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AMiable Solution #445: Three Tips for Trimming Copy


Want to improve your copy and ensure greater reader read-through, comprehension, and response? Take the 5% challenge.


Last June, Steve Slaunwhite wrote an article for AWAI, the American Writers & Artists Institute, called “5 Sales Copy Editing Tips That Can Double Conversions.” One of those tips encouraged copywriters to take the 5% challenge.


What’s that, you ask? Allow us to explain.


The 5% challenge is an exercise in trimming the fat. It forces writers to look at the copy they’ve written and then get rid of 5% of it. The result should be cleaner, tighter copy.


But getting rid of copy that you’ve agonized over is never easy. So how do you know what to get rid of?


1. Look at paragraph length. Whether you’re writing a long-form sales letter, a short-form sales letter, an email, a brochure, or a catalog description, short paragraphs will serve you better than long paragraphs. Why? They’re less overwhelming. They’re easier to skim. And they’re more likely to be read all the way through. When you’re trying to streamline copy, starting with the big “chunks” and either simplifying them or breaking them up into smaller paragraphs is the first step.


2. Put your customers first. Now check for how many times you address the customer (“you”) and how many times you talk about your company. Does it seem a bit lopsided, in the egotistical sense? Customers want to know that you’re qualified and respected, but they also want to know how your company’s skills will help them. If your copy is loaded with more information about your company than the solution it can offer to customers, start cutting text.


3. Replace fluff with concrete. Do you build your case on solid, quantitative facts and evidence like, “3,759 educators implement our teaching strategies every school day,” or do you toss around sweet but unconvincing phrases like, “thousands of customers trust us to help them”? Whenever possible, streamline wordy, non-specific language with specifics.


Editing is never an easy task, but taking the time to focus your message and eliminate extra text will create stronger, more effective copy.

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