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Designer's Guide to Writing Copy

Designer's Guide to Writing Copy

Mike Lenhart

As designers, there are times when the client asks us to write copy for their project. In our experience, we’re mostly called on to edit the copy written by someone else.

That is a pretty easy gig, especially for those who have a good grasp of language, spelling, and grammar. But, what about writing actual copy and starting from scratch?

Copywriting is a very important craft. The essential objective as a copywriter is to create clear, easily understood messages that have a target audience in mind and persuade them to do something for the client. It doesn’t have to be all wordy.

Sometimes the most effective copy has only a few words or phrases. If you’re a natural creative writer, you have a good start on writing copy. You don’t need to be a good creative writer to create good copy, though.

The best way to write copy is to focus on the true nature of the target audience so your message has them in mind. Your audience will be comfortable with your writing when it’s done this way. Copy doesn’t have to be funny or witty anymore – again, it depends on the audience.

A conceptual or creative idea should always be the basis for copy. This is done by thinking about the primary message and how you want the audience to respond. Of course, the more information you get from the client and audience, the more effective the message will be.

One thing I learned when working in the hotel industry was to sell the hotels’ benefits, not features. How will the product or service benefit the customer? What is going to make it feel personal to them?

Every product has a feature. But, what is the benefit of this feature to the target audience? Why is it important to them? Think of this when writing your copy.

Here are a few tips to consider when writing body copy. Although this covers most of the elements, your copy may incorporate all or some of this in a few sentences.

Headline – create a hook to grab attention and interest (In my opinion, the headline is the most fun part)

First Paragraph – clarify the headline and let the readers know that some interesting stuff is coming in the next lines of text

Body Copy – state the promises (remember benefits?)

Final Paragraph – remind the readers what they’re getting and how they’ll benefit from doing something

Of course, there could be a lot more to talk about here in reference to writing copy. There are many reference books out there. One of my favorites is “Copywriting” by Mark Shaw.

Writing good copy comes with practice. If you’re already a good wordsmith, it will come very easily to you. Get those pens out and start writing.


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