I believe that copywriting is the most valuable skill you’ll ever learn. Great copy engages your readers, builds connections, turns readers into consumers and consumers into brand evangelists. Of course, this all means a fatter bottom line, which makes you the most popular person in the room!
If you’re ready to acquire near-mystical powers of persuasion, check out these useful resources and tools that are bound to help strengthen your copywriting skills.
Brush Up On Your Language Skills
I’d like to introduce this section with a small proviso. Great grammar does not equal great copywriting. Copywriting is a unique animal, different from academic, journalistic or literary writing. Copywriting is about human psychology, consumer behaviour and applying tried and tested methodologies. It’s not about beautiful words, and I know many great writers who make poor copywriters and vice versa.
That said, language mistakes matter if they get in the way of comprehension. So it’s worth brushing up on those language skills to avoid errors that will derail your message.
Use English Punctuation Correctly
An easy-to-follow crash course in English punctuation, starting with the basics.
A welcome break from dull and dry grammar guides. Mignon Fogarty, AKA Grammar Girl, provides short, friendly tips for better writing. Grammar rules, word choices, and tricks to remember them all. Who knew grammar could be so bright and breezy?
Common Errors In English
A comprehensive alphabetical list of common English errors, from misspellings to confounded compound nouns and common expressions gone rogue. Click for detailed explanations of each one.
10 Flagrant Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid
More common errors to sidestep.
Grammarly: Free Online Writing Assistant
This AI-powered writing assistant grows ever more sophisticated. Adept at spotting errors, it can also identify tone, point out erroneous words or suggest better ones. Well worth downloading.
Eats, Shoots And Leaves
Download the Kindle edition of this witty exploration of the perils of improper punctuation. A joy for anyone who cringes at the sight of an errant apostrophe.
Six Common Punctuation Errors That Bedevil Bloggers
So true. This contains a couple of my pet peeves.
Master Plain English
In a hectic world, getting straight to the point and communicating your message quickly and clearly is a non-negotiable. But the most common challenge budding copywriters tell me about is writing concisely. This is partly because of some very unhelpful lessons we learnt at school.
So I’m going to ask you to forget all those long words and stop writing winding sentences. It may be big, but it’s not clever. Find out why below…
The Complete Plain Words | Plain Words
Sir Ernest Gowers was an eminent civil servant who railed against the convoluted language so often used in the service. Sixty years after he wrote Plain Words, it’s still a superb and charmingly written guide to clear communication.
The Elements of Style
A freely available online version of the classic reference book, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.
Plain English Campaign
Home to an award-winning group of anti-gobblydegook activists. Browse the site, particularly the free tools section to find out why plain English is so important and how to achieve it.
Plain English Writing | SkillsYouNeed
A nice visual guide to how and why to craft short, clear, easily digestible sentences.
Understand Style Guides And Brand Voice
When your brand talks, what does it sound like? Your brand voice is a vital part of your overall brand identity, building connections, trust and recognition with your readers. Brand voice covers tone, language and style points (whether to capitalise, how to format dates, Oxford comma or no Oxford comma, and so on).
How To Create A Brand Tone Of Voice Guide
Don’t have a brand guide yet? Check out this site for helpful hints on putting one together.
10 Best Examples of Brand Guidelines
For inspiration, look to the brands that are doing it well. Many brands publish their guidelines online and this site will point you to ten of the greats. Skip to the section on voice in each.
Associated Press Stylebook
Use this guide if American English is more your cup of tea.
English Style Guide — Economist
This surprisingly readable usage guide is based on the style book given to all journalists at The Economist. The online version offers up hints on how to use metaphors, punctuation, figures, hyphens, and so on.
Craft The Perfect Heading
Guess what? Most people are only going to read your heading before deciding whether to read on or click away. Dramatically boost your results by getting it right.
50 Trigger Words and Phrases for Powerful Multimedia Content
A super handy list of words that grab attention and push buttons. Perfect for hard-hitting headings.
How To Write Magnetic Headlines
Another free ebook from the Copyblogger team, this time on writing ‘magnetic’ headings.
2001 Greatest Headlines Ever Written
Think of this great book as a giant swipe file of hit headlines from across the industries.
5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post With a Bang
So you have an awesome heading. Then what? Next in order and rank comes the opening paragraph. Check out this piece to make sure the energy doesn’t fizzle out.
Cram With Easy Online Copywriting Guides
Copywriting 101: An Introduction to Copywriting
This free e-book from the Copyblogger team is designed to get you up and running with the copywriting basics in ten easy lessons. Afterwards, you’ll get recommendations for professional copywriting training, plus links to tutorials on SEO copywriting and writing killer headlines.
Copywriting 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Copy
A quick and easy beginner’s guide.
