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Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing

~4 minutes

    In which I recommend Copywriting by Mark Shaw. It’s a great book on the art of writing great copy, with plenty of practical exercises for you to do.

    A few months ago I bought a book on copywriting.

    Yeah, I know. I mentioned it before. But I want to take the time to talk about it in more detail.

    I had been thinking about the importance of copywriting recently—more so than usually—and had come to the harsh conclusion that I wasn’t as good at it as I wanted to be.

    Now, I’m not saying I’m bad at copywriting.

    But I don’t think I’m particularly good either.

    Copywriting is an important, nay vital, skill to have for any designer. Especially web designers, who are often tasked with writing both copy and microcopy because the client aren’t going to—for various reasons.

    Now I don’t remember how Mark Shaw’s Copywriting book appeared on my radar but I suspect it might have been through a random tweet by Andy Clarke.

    You know what? Let’s say that it was Andy Clarke, because I doubt he minds being credited even if it wasn’t.

    On the back of Copywriting, Mark Shaw writes;

    Writing copy is often assumed to be a natural talent. However, there are simple techniques you can employ to craft strong written content with ease. Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing

    The book, which teaches the art of writing great copy for digital media, branding, advertising, direct marketing, retailing, catalogues, company magazines and internal communications is an excellent guide to starting out and improving ones copywriting.

    Books in a pile
    An eclectic mix of books. I’ve finished Pornland already and started on Catch-22.

    With its series of exercises and up-to-date illustrated examples, the Second Edition takes us through the step-by-step processes of writing content quickly and effectively.

    What did I learn then?


    Copywriting is about communication, it’s about getting the point across.

    Don’t use five words, if three are enough. If one is enough, use one.

    Instead of selling the features, sell the benefits.

    Hold your audience’s attention by promising, delivering and reminding.

    Keep your readers interest alive with intrigue.

    Always speak from the same voice. Tune the tone of that voice.

    A lot of different but equally important lessons.

    In the end, when writing this review, I tried to look through the book, flipping back and forth between pages, looking for the core of it all.

    The one lesson to teach them all. The one truth.

    You know?

    The one secret we are all—well, all of us who care about copywriting anyway—looking for that will elevate our copy from meh to memorable. The things that makes the copy we write something more than just words on a page. Ascending it to lyrical prose where each sentence creates its own melody as your eyes saccade from one word to the next.

    But there’s no one big secret. Instead we have many small secrets, all contributing to the message the book leaves us with.

    The message

    As a writer you should create a strong sense of place, of belonging, comfort and familiarity. Treat your reader as a trusted friend, who has come to you for your advise and give them that advise with sincerity and compassion.

    Make your message as clear and digestible as possible. By keeping everything as simple as possible, you’re making life easy for yourself.

    Dare to be ruthless in your editing, nothing is ever done with the first draft. Be ruthless in your editing. Edit ruthlessly.

    Adverbs have their place as much as exclamation marks. But usually not in the same sentence!

    Writer’s block is a myth, it does not exist. Don’t fear the blank page.

    And finally.

    Bank robbers, as it turns out, have an affinity for great copywriting.

    In summary

    Some things can’t be summarised without losing the very thing which makes them valuable.

    Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing by Mark Shaw is an excellent book with plenty of real-world examples of copywriting and a pragmatic approach to copywriting. I really enjoyed it.

    I’m giving it ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ and would heartily recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in copywriting.

    In fact, do you want to borrow my copy?

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