50 characteristics of Great Copywriters
Here are at least 2 arguments why you should read this post:
- If you have a website, any website, even if it’s just a show-&-tell website, you need to hire a seasoned copywriter.
- Or Suppose you’re in the market to become a great copywriter.
In any case, you need to know what makes copywriting efficient or not.
Here are 50 characteristics of great copywriters.
Feel free to add any characteristics to the list…
1. Clarity. Writing an update on Facebook is easy, Writing a good email takes time, writing a blog-post is hard but writing a convincing ad is only reserved for a few people.
2. Passion. Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. For great copywriters, nothing is boring or trivial if that’s what they’re writing about.3.Curiosity. Remember when you were 5 years old? You always wanted to know why. Curiosity is the gateway to clarity. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.“
4. Vocabulary. Some people know a lot of words. Great copywriters know that you only need to use words that everybody will understand. They know that common and short words are better than long and technical words.
5. Precision. Beyond knowing the difference between it’s and its, their and there, the devil is in the details. Proof goes way beyond grammar, punctuation, and style.
6. Emotion. Even business decisions are based on feelings. It’s the goal of copywriters to provoke an emotional response from the reader in their assignments. Warm prospects freeze when exposed to cold writing, but cold prospects are hot after reading an emotive narrative.
7. Deadlines. Copywriters always remember the true definition of deadline: the line drawn around a prison that a prisoner can’t pass without being shot. You next launch can’t wait for the fine-tuning of an ad.
8. Brainstorming. Although in some business situations, imagination may be seen as a negative, employers should not come down too hard on copywriters who appear to be daydreaming or throw out lots of ideas.
9. Size matters. Conciseness, while usually worthwhile, is not always what’s needed. Some kinds of content, like landing pages or funnels for complex products, require a long and structured copy. Any novice can throw 1,500 words of nonsense, but only seasoned writers can compose 1,500 words of compelling persuasion.
10. Perfect is the enemy of good copywriting. The perfect email (or post, or ad) doesn’t exist. That’s why savvy copywriters invented split tests.
11. Can look at the big picture. Being able to recognize gaps & weaknesses in their writings helps great writers to recognize flaws in the company’s narrative. This external input is invaluable to a firm’s sales & marketing leadership.
12. Is a designer’s best friend. Marketing copy is more than just awesome text. It is an essential component of a flyer, brochure, web or landing page, lecture, slide presentation or some other form heavily influenced by design. Writers and designers must understand each other to fine-tune the finished product.
13. SEO. Copywriters are not SEO experts. However, they do need to understand basic SEO concepts: CTA, keywords, anchor text structure, tags, and a few other details. Good copywriting includes sound SEO strategies like link building, headlines, subheadlines, keyword identification, meta titles & meta descriptions.
14. Storytellers. Business writing has taken a spin with storytelling. The oldest form of copywriting is back into the limelight. The ability to narrate twist the narrative is essential for landing pages, slide presentations, videos and even for case studies.
15. Is observant. Leaders who demonstrate vision have the ability to look ahead. A lack of vision in writing is like typing a text on a smartphone. You can’t win the proof-read game.
16. Proactive. Great writers are well versed in the business world. They can identify probable reactions from the target audience and address them beforehand in their copy. This skill allows them to discard messaging points that are not pertinent. An ounce of anticipation is worth a pound of verbosity.
17. Listens. Listening is essential to many aspects of copywriting, including content creation. It is the best way to really understand the needs of a company’s leadership and its customers. Great writers are better at listening than talking because they have to report and translate into words other people’s ideas.
18. Takes notes. A notebook maybe another best friend of a copywriter. Memory alone is hardly good for short term. But if you need to go back and rewrite something several months after, you are lost without written talking points.
19. Uses plain English. Knowing a wide variety of words is good, but using technical terms, lingo, jargon, or obscure words is dangerous because it disrupts the flow of ideas and can make the reader quit. As Stephen King said, “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word.” If this is true for fiction, it’s even more true for a business copy.
20. Short is beautiful. Any writer can spew out 1,000 words on a given topic. Only great copywriters have the skills to summarize the text down to 300 convincing ones.
21. Marketing principles. First-rate copywriters understand the concept of funnels, customer behavior & value journey, basic marketing concepts such as features and benefits.
22. Muscles through writer’s block. Writing when inspiration is lacking is agonizing – in fact, it’s every writer’s nightmare. Great business writers can crank it out even when ideas are harder to come by than five-sided snowflakes.
23. Thinks logically. Copywriting should lead to action: they write to influence prospects to buy, customers to stay, investors to invest, etc. Business decisions are often made based on compelling arguments so, copywriters must be able to lay them out.
