5 Email Tips for Do-It-Yourself Copywriters

A few years ago, readers were loyal to their newspaper. One reason was scarcity — often a town had only one newspaper. The same held true for early email newsletters. But today’s readers have options, and people won’t read poor content. Copywriting is a must-have skill. So let’s start with . . .

 

Getting to the point

Some email newsletters wander around, expecting readers to tag along. If you do that, you may be losing everyone but your mom, (and she hangs in there just because she loves you.)

Sure, it takes a few minutes of writing to get your creative juices flowing; ideas rarely never gush from my fingertips onto the screen. And my first idea is usually a stinker.

 

write

 

Tip 1: Delete your opener

So after you’ve written a few paragraphs and feel like you’re really getting into your subject — stop. Read your first sentence and ask yourself whether it is essential.

As you read down the page, keep asking that question until you find the first thing the reader needs to know. Everything above it probably can be deleted — like pruning a rosebush to make it healthier.

 

Tip 2: What’s next?

OK, you’ve identified the first thing the reader needs to know. What’s the very next thing?

It’s not easy to identify the very next thing; you may write, fail and delete many times until you finally get that oh-so-satisfying feeling of nailing it.

 

Tip 3: Cooperate with your brain

Computers operate sequentially. Your creative brain, on the other hand, likes to wander around.

So if you have trouble finding that very next thing, try starting with your ending and tinker with that for awhile. Or maybe write some benefit bullet points; (we’ll cover those in a future post.) Perhaps you have a great call-to-action in mind.

Write in any order that feels comfortable. Then trust your writing skills to make those seemingly disconnected thoughts line up.

 

Tip 4: Incubate your ideas

When you get used to the idea that you don’t have to write sequentially, pressure lifts from your shoulders. That’s when you’ll discover an interesting phenomenon.

If you distract your brain by working on something else, something deep inside you keeps tinkering with the idea that got you stuck. Stephen King calls it the boys in the basement — those guys somewhere deep inside you who keep on working while you’re mowing the lawn, taking a shower, and even while you sleep. They’ll come up with something interesting and pop it into your conscious mind the next time you work on the piece.

I know . . . it sounds spooky, and it is. But if you relax and learn to trust the boys in the basement, they’ll help you out.

 

Tip 5: Edit

When the first draft is done, your work is just beginning. Now your goal is to get your ideas in the right order, choosing the best words possible. One great writer put it this way:

Write drunk; edit sober. —attributed to Ernest Hemingway

Figuratively, of course ;) Write freely, just to get ideas on paper. Then switch into editing mode, with ruthless attention to detail. You’ll know when you’re done when you find yourself deleting a comma then adding it back in the same place.

 

The copywriter’s responsibility

Your job is to think for the reader, or more accurately, to think on behalf of the reader — to put words, sentences and paragraphs in an order that is easy to absorb. Your copywriting skills enable you to literally enter the reader’s mind and change it. What a responsibility!

Writing isn’t a process for getting words onto the screen; it’s as a highly disciplined form of thinking. And if your thoughts aren’t clear enough to organize into sentences, paragraphs, and an entire newsletter, you’ve got a little more work to do.

So get to work — right now. Shut the door. Close your browser. Turn off your email. Ignore the phone.

And just write for 30 minutes.

 

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I guarantee that at least one idea will come to you. And that idea will lead to another and another. With practice, your ideas — and your copywriting — will get better and better.

In a future installment of this series, we’ll talk about time-tested copywriting formulas that help you face the blank page fearlessly.

Stuck? Use the comment section to ask a question. We’ll be glad to help.

  • Jim_Ducharme

    Great post Jack!

    How do you think newsletter content and copywriting will change with smartphones starting to dominate email access? Perhaps that’s a seperate post? :)

    Regards,
    jim

  • Jack Price

    Hi Jim,

    If I knew for sure, I could rule the world :) or at least be the hottest email copywriter on the planet.

    But
    here’s what seems right to me. Internet readers are impatient, right?
    How much more impatient is a person checking emails on a smartphone
    while waiting in line for a latte?

    So to me, this entire process of grabbing attention and keeping the reader engaged becomes hyper-critical in a smartphone world.

    Thanks for reading and for your question.

    Jack

  • Jack Price

    I hear what you’re saying about making your writing available to the world – pretty amazing.

    But here’s the problem. If you think of your audience as strangers, your writing style may become distant and impersonal.

    Instead, write as if talking to a close friend. It makes your style warmer and more engaging. The reader will begin to think of you as a loyal friend :)

    And the fountain pen – yes, there’s something about the experience of writing words on paper that’s not quite the same as typing. It’s a little bit like drawing.

    Thanks for your comment. And keep writing!

    Jack

  • Karolina Kurcwald

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    Wysłane z iPhone’a

    Dnia Apr 27, 2013 o godz. 8:21 PM “Disqus” napisał(a):

  • Jack Price

    HI Clay,

    That’s so true. I always let my first draft “rest” overnight, time permitting. The next day, I’m amazed at all the flaws. Often a better idea emerges.

