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The moment a new starter joins the Media Mortar team – from intern to manager – they are provided with our Media Mortar copywriting rules, aka our writing do’s and don’ts.
Why? Because, as a content marketing agency delivering copy across websites, social media calendars and blogs (to name a few), we want to ensure they are set up for success to deliver un-scrollable copy from day one.
Whether you’re new to the wordsmith game or you have notched up a few bylines and experience putting virtual pen to paper, we’ve collated our top six tips every copywriter should know and the rules each Media Mortar employee is sworn to follow.
1. Avoid weasel words
So, you’ve finished your first draft of a blog, great job. Now print it out (or Control F for the paperless approach), grab your red pen and scan your document for weasel words.
We’re talking about – ‘that’, ‘just’, ‘some’ and ‘very’.
Once you’ve identified your weasels, re-read each sentence. Do you need them? Do these words make it stronger? Are they necessary? We’d hedge our bets the answer is no.
Like their mammal namesakes, which are notorious for slipping into chicken coops through undetected holes and raiding nests (thanks, Google), these words slide into copy the same way and raid your article from growing to its full potential.
As proud as a farmer would be to save his chickens, your weasel word edit is equivalent to patching the hole of the chicken coop’s fence *pats back*. In one fell swoop, you’ve taken your piece of work to the next level.
Weasel words: 0
2. Create or reference a brand style guide
Before you open a fresh Word document and start tapping away at the keyboard, check if there’s a brand style guide or tone of voice document for you to follow.
Most brands or businesses will have (read: should have) invested in a brand style guide that outlines their brand personality and tone of voice. A well-developed brand guide will also have examples to show you – even better.
If you don’t have one to follow, we recommend following the principles of storytelling in your writing as your guide. You can learn more about the importance of using storytelling in this blog.
Depending on your role in the organisation, you may want to flag this as something to develop moving forward to ensure each piece of work is singing from the same brand song sheet.
3. Write a draft and come back to it with fresh eyes
In the words of Ernest Hemingway, “Write drunk, edit sober”.
While we don’t encourage drinking on the job, the meaning we take from this famous phrase is to write without any inhibitions and then come back to it with a clear focus.
When you take a break from a piece of copy and come back to it, you’re more likely to pick up spelling and grammar errors or find a new (stronger) way of phrasing a sentence or paragraph.
If I had a dollar for every time I said, “I’ll have another look with fresh eyes tomorrow”, I’d probably be sporting a new Gucci handbag with the profits.
Don’t think this only applies to long pieces of copy, such as blogs. We recommend giving every piece of content the fresh eyes treatment, even your content calendars.
4. If you’re not in the mood, put the pencil down
Writer’s block, brain freeze or creative slowdown – whatever you want to call it. If you’re experiencing it then walk away or move on to another task.
We live in a time-poor world, so don’t waste time staring at a blank screen if you know you’re not in the mood or feeling it.
Over time, most writers will know when they are most creative and write best. For me, I’m most creative in the morning. I know there is absolutely no point starting a new blog at 4pm unless it’s to start research for its inclusions; I’m more a dot-point-type-of-writing-gal after 2pm, if I’m completely honest.
Knowing when you’re most creative is a powerful tool to have in your workbelt – so use it. Plan your day or week around your zones of creative genius and block out time in your diary to knock over those writing tasks when you know all the puns, quips and analogies to make your work sing.
5. Get a peer review on all of your work
As the saying goes (in the Media Mortar office), a piece of pork belly should always be twice cooked and so should your words.
This means nothing leaves our outbox without it being reviewed by a second person – from social media calendars to blogs; everything goes through two rounds of internal revisions before we press ‘send’ to our clients.
Why? It’s a known fact when you’ve been working on something for too long, your brain reads what it thinks it sees, meaning you’re less likely to pick up any sneaky typos.
We’re in the business of delivering work to give our client’s time back in their diary to focus on other tasks, so we 100% don’t want to steal any time back with them picking up pesky spelling mistakes.
The result? Fewer revisions = more efficient work for both parties = happy clients (and agency).
6. Be more active, less passive with your writing
Did your new year’s resolutions include being more active?
Kudos to you – you’re writing will thank you.
While running, cycling or swimming will keep your body *tight*, there’s a new way to keep active to keep your writing equally as *fit*.
For anyone who has heard the words active voice or passive voice but is still unsure what the difference is, here’s is a quick explanation thanks to our favourite tool: Grammarly.
Active: the subject performs the verb’s action
Passive: the subject is acted upon by the verb
Channelling my future Gucci handbag purchase, let’s use their example: ‘The cashier counted the money’ (active) versus ‘The money was counted by the cashier’ (passive).
Writing with an active tone delivers strong, clear, punchier copy and a banging piece of work.
If you’ve landed on this article to learn more about copywriting or ‘blogging’, you might find this article helpful too.
By Rochelle Vaisanen
When not climbing mountains on two wheels, Rochelle can be found on the hunt for the best almond croissant around town. A lover of good coffee, food and wine, and with a passion for travel, Rochelle is always on the lookout for new adventures locally and abroad.