This year marks our tenth year in business. Considering that two-thirds of all small businesses fail by year ten, that’s pretty good. Over the past decade, we’ve learned a lot about what people want from the  senior copywriter and senior editor they hire. One of the more common comments we’ve received is, “I want to learn to write the way you do.”

And, of course, they would want that; it’d be much more cost effective if they didn’t have to come to us for every single thing they had to communicate.

To kick off our tenth year, we thought we’d share a few basic communication rules we make every junior, intermediate and senior copywriter follow when they write content. They’re not difficult; in fact, we’d argue that they’re rooted in common sense, but as many a wise person has said before, common sense is less common than you’d think.

So without further ado, how to write anything like a senior copywriter would:

Senior Copywriter Rule #1: Stay on point

A study by the Radicati Group out in Silicon Valley found that the average office worker receives 90 emails a day. That equals 12 emails an hour over a 7.5-hour workday, or one email every five minutes. It’s an onslaught. And it’s killing productivity.

The volume of emails probably won’t change anytime soon, but email length can and should change. Here’s how:

  • Stick to the facts and the “need to knows.”
  • Forget all the superfluous niceties. Start with something like “Hi…hope you’re well,” then get right into it.
  • Resist big words you think make you sound smarter. They don’t.

Senior Copywriter Rule #2: Tell people things they don’t know

Time is still the most valuable asset people have, and the easiest way to waste it is with information that doesn’t help them.

We see this a lot in internal communications where a piece might start with something like “Last week, you were with us at the company retreat in Muskoka.” Your reader knows that. They were there. So instead, you might want to start with something they don’t know like, “Last week’s Muskoka retreat was our most well-attended off-site in company history.”

It’s a small nuance, but consider the information being conveyed and feeling being evoked in each case. The former is saying “we saw you there,” the latter is saying “you were part of something special.” Which one’s going to make the recipient feel better?

Senior Copywriter Rule #3: Write to people like they’re people

Moms. Millennials. CEOs. C-minus students. They have nothing in common except that they’re all human. They all put their pants on one leg at a time. And they don’t have the time or inclination to deal with industry-specific jargon they probably don’t know in the first place. Write to them like they’re people and they’ll be much more likely to read and resonate.

General rule: if your mom wouldn’t understand what you wrote, rephrase it until she could.

Senior Copywriter Rule #4: Keep it friendly

This might be the toughest one to follow in the business world, especially when our natural inclination is to err on the side of professionalism. But professionalism and warmth aren’t mutually exclusive.

Imagine sitting in a meeting with someone who was all business, didn’t smile and didn’t make you feel like they cared about anything other than getting the job done. Sure, you’ll leave with your action items and move-forward plans, but you probably won’t be terribly excited to get started.

Now imagine the same meeting with someone who welcomed you into the room, offered you a coffee and smiled the whole time, regardless of the subject matter. It won’t change the content being presented, but it will definitely change how you receive it and how motivated you are to act on it.

The same is true in writing. A little heart goes a long way.

Senior Copywriter Rule #5: Do your own spell check

Don’t trust your software’s spellcheck because it’s far from foolproof. It won’t catch the wrong your (you’re, your, yore), or “its” that should’ve been an “it’s.” Those are tasks for you, and they’re vital to keeping you from coming off careless.

  • Read whatever you write aloud before you send it. You’ll spot things you’d probably skip over if you review it silently.
  • If it’s an important file, have a friend or colleague review it first. An impartial second set of eyes will call out things you think make perfect sense but don’t.
  • If you can, have a proofreader’s number on your speed dial (1.800.888.9257).

Want to practise? Start with your emails.

You write them every day. And if you’re like most people, you probably whip them off without much thought. So we’d encourage you to start putting them through the five simple filters listed above:

  • Is it on point?
  • Are you giving your readers new information?
  • Will the average person understand it?
  • Does it feel friendly?
  • Did you check it for errors?

Get into the habit of vetting your writing for these four things and you’ll be well on your way to writing like a senior copywriter.