Anyone can learn to write well.
No matter what kind of website you have, better copywriting will help you engage with your readers, increase conversions, and even sell more.
Thankfully, there are plenty of tips that can improve your writing.
I’ve spent many thousands of hours at a keyboard writing or editing. Here are a few tactics I’ve learned over the years.
1. Read it back to yourself
If I have one secret technique, this is probably it. After the first draft, read the entire piece out loud.
I learned this tip during my high school speech and debate days. Every script improved with edits I made when practicing out loud. You may write a beautiful piece, but if it sounds clunky when read aloud, it is clunky.
There are two ways to read a piece back to yourself:
1. Have the computer read it to you with text-to-voice
2. Read it out loud like you’re giving a speech
I use the first technique on everything. For my important writing, I’ll also use the second.
2. References multiple senses
Remember the song “Hotel California”?
The Eagles attribute its raging success to a specific technique. In the words of lead guitarist Don Felder:
“[W]e try to write lyrics that touch multiple senses, things you can see, smell, taste, hear.”
In the opening verse, we:
- See a dark desert highway and a shimmering light
- Feel cool wind in our hair
- Smell warm colitas
- Hear the mission bell
Painting clear emotions brings us into the story. And yes, you can even use them in website copywriting.
The next point explains how.
3. Use the “filming technique”
When we’re writing, the goal is to understand the needs of our audience and communicate through them.
But how do we write those needs? The answer is to imagine we’re filming a movie to explain the problem, then write what we see.
One of these sentences uses the filming technique:
- Ever notice that your sleeping bag doesn’t have sufficient insulation?
- Ever wake up shivering on an overnight camping trip, teeth chattering from the cold?
4. Discuss symptoms, not problems
I learned this from Travis Sago: Problems judge; symptoms don’t.
Imagine you’re at the doctor with shortness of breath. She asks if it’s a daily struggle for you to get up a flight of stairs.
Even if it were, most of us would be too embarrassed to say yes. Subjective questions like this imply judgment.
But what if, instead, she asked if your shortness of breath gets worse after climbing a flight of stairs.
It’s the same question, but this time it’s easy to answer because it’s an objective symptom, not a subjective problem. When you’re thinking about your reader, write about symptoms—not problems.
5. Use the “hook-and-line” technique
This strategy keeps readers engaged with everything you write.
You’ll hook them with a promise of something to come, creating an open loop in their mind. Then before closing that loop, you promise something else and create another open loop.
This leaves the reader always waiting for the last tidbit you promised.
Some of my favorite phrases for this are:
- “In just a minute, we’ll see …”
- “In the next section, I’ll explain …”
- “Before we get to …”
This helps draw everyone in—even your toughest reader. But more about that test in a minute.
(See? Hook-and-line in action!)
6. Gamify your reading
A fun psychological fact: our brains perceive time by the rate of change. It’s why a 12-hour day of busy interruptions goes by faster than an afternoon writing one report.
So here’s the secret to time travel that works: you can speed up reading time with frequent shifts.
Break your writing up into smaller sections. Take the reader somewhere different in each one—use different topics, images, themes, and examples.
When your content changes often, the reading flies by. You’ve already read 70% of this article. Did it feel like 70%?
7. Write for a single person
As you write, it’s easy to imagine a group of readers.
But you’ll never write something powerful for a committee. Instead, imagine you’re writing for one person—ideally, someone in your target audience you know personally.
You can even write your first draft in your email editor if it helps.
Think of your article as a letter to them on the topic. Your tone will change dramatically, you’ll be more personal, and you’ll write better.
8. Skim your work
I’m my own harshest reader. You probably are, too.
Once I’ve written a piece, the last thing I want to do is read it again. How boring! I just wrote it! I know this already!
Which makes you the perfect test subject to skim your work.
If your writing is so interesting that even you get hooked into reading when you don’t want to, you know it’s good.
And if you’re bored reading what you wrote, it needs more work. A tip—that work is probably cutting something out, not adding something in.
9. (Bonus) Write better each time
This last tip is the most important.
Each time you sit down to write, try to write better than last time. Try one of the tips here. Spend a little more time planning, or say in two words what used to take four.
“Perfect writing” doesn’t exist.
The secret is to get a little bit better every time.