Anyone with an internet connection and a half-working computer can become a copywriter. But becoming a good or capable copywriter isn’t as easy. If you’re currently unsure about how to actually improve and practice writing copy, read on…
Debunking common myths and misconceptions
If you’ve already googled other people and businesses talking about this topic, you’ll have probably stumbled upon these tips and exercises:
- Handwrite old classic ads
- Study funnels
- Read your copy out loud
- Ask people to review your copy
- Write every day
- You get the point
I used to handwrite the old classic ads when I was starting out. Did all the ones in Gary Halbert’s copywriting challenge. Did it improve my writing skills? Eehh.. maybe.
I obviously study funnels and obviously write every day. You’re not much of a copywriter if you don’t. This is the equivalent of giving a racing driver advice along the lines of “well, first off you’re gonna need a car.”
Reading your copy out loud is a good way to spot clunky and difficult sentences or paragraphs. It’s not practicing copywriting though, that’s editing. Same goes for asking people to review your copy.
Alright, there’s more advice out there but they’re mostly the same stuff rehashed.
But everyone misses this one exercise.
Presenting Ben Franklin’s copywriting exercise
Who would’ve thought that the best way to improve your copywriting chops is to do a 280-year-old exercise? Who would’ve thought that people have struggled (and solved) the same basic tasks ever since a particularly witty caveman started carving stuff in caves to communicate messages to others?
Nothing new under the sun.
“Yeah I get it, now what’s that dang exercise and how do I do it?”
This exercise is split into two days.
- Select a marketing message (an ad, landing page, youtube video/intro, etc.)
- Write down what is communicated in bullet form, making sure that your bullet informs what is being said (but not how)
- Do this for the whole message, then save the document and forget all about it
- Come back to the document and rewrite the message looking only at the bullet points
- When you’ve rewritten the message, compare your version to the original one, taking notes of everything that feels relevant (word usage, paragraphs, overall style, etc.)
And that’s it.
The beauty of this exercise is that it gives you clear and undeniable data on how your writing differs from the original text.
If you have a copywriting hero you want to emulate, this is the best way to learn their style.
And once you’ve learned their style, you can always improve and add your own twists to the texts.
But before starting this exercise, remember this!
This is a powerful way of learning how to emulate other writers, for better or for worse.
Make sure that whoever you’re emulating is actually a good writer and (if you’re in copywriting) that the ad is working.
No point in emulating writing styles that don’t work. And your brain won’t see a difference between good and bad writing. It only tries to emulate the original text, disregarding its quality of it completely.
Years ago I picked up some bad writing habits from doing this exercise. I simply had no clue what good copywriting looked like, so I started emulating the overly poetic, in-your-face brand copy style.
This completely backfired as I was mostly working with smaller businesses back then (they wanted sales and didn’t care about anything else).
So, with that in mind, do this exercise regularly, and you’ll see results…. what kinds of results?
That depends on who you’re emulating.