10 Tips to Tighten Your Copy

Whether you’ve been in business for 2 years or 2 minutes, you know that being an entrepreneur requires a slew of skills. 

You have to be a salesperson, a marketer, an accountant, a project manager, a designer, a social media expert, a researcher, and a copywriter - all while being an expert in your particular field. 

And you’re probably willingly (yet hesitantly) diving into all of those roles because you have a product, service, or idea that you enjoy and believe in.

But in order to get clients and customers to pay attention to you and purchase your great product or service, you have to be able to communicate about it. You have to write about it in a way that’s genuine and persuasive.

Emails, blog posts, headlines, bios, sales pages, social media updates - being an entrepreneur means you’re constantly having to write new copy for your brand and your business.

But here’s the thing: Most of us aren’t trained copywriters. 

We haven’t had a copywriting pro sit down with us one-on-one and teach us how to write in a way that’s concise, compelling, and personable.

And if you’re anything like me, you might also have some serious resistance to promoting yourself and selling your products. 

But copywriting doesn’t have to be quite so painstaking and overwhelming. 

These 10 simple copywriting tricks will help you clearly communicate about your business in a way that resonates with people and encourages them to take action.

10 Tips to Tighten Your Copy | Elle & Company

1  |  Be clear

Clarity attracts; confusion doesn’t. 

The clearer you are with your message, the more your clients and customers will understand exactly what you do and exactly what you want them to do.

You know your business better than anyone else. You’re the subject matter expert, but your readers are most likely unfamiliar with the topics you’re writing about. 

So don’t make the mistake of assuming your readers already understand the subject matter. 

Instead, pretend like you’re starting from scratch. 

Explain things in simple terms. 

Leave out unfamiliar words and phrases that might be popular in your industry, but foreign language to the rest of the world. 

While synonyms are often helpful for piquing people’s interest (especially in headlines), don’t go overboard with flowery words and phrases.

And if you can use a more familiar word or sentence to say what you mean, use it.

Here are a few common words that can be replaced with clearer, better substitutes: 

Longer                        Better
Compose, author        Write
Discover                      Find
Incentivize                  Encourage, reward
Objective                    Goal
Obtain                        Get
Optimize                     Improve
Purchase, acquire         Buy
Retain                          Keep
Utilize, leverage           Use 

The KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) applies to many things, including copywriting. 

Using flowery words and phrases cause confusion and lose people’s interest. Instead, strive for clarity.

2  |  Be concise

Shorter is better. 

Long gone are the days of trying to add in words to reach a certain word count on a high school paper.

No one wants to read a book, especially on a sales page, so strive to be concise.

Start with the main idea. Think about what your reader needs to know right away and move that to the beginning of your copy.

Don’t get to the point; start with it. 
Make your copy scannable by breaking up the paragraphs. 
Add clear headings. 
Use bulleted lists when you can. 
Arrange similar topics into modules and sections. 
Use simple sentences. 
Avoid trailing on. 
Break down big ideas into manageable bites.

Instead of: If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up for our newsletter to receive deals and special offers delivered directly to your inbox. 

Try: Sign up for our newsletter to get special offers. 

Scan your website for long, detailed sentences. Can you substitute a string of 4 words with just 1? Is the beginning of your sentence a bit fluffy? 

Each time you write a new blog post, social media update, or sales page, make it a habit to go back through and shorten your copy.

Being concise in your reading will result in powerful writing and encourage more people to take action. 

3  |  Talk to your readers, not at them

When you’re writing new copy for a blog post or your website, it’s primarily a one-way conversation. 

So you have one of two options: You can either sound like a boring college professor with a dry personality who lectures for hours without any funny anecdotes or illustrations OR you can make it more engaging by including your readers in the conversation.

Remember that the people on the other side of the screen are just that: people! 

You may not be able to see them, but you can make your content much more interesting if you talk to them and not at them. Use “you” instead of clients, followers, subscribers, students, etc. 

Imagine you’re talking to a friend. 

4  |  Know the difference between active and passive voice

Changing your copy from passive to active voice will instantly transform it. 

Verbs are either active or passive. 

Passive means that something is being done to something else. Active means that something is doing the action on its own.

Instead of: Instagram has become popular among fashion bloggers, and as a result many photos of people using LIKEtoKNOW.it are being posted. 

Try: Instagram has become popular among fashion bloggers, and as a result people are posting many photos using LIKEtoKNOW.it. 

Active verbs help you write concisely and invigorate your copy so that it’s more conversational and engaging. 