24. Reads enthusiastically. It’s a given: writers can be great only through extensive reading. Reading is to writers what exercise is to athletes.
25. Reads extensively. Adaptable and reliable writers eat for breakfast all sorts of text: newspapers, magazines, novels, history, comics, ads, other author’s copywriting, signs on the street or even DIY instruction cheat-sheets if they don’t have anything else.
26. Reads acutely. Great writers enjoy mastering at least 1 subject. The combination of depth & breadth of reading facilitates the acquisition of concepts and words and ease the versatility in form and style mentioned above.
27. Isn’t a desk jockey. Great copywriters aren’t just into reading and writing to master their art. Instead, they go out into the real world and meet employees, customers, & even competitors. Without this, they lose their feel; or never acquire it.
28. Resourceful. Creative copywriting is not an out-of-the-blue activity but an exercise in recognizing other people’s useful content and adapting it to the current creation. Great writers know how to fish for talented resources.
29. Credits. Sometimes, others have the best words, so why don’t use it? But crediting a source in the form of a mention, a link and/or a formal citation is the only but necessary requirement of a credible and creditable writing.
30. Mentorship. No man is an island. Exceptional writers almost always speak highly of a teacher, an editor or a writer who inspired and taught them.
31. Is not blunt. Many writers tell it too much like it is. Great writers control this tendency.
32. Balanced. Many novelists have ups-and-down and mood swings. This might be a by-product of a creative mindset. Seasoned copywriters have a balanced temperament and know how to manage their inner demons to prevent it from meddling with their work.
33. Due-Diligence. Even if a copywriter doesn’t know about your specialized field or niche he always researches and analyzes your company or organization before starting to write.
34. Multitasking. Warning: multitasking is the greatest fraud of our century. Moving back and forth between several tasks wastes productivity. Your concentration is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.
35. Focus. To avoid multitasking, copywriters need to master the ability to stay in the moment, focusing entirely on the job at hand. Distractibility diminishes quality.
36. Self-motivation. Copywriters have no coaches. Picture a manager motivating a writer to write by screaming, “I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT, WRITE!”
37. Editing. First, there is the blank page syndrome. But prolix copywriters are just ghost-writers. A true copywriter knows what part of his text has to be edited or killed.
38. Adaptability. Business writing goes beyond articles and web pages. How about CTAs, Bios, Case Studies, Ads, Meta-Descriptions, Taglines. The more of these writers can handle, the more valuable they are to any business, agency or client.
39. Adaptability of voice. Some writers master the conversational style; others master the technical or formal (boardroom) style. Copywriters move gracefully from one style to another with ease.
40. Versatility of purpose. Some writers are uncomfortable with the concept of a hard sales pitch; other writers are uncomfortable with “boring” assignments. Copywriters are uncomfortable with not writing.
41. Consistency. You can’t be proud of half of your work. It’s either 100% or nothing. Great copywriters consistently turn in work of high quality, rather than just being great when they feel like it or by chance.
42. Fast Learners. Deadlines are Copywriters’ Sword of Damocles, so not only they have to be able to learn on the job & on their own but quickly; because the deadline was yesterday.
43. Knows when to stop learning. Learning IS part of the job, but getting the job done is the goal. Copywriters who feel the need to learn everything before hitting the keyboard never write anything.
44. Knows when to ask for help. A writer has two choices: struggle endlessly with a vexing problem or get help from a subject matter expert. Help from another pair of eyes always improves accuracy and speed.
45. Knows whom to ask for help. None of us is as smart as all of us. That’s why a copywriter is only as good as the team that surrounds him or her.
46. Welcomes criticism. Clients, internal personnel, editors always criticize draft copy. Copywriters need to learn to explain why they wrote what they wrote. A winning strategy is always having a good explanation for those endless bullet points.
47. Defends the work. Great writers not only accept and even welcome constructive criticism, but they also make their point and make a persuasive case for their work. Clients, managers, & editors are not always right. An overly compliant writer contributes to mediocre content.
48. Has perspective. Great writers don’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You need to deconstruct (or reverse engineer) before re-construct. Writers who don’t have perspective continually get hung up on small matters of style or approach.
49. Knows the rules. When it comes to punctuation, grammar, and style, writers can’t create their own style. Because both correctness & consistency are essentials, good writers are familiar with the rules (e.g., AP style) that rule their type of writing.
50. Knows to bend the rules. AP style may not always be the best way to write. Copy that has been given a low Flesch–Kincaid score is less intellectually rewarding but more readable and therefore more efficient. Like everywhere, rules are made to be broken, the end justifies the means.
Now, your turn!
Have you understood what the essence of a copywriter is? Are you ready to become one, or to find one for your business with those characteristics?
If your answer is no, I can help.
Just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be happy to help you.