From drab to fab – how to give your copywriting a new lease of life

Picture this: you’re sat at your desk and an email arrives from your boss asking you to write a news story about yet another [insert typical request here]. You quickly check what you wrote last time and type out a new version with all of the same information, switching in a few alternative words here and there.

It may be easy but it’s not exactly inspiring.

This is the situation I was getting close to being in when I signed up for a Guardian Masterclass on persuasive writing. I needed to inject a bit of energy into my work to reinvigorate the copy I was delivering.

Thankfully, the course was excellent and I came away with some excellent ‘persuasive writing techniques’ which I now have as a constant reminder on my desk. So, if you’re looking for a few creative ways to approach any writing task, why not try answering the same brief in a few of these different ways and see which one you like best:

1. Emotion

Is there a time in your life when you wanted exactly what this product/service can offer/solve? Can you draw upon that story and how you felt, using the experience to guide what you say?

Humans are emotional beings and reaching for something personal to you might just help you strike the absolute right cord with your audience.

2. Image

Is there something visual that could represent what you want to say, either in a literal or abstract way? An empty chair at the table could symbolise loss or longing, but an empty seat on a plane could inspire hope and excitement.

Don’t forget: you can describe something highly visual with words as well! You don’t have to be use an actual picture if that doesn’t suit the format you’re writing in.

3. Impact

  1. Be provocative
  2. Solve a problem
  3. Use repetition
  4. Ask for an opinion

4. Fascinating detail

Tell the reader something they don’t already know (put your most fascinating fact first). This makes it more of a story and delivers much more than a bland series of statements.

Here’s an example:

New store opening on X date

becomes

It’s taken 200 builders and 60 carpenters 11 months to create your new store…

5. A new point of view

This could be your customer’s, an inanimate object’s or even an animal’s (a cruise line used this effectively to describe what a seabird was seeing from above).

Presenting the same information but from a different perspective forces you to be creative and take a step back from a subject you may, in fact, be too close to.

6. Vary sentence type/length

Every eight or so sentences, have a 3-4 word sentence that distils your message. Keeping it this short means it will get noticed.

Balanced sentences are also good, e.g. the big network for small phones, one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

7.Really stuck? Try some word association!

Choose a random word (nouns like fish, church, cheese… work best), make associations, relate these back to the problem. It’s amazing where your mind will take you and just by working your way through some of these associations, you may land on a new angle that you’d never have considered otherwise.

Do you have any other go-to techniques when your writing is lacking inspiration? Please share them below!