Get Guidance From The Literary Greats
Now, I’ve already mentioned that copywriting is a completely different animal from literary writing. But we can still learn a trick or two from great fiction. The writers below in particular have had a marked influence on modern writing and their lessons hold true for writing effective copy.
George Orwell’s tips on better writing
Stephen King’s Top 7 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer
10 Writing Tips from the Masters
Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
Dip In With Bite-Sized Tips
10 Writing Tips for Web Designers
Nice, succinct summary of the differences between writing for print and online.
How to Write Faster, Better, and Easier
Not strictly aimed at copywriters but still a good overview of the steps in the writing process. Highlights the importance of every stage, from planning to final proofread.
Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don’t Want to Work at Writing
An amusingly opinionated list of ways to improve your writing.
A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips
More of the above, without the expletives…
Browse The Best Copywriting Blogs
Often recognized as the Bible of content creation, founder Brian Clark’s site features hundreds of insightful and easy-to-read articles on all things content related. If you only read one blog, this should be it.
Lots of useful stuff from Darren Rowse for anyone with a blog to write, including how to add income streams.
This easy-to-navigate site offers up the Trinity — a copywriting blog, copywriting services and training. Browse the blog for articles that communicate valuable tips clearly and quickly. This team practises what they preach.
SEO Copywriting — Moz
Pop over to the MOZ blog for a deep dive into SEO copywriting and check out their free tutorials.
How could we not include HoneyCopy and their words that ‘read like poetry and sell like Ogilvy’? Inspirational pieces on advertising, writing, creativity and life.
Men with Pens
A regularly updated blog with an almost overwhelming amount of useful information for writers, freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Enjoy the Jack Sparrow quote on the homepage:
“I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically.”
— Captain Jack Sparrow
Read Books (Sort Of)
Shortform — The World’s Best Book Summaries
So many books, so little time. The team at Shortform has done a great job of summarising popular works of non-fiction so you can download the key messages fast. Sign up for the free trial and check out Ogilvy on Advertising, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and Made to Stick.
How to Make Your Advertising Make Money eBook
A classic from copywriter John Caples, the man behind spilt testing. Kindle edition.
All Of Gary Halbert’s Boron Letters From Prison
If you’d like your copywriting tips wrapped up with life advice and personal anecdotes, you might enjoy the Boron letters. Copywriter Gary Halbert wrote them to his son while in prison.
The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells
Considered by many to be the copywriting guide, this book is exactly what it claims to be — a clear and comprehensive step-by-step guide to writing great copy.
Hack With Handy Tools
OneLook Dictionary Search
More than 13.5 million words in more than 1024 online dictionaries are indexed by the OneLook search engine. You can find, define, and translate words all at one site.
This English conjugator will help you to determine how to use verbs in the proper tense.
Synonyms and Antonyms of Words
Can’t think of quite the right word? Search synonyms to avoid repetition and capture the right tone. Hazard warning: do not be tempted by the big words you may find here!
Top 10 SEO Copywriting Tips
This piece from Semrush combines tips and a list of tools for SEO copywriting.
This tool helps you find out the reading time so you can share it with your reader and get a ranking of the most frequently used words. Use it to make sure you’re using enough keywords to boost your SEO or simply to spot words you overuse and correct unnecessary repetition.
If your budget is restrictive but you want to dip your toes into the world of copywriting courses, check out Udemy. They have a wide range of low-cost and even free tutorials available on demand. Do check the reviews to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.
The Giles Academy
If you’re serious about copywriting, we recommend working closely with a professional team. The courses at The Giles Academy offer different levels for different needs. Opt for Pro level to get individual feedback from a professional copywriter plus certification.
There’s a special offer for Smashing Magazine readers. Use the code 40OFF at checkout to get 40% off!
Power Up Your Productivity
It’s easy for the cold tendrils of inaction to creep in when faced with a blank page. But copywriters work to deadlines and don’t have the luxury of waiting for the muse to appear.
“My favourite part of the writing process is cleaning the apartment.”
Here are a few tips and tricks to kick writer’s block to the curb:
21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers
More from the Copyblogger team. Can you tell we’re fans?
Productivity For Writers: 5 Ways To Become More Productive
Practical tips, from scheduling to accountability
Eugene Schwartz’ 33.33 Minute Rule — How To Get Shit Done
My favourite way to beat procrastination. I’m pretty sure my mother actually came up with this one, but here’s a refined version from Eugene Shwartz (one of the highest paid copywriters ever).
Get It Done For You
If you’re still working on your copywriting skills, but need some copy urgently, there’s plenty of support out there. For freelance writers to suit a range of budgets, make sure to visit Upwork™ and Fivver.com, and if you’d like the professional support of an experienced team, you’re always welcome to reach out to us at the Giles Agency.
That’s it for now. Do you have any resource or tool to add to the list? We’d love to know! Be sure to pop your favourite resources in the comments below.