How to Write Effective Advertising Copy
Also by Howard S.
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Ad-vert-ise v. to persuade others to take a specific action.
The word advertise contains two Latin roots. Vertere means ‘to turn around or change’. Ad is a prefix meaning ‘towards’.
Thirty years ago, writers wrote ad copy while graphics artists did layout. Those lines have become increasingly blurred as one person or department tries to do both. I offer reminders here for both the mechanics of writing and graphic layout, since everyone is weaker in one than the other.
The psychology of persuasion
Effective advertising copy is one of the most challenging kinds of writing. It needs to attract the reader at the beginning, hold attention throughout, and instill conviction by the end. No amount of wordsmithing will rescue a faulty concept.
- Envision a specific individual as you begin to write. Edit later to be more inclusive if necessary.
- Hook your reader’s attention with the first line.
- Make a claim and substantiate it with fact.
- Conclude with a pithy, memorable and actionable objective—just one.
Mechanics of writing
A publicity manager is often hired for certain graphics layout software requirements. It is harder to qualify writing skills, though. The result is bad ad copy on very nice layouts. Keep the following writing skills in mind.
- Keep paragraphs short. Divide longer ones.
- Keep sentences short and simple.
- Minimize dependent clauses. Make them independent.
- Rewrite to eliminate any possible ambiguity in grammar or phrasing.
- Use as few coordinating conjunctions as possible.
- Cut or replace empty words. Use colorful vocabulary instead.
- Remove doublets. Slash redundancy. Use synonyms to add meaning while cutting word count.
- Write in the active voice. Passives have no place.
- Be sparing with the following punctuation [! , :] and parentheses. Study the proper use of em-dashes. Avoid semicolons.
Advertising skills poll
Which aspect of advertising is most challenging for you?
As word processors become more capable, copy writers increasingly do graphic layout themselves. It is essential to target the medium.
- Use bulleted or numbered lists instead of strings separated by commas.
- Add subheadings to break up longer ad copy.
- Use white space generously. This is a natural byproduct of bullets, subheadings and short paragraphs.
- Use blocks of color for sidebars. HubPages, for example, allows silver and blue for certain capsule types that can “float” to the right.