    And my first drafts tend to be stiff, formal, overly complicated. So during re-write I work hard to simplify and make them informal and personal.

    It’s surprisingly hard to write something that’s easy to read.

    Thanks for reading and for your comment.

    Jack

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    This post is a must
    read for writers and online marketers, because you’ve included so many
    helpful tips on how to become a good writer and become successful in this
    field. Definitely worth their time to read!

  • http://twitter.com/goplaniyogesh Yogesh Goplani

    Thank you Jack!

    I do not have any questions as such. Whatever questions I had were resolved after I read this post.
    Every writer must cooperate with his/her brain to bring out the ideas and later assemble the pieces.

  • Jack Price

    Hi Yogesh,

    Yes, my brain is so uncooperative ;) It seems that when I try hardest, it cooperates least. And when I relax a bit, it finds its own way.

  • Jack Price

    Hi Barbara,

    Every business person can benefit by working on their writing skills. It helps you think more clearly, and that’s a good thing! Thanks so much for your comments. See you again soon.

  • http://twitter.com/goplaniyogesh Yogesh Goplani

    We all have uncooperative brains Jack. :)
    The best ideas come from our unconscious mind if we feed our conscious mind with a lot of good stuff.

  • george

    There are some simple but interesting tips here, Jack.

    Writing is something I enjoy doing, but my audience has been limited to my friends, upon whom I will occasionally inflict a small self-published book as a Christmas gift.

    Blogging is something that the masses are heavily involved in, but which I have been either reluctant or afraid to do. Twittering is for the birds and I don’t have a Facebook account. My g +1 account remains empty.

    My question has always been: What on earth am I going to write about? Inspiration comes and goes. Churning out “stuff” on a daily basis? I’m sure that neither my friends, nor the rest of the world, will want to know what a retired old codger is up to!

    Getting swarms of emails from those who have unleashed some amazing fat loss product or found a secret path to Aladdin’s Cave of untold riches is both frustrating and time wasting. Sometimes quite amusing though, especially reading about the highly improbable health and wealth I will achieve. Click Here! Just send me the money!

    The burning question is: what am I going to sell or offer? It has to be products from other “entrepreneurs” or “gurus”, who, having plumbed the depths of Internet Marketing, have created a sure-fire plan for success. There being no product of my own to sell to anyone, this seems to be the only option – but I’m not happy with promoting some of their ideas and making them richer – at my expense!

    On this site, at least, there is the germ of an idea of what I could possibly do to supplement my meager income. The nature of the content being the unanswered question. A pointer in the right direction would be greatly appreciated!

  • GRblog

    Approved

  • Jack Price

    Hi George,

    You raised some great questions. In fact . . . hmmm . . . I may write an entire post about the very subject of “what should I write about?”

    For now, let me offer you 2 quick suggestions to think about:

    1. Write about something you know a lot about. Maybe an aspect of your profession when you were in the workforce. Or a hobby that interests you. For example, I love to putter around in my backyard garden and would enjoy writing about gardening if I had the time.

    2. Write about your local community. Is there a new store opening in a shopping strip? Write about that. A little theater production in the works? Let people know. What’s the town council up to? Write about the issues.

    And you asked about making money. My suggestion is to build an audience first. If that audience grows to like and trust you, it’s not too tough to think of things to sell.

    For example, my gardening example might attract people who need to hire a landscaper. There’s an opportunity to sell an ad. (I wish I had time for this one.)

    Likewise, the community info example might be an attractive advertising venue for local shops and restaurants.

    Hey, I’m not saying you’ll get rich, but you might make those few extra bucks you mentioned.

    Thanks for your comment. And be on the lookout for a post on this subject. I’ll give you full credit for the idea!

    You seem to enjoy writing, so I hope you’ll keep doing it.

    Best of luck to you.

    Jack

  • Jack Price

    Yogesh, You are so right :)

  • Neddesh

    “Write as if talking to a close friend.” That is exactly it Jack!! That is where I slip up everytime. I can profoundly elaborate on just about anything to a friend – but clam up tight with strangers or an audience of more than 1! Thanks that tip is up on my wall now and will stimulate me to think this way when writing as I’m just about to do now!

  • Jack Price

    Hi Neddesh,

    Yes, this idea of “writing as if to a friend” is amazingly powerful; it makes the act of writing so much easier.

    And the reader feels like he’s eavesdropping on a private conversation. That makes it even more interesting for him, (in a sneaky kind of way.)

    I adapted this idea from a great copywriter named Bob Bly. He said to write as if you’re a favorite uncle talking to his nephew. That one works wonders when you’re writing instructive material.

    Thanks for reading and for posting a comment. Good luck with your writing. Let us know how it goes!

    Jack

  • roy

    could be useful page for information but Is difficult to concentrate w that annoying left widget that follows the page scrolling. It should be static.