A Chip off the Old Writer’s Block

If you have something to sell, you need advertising copy. But you say you aren't a writer? Well, you do have one asset that you can't underestimate: you know your own business like nobody's business.

While rules are made to be broken – especially in advertising – there is one way to judge success and that's sales. If an ad accomplishes its mission, it is a success.

First, you should define all the information you want your ad to convey. By defining your objectives, you will better be able to write the copy — as well as all other elements of the ad — so they are focused and relevant.

The second step involves knowing not only who your ad will target, and who your clients are, but also what kinds of services your prospective clientele really wants, and what kind of problems they'll depend upon your service to resolve.

The third step is the toughest: Start writing. Forget about poetry, imagery, sound, and lyricism, the two cardinal rules of writing advertising copy are to keep it simple, and to get the reader's attention. Be concise and be descriptive.

Here are some writing pointers you might find helpful:
  • Talk to your audience. Don't announce, don't preach.
  • Write short sentences with easy and familiar words.
  • Be thrifty with words. Make sure each word is exactly the right one to convey your meaning.
  • Be conversational. Talk to people as people. You're not writing an insurance contract for lawyers. An ad is information and persuasion.
  • Use the present tense and the active voice.
  • Punctuate correctly. But the less punctuation the better.
  • Avoid clichés like the plague. People don't hear them.
Here are some common elements shared by all good advertising copy.
  • Snag the limelight. In short, get the reader's attention and keep it. Whether it's the headline or the illustration or the layout, make sure you visually or intellectually capture the reader's attention.
  • Make some promises. Something in the ad should promise the reader or listener some benefit that will result from accepting the ad's premise.
  • Be believable. The premise of the ad must be authentic and trustworthy.
  • Be desirable. The ad should be persuasive. It should sell or generate the need for the service you offer, and demonstrate your service as superior.
  • Be interesting. Once you have captured the reader's attention, you have to say or show something to sustain interest. Otherwise, the message will not be heard.
  • Demand action. The ultimate aim of an ad is to generate action on the part of the reader or listener; to cause the reader to buy your service, or in some way enter into a relationship with you.