Getting your documents right can be challenging enough without having to worry about the little details involved in copywriting. After all, making content accessible and engaging is what the final product will be judged on. But did you know that there are specific guidelines that you have to follow in order to produce award-winning copy?
The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reports that 37.8 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of stress. That’s 72% of the population. The good news is that there is help available. AIS suggests that professionals learn to recognize the signs of stress and help patients find the coping mechanisms they need. What better way to learn and understand how to write effective copy than by following the guidelines established by the AIDA International, which stands for the African-American Independent Living and Development.
Keep It Objective, Factual, And Easy To Understand
The AIDA International, established in 1968, states that its mission is to “stimulate, inspire, and initiate thought leaders and independent researchers to advance the quality of life and promote equal opportunity for African Americans.” One of the ways they do this is through copywriting guidelines. To quote the AIDA International, “The written word is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal in changing attitudes and promoting thought leadership. The copy you write should serve as a guide for others in your industry, so that they can better understand and appreciate your products and services.”
Pro-Tip: Whenever you are writing for an audience of executives, business owners, and people who work in sales, marketing, and advertising, you can bet that they have seen and used a lot of copy. This is not your mama’s “Hello.” You need to keep things fresh and interesting while also ensuring that your readers understand you and what you are saying. The last thing you want to do is write something that is confusing or hard to follow. Nobody likes a smart alecky copywriter who throws curveballs at them. (And if they don’t get what you’re saying, they might just shoot you.)
Use Active Voice
The AIDA International encourages you to use active voice rather than passive voice when writing. To quote the organization, “In active voice, the subject and the verb agree in number (singular and plural). The sentence structure is also simpler and more straightforward. In passive voice, the subject and the verb disagree in number (usually singular and plural), and the sentence structure is more complex.”
For example, instead of writing, “The children enjoyed the cookies,” you could write, “Kids enjoyed the cookies.” A sentence written in passive voice sounds like a story or a list of words and doesn’t sound as natural. While it may be grammatically correct, it doesn’t sound right.
If you are still writing in third person, go ahead and change it to first person. It will make your writing sound more intimate and less of a broadcast. And when you do that, you will discover that you are throwing off all the other little details that make your writing stand out. After all, your readers are more engaged when they feel like they’re hearing what you have to say from the very voice of a human. (Just listen to some of the great audiobooks that are out there. You can tell the author’s voice instantly, and it will pull you right into the story.)
The AIDA International suggests that you take the time to find and use the right keywords in your writing. What are keywords? They are words and phrases, primarily found in the metadata (informational chunks about a piece of content), that act as signposts to enable the reader to find your content easily. Think of it as a content scavenger hunt. The more you know about keywords and how to use them effectively, the easier it will be to get your articles and other content to be discovered and accessed by the right people who can then benefit from your expertise.
For example, if you are a hair stylist who writes about hairstyle trends, you may want to include words like “hair” and “facial hair” in your keyword list so that when someone searches for those words, their eyes will land on your articles. (And maybe even on some bonus material you have tucked away online like how-tos, instructional videos, or webinars you’ve hosted.)
To find the right keywords without using any keyword research tools, read your articles and other content, looking for the words and phrases that appear most often. Then, make a note of these and add them to your keyword list. And when you do that, you will discover that your articles begin to pop up more in the organic search results for keywords you included in your list. Your work is now being found, and that is entirely due to the fact that you took the time to find the right words for your content.
Pro-Tip: Did you know that you can make your own keywords list? All you need to do is type in your subject area (in this case, hair) and enter the following word, “keywords.” Then, press enter. Boom. You have yourself a short-list of words and phrases that you can use to find content on your topic area. (You can add your own keyword terms to this list or use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to automate the process.)
Use Short And Sweet
The AIDA International suggests a certain minimalism when it comes to copy. Your goal is to keep your writing simple and easy to understand while still conveying your message effectively. If you follow their guidelines and keep things short and sweet, you can bet that your copy will begin to have a greater impact. Your readers will appreciate the simplicity and conciseness of your writing, and you will be able to impress them with your well-honed skills. (If you want to write a sales letter that will convince potential customers to purchase your products or services, you could start by copying the successful sales letters you’ve read online or in books. Then, you could use that knowledge to create the perfect pitch that will convince your audience to buy from you rather than your competitors.)
If you have a long-winded story to tell or an argument you want to make, you can bet that people will get bored and lose interest long before you finish explaining everything. This is why it’s important to keep your writing short and sweet. Your readers will appreciate your efforts, and you will have a greater impact because of it.
Form A Bulleted List
The AIDA International suggests that you use a bulleted list to briefly introduce each point you make in your writing. What is a bulleted list? It is a list of items, ideas, or things, presented in short, simple paragraphs, typically used to identify key points in a lengthy article or speech. (You can also use a bulleted list for a to-do list or a shopping list.)
It can be helpful to organize your thoughts by listing your main points in the order that you will most likely present them. Once you have this list ready, you can begin to write your article. As you write, you can refer back to your list of points and make sure that your article reflects what you’ve listed. (This is a great technique for writing a thesis or an essay. You can also use it to flesh out the details of a longer piece. For example, if you have an informative piece about fashion, you could begin by writing about the most relevant and well-known designers. Then, you could use your list of points to expand on what you’ve written about previously, providing more information about the fashion industry and how brands operate within it. This technique will help establish your credibility as an expert while also helping your audience understand and appreciate your subject matter more fully. (Just make sure that you don’t overuse this technique and begin to seem like a robotic copywriter.)
Use Numbers When Possible
If you are writing about numbers, using them effectively is a must. Why? Because numbers speak louder than words and allow for greater evidence-based support. Just remember this: If you are citing numbers, they must be cited accurately and with proper attribution. (Who is citing them? What are they saying about what you’ve written? Be sure to include a link to the source or create a bibliography at the end of your article.)
To give an example, let’s say that you are writing a blog post about how to properly cook a Thanksgiving turkey. You might begin by citing a number of credible sources that back up your thesis and then follow up with some concrete tips on how to cook the perfect turkey. Numbers provide a greater degree of authenticity and authority when used in conjunction with well-executed qualitative research.