A Copywriting Trap to Avoid: Compost Heap Writing

by Angela on November 26, 2008

Wondering why your copy isn’t selling? “Compost heap writing” is a common copywriting trap you should avoid. Here’s how.

Firstly, let’s discuss what the “compost heap writing” syndrome actually is. I see this trap occurring primarily with new copywriters, but pros can fall into it too.

Compost heap writing is copywriting by formula: in layers, and it’s a real trap. Other copywriters will spot the formula instantly. Your target audience (if they read much beyond the headline) will simply sense that there’s something wrong; they may accuse the copy of being cheesy or hype-laden. They certainly won’t buy whatever it is you’re selling.

Here’s how to avoid this common copywriting trap.

1. Copywriting Is Persuasion: Outline Your Argument

Since copywriting is persuasive writing, you must make a logical argument. The only way to do this is to outline your copy, and look for gaps in logic.

Here’s an essential tip: copywriting is not about the WORDS. For years I recommended Swipe Files (samples of effective copy) to my copywriting students. I rarely do that now, because students focus too much on the words used, without thinking about the logic and emotional triggers in the copy.

2. Write Long, and then Cut, Cut, Cut!

Once you’ve outlined, write as much as you can. By writing lots of words, you’re stimulating your unconscious mind, and are much more likely to hit on the right words.

Then cut all non-essential words. Look for tautology (saying the same thing twice). Common tautologies include “free gift”; “forward planning”; and “new innovation”.

3. Read It Aloud: Do You Stumble?

You’ll spot a compost heap instantly if you read your copy aloud. Just do it.

4. Your Golden 24 Hours: Leave Time for Inspiration

Since all copywriting is persuasion, it depends on your writing’s flow for its effect. Leave your copy for 24 hours, even when you think you’ve completed a draft. When you approach it again, errors will jump at you.

5. Where’s Your Proof?

Compost heap copy tends to be long on hyperbole (“we’re the best!”) and short on proof. Testimonials are a form of proof. If your client hasn’t provided customer comments, speak to his buyers, and find out what words they use to describe the product, and how the product has helped them.

Avoid compost heap copywriting. Each copywriting project is unique; that’s what makes copywriting fun as well as profitable. Remember it’s persuasive writing, and when you persuade, you sell.

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[tags]copywriting,copywriting tips,learn copywriting,copywriting services[/tags]

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