Jamie Harper

Jamie Harper

Spend days duking it out with synonyms, sometimes for global brands.

Why your writing isn’t finished when you think it is

Copywriting
Jamie Harper
Mon, 30/11/2015 - 09:30

Great writing will set you apart.

Great writing will set your business apart.

Worth getting it right then.

The trouble is we live in a world that demands immediacy. Millions of words are printed, published and emailed every single hour. But here’s the thing. Making your words stand out is about moving slower, not faster.

Words of wisdom from David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy is a name you might recognise. Born in 1911 he became the most revered advertising copywriter ever. In 1948 he founded Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency that is still huge. Ogilvy’s principles of good writing are still widely preached today.

On September 7th 1982, Ogilvy sent an internal memo to his employees. It opened with a simple piece of advice for his staff:

“The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.”

Ogilvy then offered ten tips to point his staff along the path to better writing. Among them was this nugget of wisdom:

“Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.”

It would be interesting to see how Ogilvy rationalised that piece of advice in the digital age of email and instant messaging. Yet it’s a tip that remains watertight for other forms of writing. Your blog posts, for example. Or your classified ad. Or the ABOUT US page on your website.

Don’t rely on your eyes. Sometimes you can’t trust them.

Eyes are funny old things. Sometimes they see what you think is there, not what’s actually there. That’s especially true when you have been working on a piece of writing. When you try to proof a document you have been working on as soon as you think it’s finished, you don’t spot the typos. You don’t spot the grammatical errors. Your eyes just read what you think you’ve written.

That’s dangerous. Typos and grammar monsters suck. They damage your credibility as a writer; they damage your credibility as a business. There are way too many pedants out there to take the risk. Besides, you want your message to be as sharp as possible, don’t you?

» People don’t understand your writing. It takes balls to fix it.

Think your writing is ready? Step as far away as possible.

Like Ogilvy said, wait until the next day before doing anything. It gives your brain time to readjust and means that, when you go back to edit, your eyes will be fresh enough to spot any errors. If it’s important, it can wait a day.

Boss barking at you? Got a print deadline? Okay. If you can’t wait a day to edit your document, get away from your desk and do something completely different before you submit anything. Make a cuppa for your colleagues. Do some Sudoku. Engage your brain with something different.

Get away from the document for as long as you can. Then go back and edit. And if it’s important - which it is - get a friend/colleague to give it the once over too. (Hey, our copywriters can help.)

Final thought: while most people under-edit their work, don’t fall into the trap of editing yourself into a frenzy. Your words have to fly the nest at some point. If you feel you have done your best - and you have given yourself some distance from your document before editing - then it’s done. Trust in your ability. Move on.

Make your dent in the www. Hire our copywriters.

Jamie Harper

Copywriter,
London Design Works.

Communication pervert with BA (Hons) in English Language Studies and 1.25 million words in the portfolio. Spend days duking it out with synonyms, sometimes for global brands. Spend downtime wondering what kind of hands the person who invented shrink wrap has.

Learn how to master the web with our newsletter Get great insight into the web industry from our team of experts.

More posts in: Copywriting

Copywriting

Why your writing isn’t finished when you think it is

In a digital world built on immediacy, a little patience will transform your writing.

Copywriting

How long should your blog posts be?

The definitive answer to this much-debated question might not be what you were expecting. Props to you if you already knew.

Copywriting

People don’t understand your writing. Here’s how to fix it.

Playing a simple game of catch can teach you a lot about getting your message heard.

Copywriting

Win over new blog subscribers with a few simple words

There’s something ridiculously easy you can do to build an instant connection with new subscribers.

Copywriting

And never start a sentence with a conjunction...

There never has been - and never will be - anything wrong with starting a sentence with and or but. Here’s the skinny.

Copywriting

The importance of writing with purpose (and how to do it)

Irresistible copy requires you to zero in on a few fundamentals.

Copywriting

1 sentence that will help you stick to your blogging schedule

Keeping your blog updated with prime cuts of content is hard. This little trick may help to rein in your stress levels.

Copywriting

What school didn’t teach you about writing for the web

If you’re dubious that your academic years were the biggest influence on your writing, here’s something to ponder.

Copywriting

Still think content is king? Think again.

When it comes to growing your presence online, the popular message is that quality content rules the roost. Fair enough, right?

WriteFull
Copywriting

New app claims to automatically improve your writing

With the European Commission and Harvard University among its users, Writefull has some pretty heavyweight ambassadors. Just don’t expect it to turn you into Hemingway.

Copywriting

How often should your business be blogging?

It must be one of the most frequently asked questions in the blogosphere: How often should you post?

Ban this word from your business. Right now.
Copywriting

Ban this word from your business. Right now.

750,000 words capable of being wrought into sentiments that would bring a tear to the eye of Dickens

Christmas
Copywriting

5 last minute tips for your email marketing this Christmas

Lights festoon the streets. Shoppers wear stroppy faces. Somehow, Christmas is here already. That means it’s time for three things: mince pie scoffing, mulled wine quaffing and making the most of your Christmas email marketing.

Yourself
Copywriting

Want persuasive copy? Stop thinking about yourself.

Question: People come to your website to read about your business, right?
Wrong.
They come to find the answer to a problem.

Typewriter
Copywriting

Why you should and shouldn’t write your own content

Sometimes the closer you are to something, the less you are able to see it.

Typewriter
Copywriting

Why creating good written content is like scoring a symphony

Beautiful melodies build up one note at a time. What’s mind-blowing is that this unit, the individual note, means next to nothing on its own.

Keywords
Copywriting

Want to rank well in Google? Stop freaking out about keywords.

So you want to appease Google in a post-Hummingbird world? Keywords matter way less than most people realise.

The truth about scan-reading online
Copywriting

Is your content really ignored? The truth about scan-reading online.

You know all that painstakingly crafted content on your website? Yeah, your visitors aren’t reading it. At least that’s what a number of experts would have you believe. Wrongly, in our opinion.