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The Copywriter September 2012 – Top 25 tips for great copy

We’re proud to be celebrating our 25th birthday this year. Established in Bath in 1987, and now based in London, we’ve worked our way through economic ups and downs, the rise and fall of everything printed, and the rise and rise of digital… everything. During this time we’ve learned a great deal so here are our top 25 tips for great copy.

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Remember them throughout.
  3. First and foremost, understand your brand’s values, inside out.
  4. Know your proposition.
  5. Choose your words carefully.
  6. Use your words sparingly.
  7. Use short sentences.
  8. Use short paragraphs.
  9. Be active, not passive.
  10. Tone of voice matters… be unique.
  11. So does correct grammar and spelling… hone them to perfection.
  12. Never stop asking ‘so what?’, because your reader certainly won’t.
  13. Use plain English, always.
  14. Repetition is a no no (see what we did there?).
  15. Structure is vital – much like fishing, copywriting always starts with a hook!
  16. Your headline is your first impression so make it count.
  17. The first paragraph should be used to give your headline some legs.
  18. The proof’s in the pudding – always substantiate your claims.
  19. Remember the benefits – every point you make must have one or it’s probably not worth mentioning.
  20. Don’t leave them hanging – always tell your reader what to do next.
  21. Your website is a VERY powerful selling tool, use it well.
  22. But always put the reader first and Google second.
  23. Avoid metaphors, similes or other common clichés.
  24. Don’t use jargon – it’s not big, clever or cool!
  25. Never underestimate the power of words.

Throughout our 25 years we’ve provided websites, social media strategies, corporate reports, tone of voice consultancy, translation, writer training and sustainability communications, so we’re confident we can help you too. If you’d like to discuss your next project, please feel free to contact us on 020 7593 4014 or email

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  1. Tom : 7th September 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Cool post! I have some questions:

    1. The first eight points seem to contain half an idea each. You could probably just say "know your audience and remember them throughout", "understand your brand's values and your proposition", "choose your words carefully and use them sparingly", "use short sentences and paragraphs". Then you could fit it all into 21 points–big win!

    2. If you wanted to avoid metaphors and common clichés, would it make sense to drop "hone them to perfection" (which implies grinding them on a whetstone), that fishing simile about "hooks", the reference to giving your headline "legs", "the proof's in the pudding", and "don't leave them hanging"?

    3. What does "be active, not passive" mean? Such rules seem to owe something to George Orwell's "never use the passive where you can use the active", from the dreary hack piece, "Politics and the English Language". Orwell gives a list of rules, all of which he breaks many times in the essay (but at least his last rule is "break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous"). In Orwell's case, he sounds like hu means the active and passive voice, which would of course be absurd. I guess here you mean something like it's best to use a direct, forthright style?

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