During my studies I have found several checklists for writing and editing copy. I use them extensively, and continiously update them to fit my workflow.
You can use these to go through my (or any other) copy with a fine-tooth comb.
Credits are given to respectable authors.
By Mihael D. Čačič
Dan S. Kennedy
MARKET DIAGNOSIS AND PROFILING
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What are they afraid of?
- What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?
- What are their top three daily frustrations?
- What trands are occurring and will occur in their businesses or lives?
- What do they secretly, ardently desire most?
- Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions?
- Do they have their own language?
- Who else is selling something similar to their product, and how?
- Who else has tried selling them something similar, and how has that effort failed?
- Did you answer all 10 Questions about your prospect? (see “Market Diagnosis and Profiling”)
- How many of the ten were you able to use?
- Which of the ten did you decide to emphasize?
- Are you writing to your reader about what is most important to him or her (not you)?
- Did you build a list of every separate Feature of your product/offer?
- Did you translate the Features to Benefits?
- Did you identify a Hidden Benefit to use (also known as Unique Selling Proposition)
- Did you identify the disadvantages of your offer and flaws in your product?
- Did you develop “damaging admission copy” about thouse flaws?
- Did you make a list of reasons not to respond?
- Did you raise and respond to the reasons not to respond?
- Did you give careful thought to getting your letter delivered and/or through gatekeepers to its intended recipient?
- Did you look at, compare, and consider different envelope faces?
- Did you picture your piece in a stack of mail held by your recipient, sorting it over a wastebasket?… and take care to survive the sort and command attention and pique interest immediately upon being opened?
- Did you craft the best possible headline for your letter?
- Did you craft the best possible subheadlines to place throughout your letter?
- Did you make careful choices about your presentation of price?
- Were you able to sell money at a discount?
- Were you able to incorporate intimidation into your call to action copy?
- Were you able to appeal to the ego of your buyer?
- Did you develop and present a strong guarantee?
- Overall, did you tell an ainteresting story?
- Did you use an interesting story about yourself?
- Did you write to the right length? (Not longer than needed due to poor or sloppy editing, but not shorter than necessary to deliver the best presentation?)
- Did you use Double Readership Path?
- Did you use Internal Repetition?
- Did you keep the reader moving, with yes-momentum and end-of-page carryovers?
- Did you bust up paragraphs, keep one idea per paragraph, and make the letter easily readable? (See editing checklist below.)
- Were you interesting and entertaining?… Is the letter enjoyable to read?
- Did you use five-senses word pictures?
- Did you choose words carefully, consider options of one word versus another, and create high-impact phrases?
- Did you make your copy personal and conversational (not institutional)?
- Did you go back through your copy and think of the possible questions or objections it might leave unanswered?… then find ways to ask them, raise them, and answer them? (Leave no questions unanswered!)
- Did you choose and use devices to create urgency and spark immediate action?
- Did you write at least one PS at the end of the letter for a strategic purpose?
- Break up giant walls of text
- Add bullet points
- Make your headline obvious
- Include a clear call to action
- Make it “Caveman Simple”
- Turn on Google Docs Spelling and Grammar
- Use the “So What” test
- Balance your “I” to “you” ratio
- Back up claims
- Add images wisely
- Stay laser focused
- Write like you talk and remove buzzwords
- Add transition words to clunky parts
- Eliminate fluff
- Do a final runthrough (remove spots you trip over words)
Drew Eric Whitman
- Does it feature your product’s biggest benefit?
- Is it a real grabber? Does it elicit an emotional response?
- Does it use any of following headline starters? Free, New, At last, This, Announcing, Warning!, Just released, Now, Here’s, These, Which of, Finally, Look, Presenting, Introducing, How, Amazing, Do you, Would you, Can you, If you, Starting today.
- Is it significantly larger than your body copy? Boldfaced too?
- Is it powerful enough to get people to read your body copy?
- Does it make some kind of offer?
- Is it authoritative, and not wimpy?
- Is the headline set in initial caps? Use all caps if your headline is about for to five words.
BODY COPY: FIRST SENTENCE
- Are you using one of the dozen body copy jump-starters? (See below.)
- Does it naturally flow from the headline?
- Does it get right into the benefits for the reader, instead of bragging about your company?
- Does it almost force them to read the second sentence?
- Is you one of the first few words?
- Continue the Thought in the Headline
- Ask a question
- Quote a Respected authority
- Give them a free taste
- Challenge them to prove it works
- Start with a story of skepticism
- Tell what other are saying
- Play reporter
- Get personal with you, you, you
- tell a dramatic story
- give super-detailed specs
- Lure them in with a very short first sentence
BODY COPY: GENERAL
- Does it focus on how the reader will benefit?
