When fellow business owners find out I’m a copywriter, they tend to tell me about how difficult writing is for them.
In fact, one of the comments I hear most often is, “I just never know how to edit it, to make it better.”
So when they send out that newsletter, or post that blog article – even though they may be passionate about the topic – they cringe and cross their fingers, hoping it’s “good enough.”
As copywriter (and a self-proclaimed perfectionist), I can tell you that, yes, it is good enough. You’re getting something out there, which is the most important part.
That said, there all kinds of simple things you can do to spruce up your writing, without having to replace your brain with a copywriter’s mind.
One of the key areas to look out for is the dreaded “eye drag.”
Eye drag happens when you’re reading a good book or some engaging copy, and then – BAM – something on the page trips you up.
It’s when something in the copy stops your eye from going further. It could be a weird word or phrase, or a formatting issue.
You may find yourself reading one sentence two or three times, or slowing down to make sense of the words. It’s the phrase that seems totally out of place, or the word that simply gives you pause.
Think about all the times you’ve read a piece of copy – an interesting, engaging piece of copy – and then started skimming it, or abandoned it completely. There are a number of possible culprits, but in many cases it’s because the copy was hard to read.
And your readers are the exact same way.
When their eyes trip or drag over bumpy copy, they’ll click away, or will at least miss the main point you’re trying to make.
So, what causes eye drag, and how you can watch out for them in your copy?
Here are 3 simple tips to tighten up & smooth out your copy…
1. Look for words or phrases that repeat close to each other.
When you look back over your copy, keep an eye out for places where you’ve used the same word or phrase two, or even three, times in close proximity.
It makes the reader’s brain think that she has lost her place.
It makes the reader’s brain think, “Didn’t I just read that?”
(See what I did there?)
So it causes the reader to make sure she isn’t reading the same line over again. It may only take a split-second, but it’s enough to take your reader out of your copy.
I see this happen with words in the beginning of paragraphs and sentences a lot. Common examples are starting a sentence with the word “when” or “I,” but keep an eye out for repeats in the middle of sentences, too.
For example, during my first draft of this article, when I reached the part where I explained what “eye drag” is, I started two back-to-back paragraphs with the phrase, “It’s when…”
So, I changed the second paragraph to, “You may find yourself…”
Easy, quick, and no longer an eye drag.
2. Take out extra words.
I’m talking words like…
(For example, the subheadline above could have said, “Take out the extra words.” But I’m willing to bet, when you read it, you didn’t think, “Hey, there’s a word missing there…”)
You may hesitate over this one at first, because your old English class brain wants you to structure your sentences a particular way. Your first time doing this, you may not be sure if you can eliminate some of these words.
But here’s the thing – you’re writing copy. And you’re probably writing it for a personal brand, where it hopefully reflects your own voice. It doesn’t need to be grammatically correct. You can skip the long, flowy masterpieces of language.
And, once you get going, it’s super easy – and it’s a fast way to tighten up your copy without feeling like you’re doing some complicated copywriting technique.
Basically, if you can remove the word, and the sentence still reads the same way, take that puppy out!
For example, you could say, “I used to believe that writing was hard.”
Or, you could say, “I used to believe writing was hard.”
Same thing, right?
May not look like a huge difference in just that one sentence, but imagine having an entire page of extra words. It just muddies up your writing.
3. Read your copy…out loud.
You may feel silly doing it at first, but this one trick is so powerful – and ridiculously easy!
Here’s the deal…
When you read, you actually “hear” the words in your head. In fact, people used to read out loud all the time. Silent reading was considered remarkable up until the late Middle Ages. (If you want to geek out on some history, check out this article.)
So when someone reads your copy, it’s like you’re speaking inside her head.
By reading your own copy out loud, you can quickly catch anything that would cause the “voice” in your reader’s head to stumble. If you stumble over it while reading it out loud, or if you have to slow down to make sense of it, it’ll make your reader stumble or slow down, too.
Once you find those spots, simply rework them. (You may just have to look for those “extra” words to eliminate.)
So, there you have it. 3 simple ways to tighten up your copy and wipe out eye drag.
See if you can implement these three tips in your emails, articles, and web pages right now. You’ll start writing clearer, more effective copy for your readers instantly.
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