality

In reality, copywriting is a creative balancing act. The skill of using the most appropriate techniques for a given moment.

So, for the sake of balance, here’s when I think negativity is a positive for the task at hand.

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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: 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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Your Press Release Copywriting Is Not Exciting

Cue the fireworks. This piece of news is very, very exciting.

You see, for the first time ever, this company is doing a thing. The thing is incredibly exciting. The company said ‘We are very excited about doing this thing.’

As well as calling on a press release writer, the company also decided to get their copywriter to put together a blog post. The blog post was just as exciting, but less formal. In fact, the lack of formality made the excitement all the more frenzied.

Here is a tip for everybody who has ever issued a press release – it’s not that exciting.

But that doesn’t matter.

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Is Your Security Writer Batman?

A masked figure in black lurks in a cave. He embodies fear itself, striking terror into the hearts of thousands. He taps away on his keyboard, building fear with his choice of words.

It sounds like Batman, but it’s a copywriter doing some work for a client in security.

And I’m not sure why he’s wearing a mask.

As a copywriter with several clients in the security industry, I sometimes work hard to invoke fear. It’s a dark art – and perhaps a cheap tactic – but fear in copywriting is necessary for certain clients.

It’s a powerful technique. But is it right to feed a sense of threat in your readers?

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Copywriters and The Truth

Following on from my recent blog post about the value of deception in copywriting, I thought it would be interesting to do an about turn and share my thoughts on the truth.

Lies are essential to the work of a copywriter. But like a magician covering his slight of hand with patter, a good copywriter employs enough truth to make his lies invisible.

Here are just two of the techniques that I use most regularly to reassure readers that the brand I speak for is an honest one.

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A Copywriter With Liberal Commas

If you are looking for a copywriter or working within the industry, it would be understandable to assume that copywriters write flawlessly. But incorrect grammar is everywhere. From website copy to the flyers that drop through my door, I’m continually amazed at the number of errors that get in the way of reading and understanding. […]

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Copywriting With Lies

Truth is a funny thing, isn’t it?

It’s only natural for a copywriter to think that hard facts are the way to sell products and services. Sometimes, honesty is the best policy – after all, nobody likes to be deceived.

Or do they?

Think of the millions of books sold every year, the hours that people spend watching TV drama, or the impossibility of getting a good seat in the cinema on a Friday night. People love stories. People love to be deceived in the right way.

And that’s fortunate, because copywriters are by trade deceptive.

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