Copy Edit Tips

Mini grammar lessons, storytelling tweaks, and persuasion hacks that takes you from an average copywriter to an A-list copywriter.

I love ellipses…

Almost as much as espresso

I use ellipses like vanilla syrup in my lattes.

Sprinkled here…

And there…

And sometimes just dumped haphazardly…

Because what’s life without a sweet treat? (Nothing but sour-grape-sad coffee. Trust me.)

I love ellipses so much I dedicated a whole chapter in my book to those punctuation marks.

But ellipses can be difficult to understand (is it ellipsis or ellipses) and difficult to use (quotation omission or trailing thought).

Some grammar geeks call ellipses suspension points. Hint: It has nothing to do with car parts and everything to do with creating suspense in your copy.

Copywriters are notorious (B.I.G.) for using these punctuation marks as transitions to create that suspense and keep readers reading. They catch a lot of heat about this punctuation mark too because they tend to overuse it.

But there’s more than one way to create suspense in your copy, so readers keep reading, besides using ellipses as transitions.

And that’s through delayed transitions.

Instead of using an ellipsis at the end of a one-sentence paragraph, use a period.

And start the next paragraph with a connecting phrase like “and”, “but”, and “so.”

For example:

“You want to learn how to use copy editing to make your copywriting more compelling, so you read my emails and pay attention to my tips because they make you a stronger copywriter.”

“You want to learn how to use copy editing to make your copywriting more compelling.

So you read my emails.

And implement my tips. Because they make you a stronger copywriter.”

These delayed transitions help create cohesive sentences that hand-holds readers from one thought to the next.

And they strengthen your copy because…

  • They make it easier to start the next thought process.
  • They help make your copy less predictable, which maintains interest.
  • They allow for shorter sentences. Which helps you build momentum and keep your copy moving at a fast pace.

Use delayed transitions instead of ellipses to make your copy more cohesive and digestible.

P.S. Learn more ways to make your copywriting fun. Check out Drool-Worthy Copy.

Sacrifice your writing

Rituals are cool

I love rituals. (Not the animal-sacrifice kind.)

They soothe my anxiety and boost my confidence much like my pitbulls reduce my nail biting and Pitbull’s songs increase my energy.

I have a lot of rituals… My morning routine is a ritual. My bedtime routine is a ritual. Even my writing routine is a ritual.

My writing routine is sophisticatedly simple. All I do is:

-Open up my notebook. (I’m switching to a digital notebook, so no more dead trees for me.)

-Grab a colored pen. (I have 10 to choose from which is down from almost 30. Because I procrastinate picking out the right color to match my mood.)

-Open my can of Coke. (Room temp, please.)

-Turn on some old music. (The songs that I know all the lyrics by heart. Because learning new lyrics is distracting.)

-Write. (Even if it’s just gibberish and doodles at first.)

And boom… this ritual kicks my brain into writing gear.

Other writers have rituals, too.

One writes with a blindfold on. (To silence their inner critic because they can’t actually see the words.)

Another writes with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth. (Even though they’re a nonsmoker, the sensory activity focuses their thoughts.)

These rituals all have one commonality — they’re simple, and they trigger the brain into writing mode.

Do you have a writing ritual? I’d love to hear about it.

Don’t have a writing ritual? I can help you create one in Drool-Worthy Copy. Check it out here.

Conjunction Junction like has a function

Schoolhouse Rock is strong with me today

If you’ve read my book (The Grumpy Grammarian’s Guide To Copy Editing For Copywriters), you know I’m not a fan of Valley Girl words in your writing.

Totally. Whatever. As if.

They make my skin crawl like I have prickly spiders running up and down my tattooed arms.

But here’s the exception — the word “like.”

I love this Valley Girl word. I particularly enjoy using it as a conjunction.

Other penchant grammarians will scold you for using it as a conjunction. Because it’s a preposition. They might even break a ruler over your knuckles for your “mistake.” (But I think that’s illegal and highly problematic nowadays just like the Schoolhouse Rock song & video “Conjunction Junction.”)

But using “like” as a conjunction has been happening for 600 years by some of the greatest writers, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, HG Wells, and William Faulkner. Even style guides (that enforce this archaic rule) inadvertently use it.

