The copywriter’s checklist - 20 crucial points to make you a better writer

Andrew Boulton is a copywriter with a decade of scribbling experience at places like Egg the online bank, some top agencies in the Midlands and once for a man who carved dolphins out of cheese.

He was nominated for the Professional Publishers Association Award for Business Media Columnist of the Year despite having little or no grasp of the semi colon. He has decent hair but a disappointing beard. You can follow him on Twitter @Boultini.

  1. Can you read your copy out to a good friend without them thinking you’re a ball bag?
  2. If the longest word on your page was laid out in front of you as potato Alpha Bites, would you be able to eat it in 15 seconds (without inducing crippling heartburn)?
  3. Would you bet your own mum on knowing exactly how to spell every word you’ve written?
  4. Can you clearly read aloud every sentence with one entire finger of Twix in your mouth?
  5. Have you brought ‘it’ to life?
  6. Have you brought ‘it’ to life without relying on clichés like ‘brought it to life’?
  7. Are your sentences so long and over elaborate, with no real regard for the limited attention and interest of your reader, that by the time they reach the end of them – if they actually ever do – it doesn’t really matter how the sentence finishes, gorilla finger, continental meats, snooker ball?
  8. Grammatically, does your copy sound like a person you’d want to talk to or a book you’d want to throw into the gaping jaws of a minky whale.
  9. Look at your words. Do they flow? Do they glide across the page like a lone hawk through the dying light of a harsh and hopeless modernity? Check your structure. And your unnecessarily poetic hawk metaphors.
  10. If pirates were pointing a harpoon at your genitals and demanding you remove 30 per cent of the word count, would you be forced to take a spear to the pants?
  11. Have. You. Possibly. Over. Punc. Tuated?
  12. Do you know what semi colons do? (Honestly, I’m asking.)
  13. Does your copy have an impactful ending? If not it’s a bit.
  14. Alliteration is always ace. Except perhaps when it performs with the pretence of purpose, like a perfunctory porpoise.
  15. A simile you’ve seen a thousand times before is like a kick in the teeth.
  16. A simile you’ve never seen before can sometimes be as confusing as a polar bear trapped in his own sense of professional malaise.
  17. Know when it’s time for something magnificent and when it’s time for something that does the job.
  18. Know that there’s no reason why you can’t do both.
  19. Be true to your format. Never begin as a question-based checklist and deviate sloppily into making statements.
  20. Most importantly of all, if you saw your copy out in the real world would you point at it, with professional and personal pride, and tell people that you wrote that?

Do all of this and a million other things that you, or I, or anyone else probably didn’t think of until they landed in amongst the gnawed pencils and Monster Munch dust on our desks and you will be fine. Kind of.

Follow Andrew Boulton on Twitter @Boultini

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