Tools to Help You Learn Copywriting (or Get Better at It)

Copywriting is an essential skill, not just for business, but for life.

Even if you have no intention of making a living as a copywriter, it’s worthwhile to learn how to communicate more persuasively.

Copywriting is the use of words to sell. Copywriting techniques apply to both the written and the spoken word.

Copywriters write the ads you see in magazines and newspapers, commercials you hear or hear on radio and TV. And nowadays, copywriters also write the web pages and other online copy that tries to persuade us on the ‘net.

You can use the same principles copywriters use in your daily life as well. For example, when you’re writing to your neighbor asking him to keep his dog from doing his business on your front lawn, it helps to have some copywriting skills.

Here are a few simple (and some fun) tools that can help you become a better copywriter:


Copywriting Books

The most logical place to begin, of course, is with a few books on copywriting. There are tons of how-to books on copywriting, but you can’t go wrong with one of these:

Aside from these, I also recommend the following:

Reference Books

As a copywriter, you’ll also need the usual reference books any other writer needs: a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Models for Storytelling

They say selling is all about good storytelling. Therefore, your copywriting tools include good models of storytelling. These may be bestselling novels, home shopping ads, high-rating TV shows and even blockbuster movies. Just by regularly exposing yourself to these examples, your instincts for powerful copy will improve.

Swipe File

Every copywriter needs a swipe file, or a collection of ads you can use as inspiration–not to copy from. How do you build a good swipe file?

For starters, keep a keen eye on your mailbox. Don’t be quick to toss those direct mailers you receive. Keep those that grab your attention and tempt you. Always keep the mailer that’s repeatedly mailed to you. That means it’s a winning mailer, or one that has gotten a good response, which is why they use it again and again.

Keep a swipe file of various things: headlines from magazine covers, email subject lines, guarantees, PS’s, openers, and even testimonials.

Pen and Paper

You may type your copy into your computer, but to sharpen your copywriting skills, you need pen and paper to copy good ads in longhand. Yes, you read that right. When you find an example of an excellent piece of copywriting, copy it entirely, word for word, by writing the entire thing by hand.

Don’t ask me how this works, but great copywriters swear by this method, and it’s one way I learned myself. There’s something about the act of handwriting that hard-wires the words into our brains. So, you absorb good copywriting, almost by osmosis. Try it.

Mind Mapping Software

I rely on mind maps to write almost anything. Of course, you can use pen and paper to create a mind map — and that may even be the better way, given the hand-brain connection. However, I like the convenience of being able to export my mind map into a text file, where I can type the rest of the piece directly.

Getting a Greater Awareness

Anyone can learn to become a more persuasive communicator. The tools above not only teach you the principles of copywriting, but they also help you gain an increased awareness of human nature: how we think and make decisions.

Ultimately, being a good copywriter means understanding what it means to be human.

Are you interested in sharpening your copywriting skills? Which of these tools are you most interested in? Or have I forgotten anything? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. says

    Useful post – thanks, Lexi! I have no experience with copywriting in a formal sense, but I definitely agree that it’s a worthwhile skill to cultivate. As a freelancer, it’s very important to be able to sell your skills to potential clients through persuasive language.

  2. says

    Great article, i am actually looking to improve my writing skills, hence i started commenting here :). I like the Pen and Paper idea, i remember it was working in school for me (not with copywriting, but still).

  3. says

    I also recommend Andy Maslen’s books for more about copywriting. And I love my copy of Words that Sell!

    There are some good ideas in here I haven’t tried, especially copying out good copy by hand. I must try that. I kind of wish I got more posted junk mail. And I bet not a lot of people say that!

  4. says

    Interesting post Lexi. Thanks for the book recommendation. :D When you say mind mapping, do you mean a topic web or something of the sort? Is it for narrowing ideas or for organizing the topics & sub-topics?

  5. TLC says

    Those who write press releases or for the media should learn Associated Press Style Guidelines. You can get the book at a local college bookstore or subscribe online.

  6. says

    Marketing these days is getting tougher because everyone has his own product to sell. No matter how brilliant a copyrighter is, it takes a product’s quality in order to last longer. There are so many selling techniques yet only few are effective. Thanks to a lot of knowledge through blogs (such as this) and books which generously share the real experiences of excellent entrepreneurs. I’m no expert copyrighter as I’m still trying to build a good foundation. By the way, I don’t think the neighbor with the dog needs the letter.. haha. I think a gentle and honest conversation with him will do.

    Thanks for sharing these good thoughts again LExie.

  7. scott grigg says

    Lexi,
    Thanks for the comments. I used to write for a living but I’m not in the league of great copywriters by any means. It’s a real skill that needs to be developed and honed. And, as some have mentioned, Twitter does force you to sharpen your editing skills, LOL. I also occasionally write about making money online by writingthough it’s more of a how to rather than writing tips. I’ll leave that to the experts like you!

  8. says

    We all know, marketing copy-writing is now becoming a big tree that holds the opportunities. We can easily say that it’s the thing which is taking copy-writing ahead. And that’s what this site is providing. It’s really helpful. Go on try it. web copywriter

  9. tanvi says

    the post is commendable…I have noted down so many points that will usrely help in becoming a better copywriter…thanks for such a post…

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