It’s okay to break this grammar rule. I give you permission. You get my frowny face of approval.

Wanna know why?

During the Mad Men era, every cigarette brand had a slogan. The most infamous? “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”

It didn’t become infamous because it was a catchy jingle. It became infamous because it contained a grammatical error – using “like” as a conjunction. (Oh, the horror!)

Steven Pinker, a psychologist and linguist, says, “The New Yorker sneered at the error, Ogden Nash wrote a poem about it, Walter Cronkite refused to say it on the air, and style guide icons Strunk and White declared it illiterate. The slogan, they all agreed, should have been ‘Winston tastes good, as a cigarette should.’”

You know what this controversy achieved? Unpaid publicity and extra revenue. This ad campaign was wildly successful. Because brands are in the market to do business not to teach grammar.

So ignore this grammar faux pas and do what you do best — writing copy that persuades readers to take action.

P.S. Ginger looks studious today. It must be because I sang that Schoolhouse Rock song to her.

Perspective and impact

A copy edit tip inspired by a 9 year old

Last week, I lamented over taking the perfect picture of my penny tree art.

I was so bummed about not getting a great shot that I lost sleep and even considered hiring a professional photographer.

Oh, silly Autumn — pictures are for kids.

That’s right, pictures are for Hailey in particular.

She strolled through my front door on Saturday. (Taking her coat & backpack off and dropping them on the floor in one seamless motion.)

Fangirled over my art with an “A, that’s so cool!” (Which is the exact confidence boost I needed.)

Snapped a pic of it. (Before I could even tell her about my terrible pictures.)

And showed me what she captured from her angle. (Which I thought would be even worse than mine.)

But nope…

4 feet 3 inches — is the exact height needed to capture a reflection-free photo of my penny tree.

Talk about perspective.

When it comes to describing a story in your copywriting, you need to choose a perspective too. Because it helps your readers connect with your copy more.

Perspective in copywriting is either based on comprehension or emotion.

Do you want your readers to feel like they’re familiar with the story? Like it’s a similar situation they’ve experienced?

Choose the insider’s perspective.

For example:

She came into the grocery store.

Your readers process this perspective from their point of view. It’s easy to process because it’s familiar to them. Everyone has been to a grocery store.

Do you want your readers to feel an emotional impact from the story? Even though they may have never experienced a similar situation?

Choose the outsider’s perspective.

For example:

The robber went into the bank.

Your readers process this perspective from the bank customers’ point of view. They process this differently because most people haven’t experienced a bank robbery. Even though they process this perspective differently, it’s still easy to process because it impacts them on an emotional level.

So remember when you’re telling a story in your copywriting, choose the right perspective. Your readers will connect with your copy more.

P.S. Now Hailey’s picture does this art justice.

Giving up on Glamour shots

But not on copy editing

You know what’s difficult?

Creating imaginative penny art AND not capturing the perfect picture.

After I was done playing Mother Nature and using hot water to bend apple tree branches, I haphazardly added pennies and other embellishments to create my whimsical art.

I was happy with the way it turned out, so I hung it on my wall and snapped a picture.

But little did I know exactly how problematic photographing it would be.

Lights on. Regular camera mode on — No good. Because it captured the lightbulbs’ reflections.

Lights off. Flash on — Worse. Because it captured my reflection.

Lights off. Night sight camera mode on — Not wonderful. Because it captured shadows.

25 pictures later, I groaned “uncle” and gave up.

Only after tossing and turning in my bed all night long did I realize I’ll never get the picture that does it justice because…

It’s on a glass background.

And no matter what I do (besides hiring a professional), I’ll never get the Glamour Shots I want.

You know what’s not difficult?

Signing up for The Copy Chat.

You know, that online masterclass series that teaches you how to create compelling copy that converts and features moi — showing you how to transform your copy from ho hum to oh yum.

During my talk, you’ll learn how to edit your copy so it’s clear, concise, and compelling.

It starts on Monday.

Grab your spot here.

P.S. Here’s a picture that does ZERO justice for this spectacular art piece.

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