So you think you can write copy?

Say you're a business owner. And you need to write some new pages for your website, or menus for your café, or invitations for your dog's birthday party, or whatever. You can just do that shit yourself, right?

Well, yeah, you could. And lots of people do. But to the trained eye, it's pretty obvious when a non-copywriter tries to write copy. And to the untrained eye, your copy might come across as dull, uncompelling, or just too damn hard to read. 

Copywriting is kind of like playing the drums. Technically, anyone with at least one arm can hold a drumstick and hit the snare. But unless you've had a few lessons, you're probably going to play for shit.

Let's look at some copywriting examples.

Here is a sign from the toilet in my gym. It's advertising some kind of body shaming fat scanning service.


Now, this one is easy to critique because it has an error - IN THE HEADLINE - that a primary school student could identify.

"We'll show you what your made of!" (Spoiler alert: they've used the wrong "your".)

What's the difference between your and you're?

  • Your is a possessive adjective that modifies a noun. For example, "Your cat is very attractive."
  • You're is the contraction of the words "you are". For example, "You're going to die in seven days."

Getting your and you're mixed up isn't uncommon, but it is EMBARRASSING, especially for a business. It makes people think, "If you can't write basic sentences correctly, how are you going to tell me how fat I am?"

Here is another example, also from my gym. This sign may not seem as bad as the first one. All its words are spelled correctly, and there aren't any humiliating grammatical errors. And it's not awful, but it could be better if a copywriter wrote it.


"Need a hand? With any new or existing equipment?"

First of all, this should be one sentence - not two. But you could overlook that because it still kind of makes sense to the reader.

The main problem with this copy is that it has unnecessary words. Copywriting is an exercise in writing words, but also in getting rid of them. Think about it. When you want to communicate an important message, you make it strong by using the least number of words possible. For example, if you were trapped in a couch (something that has happened to me) would you yell out, "Can somebody please provide assistance to me?" or simply "Help!" Less words equals more power. When people read words, they are lazy. If you have too many words, they will just TLDR you. (Too long; didn't read). Or they might read your copy, but the emphasis is lost because it got drowned out in too much waffle.

It's not necessary to say "new or existing equipment" because that encompasses every possible kind of equipment in the gym. Instead, you could just say "equipment". As in "Need a hand with any equipment?" 

Copywriters don't just correct your grammar and cut out unnecessary words. They can get to the heart of an offer and then write copy that communicates this to your audience in a compelling, efficient way. They can think from the point of view of the customer to figure out what to say, and the best way to say it..

So yeah, in theory, you probably can write your own copy. But it's worth chatting to a copywriter to see what extra value they can add to your content.