To write in an active voice, try huddling your nouns and verbs close together to shorten your sentences.

Look for a “by” phrase. If you’ve used one, your sentence may be in the passive voice. But you can easily rewrite it so the subject in the “by” clause is closer to the beginning of the sentence.

And if it’s hard to determine who the subject is, your sentence might be in the passive voice. Instead, try identifying the subject.

I know, I know. Your eyes are probably glazing over. But trust me, grammar is very important when you’re writing copy for your website and other outlets online! 

If you’re still struggling to see the difference between active and passive voice, watch this helpful video.

5  |  Ditch weak words

Ditch weakling verbs for bold action words. 

Instead of: In his anger, he accidentally cut his finger. 

Try: In his anger, he accidentally slashed his finger. 

Tighten your copy by avoiding other weakling words like very, really, that, just, stuff, thing and interesting. 

Use a thesaurus for help if you need to.

This is one of my favorite tips. It’s amazing how much stronger a sentence becomes by exchanging a few fluffy words! 

6  |  Write like you speak

Your writing shouldn’t sound like a robot or a boring manual. It’s okay to give it some personality!

So get in the habit of writing like you speak.

Use contractions. 
Start your sentences with and, but or, because. 
Write a one sentence paragraph. 

Some rules are meant to be broken, but only when it provides greater clarity and readability. 

To make sure my writing is conversational and personable, I’ve made a habit of reading my copy out loud before publishing it. 

Not only does it help me catch some spelling and grammatical errors, but it helps ensure that my copy is readable and engaging.

7  |  Focus on the benefits

Avoid talking about yourself. 

Readers are selfish (and I can say that because I am one). They don’t care about you; they care about how you can benefit them.

So frame your idea by demonstrating how it benefits your readers. 

Instead of: For the summer, our followers can have a chance to be featured on our feed by tagging their pictures with #LtKsummer. 

Try: Tag your photos with #LtKsummer for a chance to be featured. 

This can be especially powerful on a sales page. 

Instead of rambling on about all the features of your product or service, talk about the benefits and the end results your reader/customer can expect to gain.

Maybe it solves a problem, saves them money, helps them get their work done faster or teaches them a new skill. 

Whatever they may be, be sure to focus on the benefits of your product/service instead of focusing on all the features and details. 

8  |  Write to one person

The crazy thing about online content is that you never really know exactly who’s reading it. 

Strangers all over the internet come across blog posts, pages of your website, and social media updates all the time. And while they may see your photo and interact with your content, you don’t often get to see them.

It’s very easy to fall into the habit of writing for the masses and trying to appeal to anyone who will read it. 

But trying to appeal to everyone is a surefire way to appeal to no one in particular.

So instead of marketing into a megaphone, narrow your focus on just one person. 

Create a customer profile/persona to help you visualize who you’re writing to.  

My Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Crafting a Business Plan helps you define your ideal client by creating a persona.

Then, become familiar with the terminology and language your ideal client/customer is already using. Study the way they write on social media, Facebook groups, blog comments, etc. 

Using their language in the copy of your website, sales pages, blog post headlines, and email subject lines will better resonate with your readers and make your writing more personable.

9  |  Find the ideal length

We live in a busy world. 

Your copywriting might be top notch, but if your content is too long or too short, your readers (aka potential clients) may become disinterested. 

Consider the following guidelines for the ideal length for several types of copy.

10 Tips to Tighten Your Copy | Elle & Company

Blog posts -1,500 words
Email subject lines -50 characters or less
Line of text -12 words
Paragraph -4 lines or less
Videos -3 to 3.5 minutes
Podcast -22 minutes
Title tags -55 characters
Meta description -155 characters
Facebook post -100-140 characters
Tweet -120-130 characters
Domain name -8 characters or less

10  |  End with a call-to-action (CTA)

Instead of making your readers choose what to do after they read your copy, tell them what to do. 

Always consider the action you want your reader to take and place a call-to-action in your copy.

A call-to-action is a link or button that asks your reader to take the next step, like “buy now” or “learn more” or “visit the post.”

Limit your CTAs to five words or less, start with an action verb, and use the second-person voice to avoid referencing yourself.

Design tip: CTAs should be in a contrasting warm color from the color scheme of your branding and should stand out on the page. Many businesses use red for their CTAs because it draws attention.

Copywriting doesn’t have to be intimidating.

By implementing these 10 tips and turning them into habits, you’ll create engaging, compelling copy that will help you win the attention of new clients and customers and cast your offerings in a great light.

What is your current approach to copywriting? Which of these tips was the most helpful for you?