- Does it tell your readers why they should buy from you, rather than from a competitor who offers the same product/service?
- If your product or service is exciting, does your ad sound exciting?
- Does it progress in a logical, methodical way?
- Get attention.
- Stimulate interest.
- Build desire.
- Offer proof.
- Ask for action.
- Are you trying to sell only one product at a time? (Exceptions may apply.)
- Do you use selling subheads to break up long copy blocks to make them easier on the eye?
- Is the copy colorful, sprinkled with power visual adjectives where appropriate?
- Is it believable? (Not overblown or ridiculous.)
- Is it respectful of the reader and not insulting to his or her intelligence?
- Is it emotional? Does it create emotion (positive or negative)?
- Do you use the principle of extreme specificity?
- Are your words, sentences, and paragreaphs short? Simple words?
- Are your printed ads, sales letters, brochures, and such set in a serif typeface, such as Schoolbook? Is you Web copy set in a sans-serif typeface such as Arial or Verdana?
- Do you tell your readers what you want them to do in a super-simple way?
- Do you outright ask for the sale?
- Did you set a deadline, if appropriate?
- If you have a lot of benefits to offer, do you list them in bullet or numbered form?
- Do you use testimonials? If you don’t have them, get them!
- Is you business name and phone number large and instantly noticeable?
- Did you include your logo? (Use it all the time.)
- Do you give directions, maps, or landmarks?
- Did you key your ad to better track responses?
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
- Did a professional designer produce your ad? (Not a layout person!)
- Is your headline big and bold?
- Is the headline broken at the right words?
- Is the ad easy to read? Is there focus? (The eye should naturally be pulled to certain areas first, not jump around.)
- Is there sufficient white space? Did you wrap it in white?
- Did you indent your paragraphs? This makes reading easier.
- Is the number of separate elements kept to a minimum?
- Do you use art relevant to your sales message?
- Did you use a minimum number of typestyles? (One or two, unless a professional designer recommends it in a unique situation.)
- Do you feature a picture of a person looking at you?
- Does the headline promise a benefit or a reward for reading the ad?
- Is the headline clear and direct? Does it get its point across simply and quickly?
- Is the headline as specific as it can be?
- Does the headline reach out and grab your attention with a strong sales message, dramatically stated in a fresh new way?
- Does the headline relate logically to the product?
- Do the headline and visual work together to form a total selling concept?
- Does the headline arouse curiosity and lure the reader into the body copy?
- Does the headline select the audience?
- Is the brand name mentioned in the headline?
- Did you avoid blind headlines? (Headlines that don’t mean anything unless you read the copy underneath.)
- Did you avoid irrelevant wordplay, puns, gimmicks?
- Did you avoid negatives?
4 U Formula
On a scale of 1-4, how much is your headline…
Aim at 3-4 for at least three of these.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PRODUCT
- What are its features and benefits? (Make a complete list.)
- Which benefit is the most important?
- How is the product different from the competition’s? (Which features are exclusive? Which are better than the competition’s?)
- If the product isn’t different, what attributes can be stressed that haven’t been stressed by the competition?
- What technologies does the product compete against?
- What are the applications of the product?
- What industries can use the product?
- What problems does the product solve in the marketplace?
- How is the product positioned in the marketplace?
- How does the product work?
- How reliable is the product?
- How efficient?
- How economical?
- Who has bought the product and what do they say about it?
- What materials, sizes and models is it available in?
- How quickly does the manufacturer deliver the product?
- What service and support does the manufacturer offer?
- Is the product guaranteed?
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE AUDIENCE
- Who will buy the product? (What markets is it sold to?)
- What is the customer’s main concern? (Price, delivery, performance, reliability, service maintenance, quality efficiency)
- What is the character of the buyer?
- What motivates the buyer?
- How many different buying influences must the copy appeal to? Two tips on getting to know your audience:
If you are writing an ad, read issues of the magazine in which the ad will appear.
If you are writing direct mail, find out what mailing lists will be used and study the list descriptions.
- Use the BDF Formula. (Beliefs, Desires, Feelings.)
- MOTIVATING SEQUENCE
- Get Attention
- Show a Need
- Satisfy the Need with Your Product
- Offer Proof
- Ask for Action
- Read the copy out loud.
- Hunt down Pronouns.
- Hunt down “That”.
- Hunt down Big Words.
- Hunt down Repeat Words.
- Insert transitions (Moving on…, Anyway, However, Also, Plus)
- Punch up the copy. (With Formatting.)
- Remove qualifiers. (like, may, partially, could, may, possibly)
- Hunt for adverbs (words ending in -ly).
- Use the “So What” Test
- Answer any questions at places where buyers might have them.
- Expand on “Because”. Then remove it.
- Use progressive tense like “-ing” to create ongoing movement.