Day 24: Pre-flight Checklists for Copy
Just like pilots and cabin crews have pre-flight checklists to maximize safety before take-off, your copy must go through its own editing processes before you can publish.
Watch the first five minutes of this video and you’ll see what we mean.
But if you can’t be bothered to watch it (which is fine), the point is this: checklists are a proven way of turning almost any process into the perfect Quality Control.
This applies to copy because it is really easy to overlook your mistakes, especially with your own work.
Today’s lesson will introduce you to the checklist you need to use before releasing your work to the public.
Is your message logical and easy to understand?
Your webpages should have one main goal, and must be written accordingly.
When checking your copy for clarity, your first job is to look at the bigger picture:
- Am I making my point clearly?
- Am I writing in a way that my target audience can understand it?
If your answers to the these questions are confused, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
But once you’ve sorted this, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty.
- Are you using active voice over passive voice? Active voice is clearer and less likely to be misunderstood.
- Are you using “you” words whenever possible?
- Does each sentence convey one idea only? If not, rewrite.
- Can you say it with fewer words? If you can cut words, cut words.
- Have you replaced jargon with conversational copy?
- Does the copy flow from one point to another in a logical way? If not, restructure or reword.
- Is your copy grammatically perfect? Use Grammarly for some extra reassurance.
Is your brand’s personality shining through?
Any business can write persuasive copy. Finding your unique voice, however, is difficult.
Voice is how you project your personality with your words. Are you witty, quirky, authentic or passionate? Are you funny, serious, or inspirational?
Whatever your voice, you need to stick to it across your entire website. This part of your checklist is self-explanatory, but it will take some time.
- Scan your page(s) from start to finish. Check whether your tone is consistent line-by-line.
- Do the same but read from finish to start — properly, so you can spot your voice in the context of the whole page.
- One more read-through, as a proofread. Focus on typos and dodgy punctuation.
3. Significance and Proof
Are you backing your statements with meaning and proof?
This is your chance to make sure your copy is supported by either a benefit-oriented statement or a solid testimonial.
This bit is a bit easier than you think, and it can be broken down into three steps:
- Re-read your copy. For every claim you find, use the “so what?” test on it.
- If the answer isn’t there, add a line of copy (that focuses on the customer)
- Once you’ve added your “so what?” copy, prove it by adding some social proof (data, screenshots, testimonials)
Here’s a good example from whereby.com:
Absolute perfection, and hardly any copy. There are no wasted words, and every word is backed up. Bam!
Are you using language that resonates with your audience?
When you’re writing to sell, you need to create an emotional connection with the reader. And you can’t do that if you’re vague or non-committal.
If you can make your prospect visualize the end result of buying from you, and make them feel the way they want to feel, you’re most of the way there already.
Here’s how to improve your specificity:
- Use sensory words to create vivid images in your prospect’s head
- Use specific numbers (4,327 — not 4,330; not 4,300; not 4,000)
- Turn summary words into specific characteristics (don’t use “tan”, use “hazelnut tan”)
- Words that engage in the user’s imagination (“imagine if …”, “let’s pretend that”)
- Connects the dots for the reader (explain what a 15% increase in revenue means for the customer)
- Symbols (%, $, etc.)
- Specific comparisons (don’t say you’re “the best”. Explain why)
And finally… don’t make the user think! Do the heavy lifting for them.
Choose one page of your website, and use this 4-step checklist to optimize the copy. Once you’re comfortable with it, move onto more pages.