When it comes to marketing your business, one of the best copywriting techniques you can use is to intentionally break a few rules. Don’t go overboard — you still have to follow basic rules — and more importantly, real people still need to be able to read and understand what you write.
However, those rules you learned in school? Not all of them actually apply to your copy.
Rule-breaking in copywriting has been around since the profession’s inception.
Why is that?
Growth-minded entrepreneurs know they have to stand out to see, well, growth! (Psst…I’m looking at you!) Blending in with competitors is not an option if your goal is success.
The ticket to success in your marketing?
Powerful copy that breaks the rules!
Strategically peppering your copy with some rule-bending techniques will help you grab readers’ attention. And that’s the primary goal of copy, right?
Copywriting 101 – Messaging
Before you dig into the copy, you first need to zero in on your messaging. Ask yourself — and your team — some key questions:
- What is your brand’s story?
- What is the message you’re sending out to your audience?
- Who are you and what do you stand for?
- Who is your audience and what do they stand for?
- What problems do you solve for them?
- How are you equipped to solve them better than anyone else?
- What does your brand represent?
- How do you want to make people feel?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What do you NOT want to be known for?
Go as deep as you can and dig into these open-ended questions to ask things like “and why is that?” or “and what does that let you/them do?” so that you can get hyper clear on what matters to you, makes your brand unique, and connects with your target market.
If it seems like a lot…you’re right, it totally is. However, it’s mostly things that you already know in your head and just haven’t focused on putting onto paper. And once you define these things, it sets the stage for exactly what you want to say.
Ditch The Essays
The results you want from your copy probably won’t come from continuing to follow the essay-writing rules you learned back in high school or college. In fact, I know they won’t.
Those hours you spent procrastinating, researching, and writing remain valuable and important. However, since your copy’s job is to convince and convert, most of your foundational writing won’t get you to the end result.
That’s not to say good copywriting techniques don’t involve strategy and the actual ability to write well. It’s just that sticking to essay-writing habits could hinder rather than help you write fantastic copy. 😯
Don’t let it. You’ll be fine (pinky swear).
In truth, you’ll be on your way to writing killer copy if you can bring yourself to break a few of these copywriting rules.
7 Copywriting Rules To Start Breaking Today
There aren’t many copywriting secrets. With over 130,000 copywriters in the U.S. alone — and tons of information about the formulas and best practices out there… the secret sauce is less about how to do it than having a process to get it done well…and of course raw talent.
The number 1 secret most copywriters have is this:
Breaking the following rules is the juiciest copywriting technique in your arsenal. (Well, that and being spot-on with your messaging.)
Let’s dive in.
1. Use Sentence Fragments
A sentence is valid when it contains a subject, a verb, and conveys a complete thought.
“Powerful copy that breaks the rules” is NOT a complete sentence. It makes a hell of a statement — and headline — though. And, paired with context, it delivers major impact. 👊
2. One-Sentence Paragraphs
Yes. Paragraphs can be a single sentence. Or even a single sentence fragment. Or…even a single word.
(^^ see what I did there?)
Short, sweet paragraphs are eye-catching…and…people read them.
If something is too hard to read, your audience likely won’t read it, and they’ll miss your call-to-action if it’s at the bottom of your copy.
People scan, they don’t read. By making your copy short, laser-focused, and filled with white space, your readers consume more of it. 😁
3. Use Tons Of White Space
You’ve got a new website, and you can’t wait to fill it with copy, graphics, videos, transitions… You name it! All that space is just waiting on you to load it up with your brand’s message in as many forms as possible.
… Or not. 😐
Using white space is a gem for creating compelling copy, whether for your website, blog, or social media.
Have you noticed how some people now only write captions using a series of one-sentence paragraphs on their LinkedIn feed? (psst — have we connected on LinkedIn? Hit me up here!)
Here what you need to know about white space:
- It’s less tiring for the reader’s eyes.
- It makes your content more scannable.
- It improves mobile-friendliness.
- It creates better contrast to make your images, videos, etc. stand out.
4. Start Sentences With Conjunctions
If you’re starting sentences with and, but, so, because, and or in your copy, congratulations!
You’re off to a great start.
Starting sentences with and, but, and or is insanely effective because:
- It creates rhythm and breaks up more traditional sentences.
- It’s more conversational.
- It brings out the personality in your writing.
- It holds a reader’s attention and keeps them engaged.
A note: be careful with the word “but.” But why? You ask… The word “but” automatically creates a stop and causes resistance. A few well-placed “buts” can be effective. Too many can be show-stoppers.
In fact, that’s a rule of improv that Boss Mom founder Dana Malstaff taught me…”No buts, just ands.” And truly, it keeps the conversation flowing. 😎
Need some alternatives to “but” for your arsenal? Try “It’s just that…” or “However,” or even “Instead…” Sometimes it means getting a little creative, but I promise, your copy will flow better.
5. Use The Word “Will”
Did you know using the word “will“ is a big no-no in technical writing? Don’t use it if you can’t prove it! It being “will” here.
Well, I can, and I will, use the word “will” to make points in my copy. Sometimes. You might want to try it too — except in the facts and figures-only world of technical writing.
Using the word “will” gives off a sense of confidence and builds trust with your audience. You’ll get your audience to say, “This girl knows her sh**!”
Of course, you indeed should know your sh** and provide reliable information to readers. You can’t forget that part. 😜
Pro Tip: Another powerful tip? Empower your reader: You CAN [have this thing you want] without [giving up that other thing you love].
6. Use Ellipses With No Shame
Ellipses or the three dots that convey a continuing thought are awesome for keeping your readers engaged.
Just like when they appear in a text or messaging stream to let you know someone is writing, it demonstrates that the conversation will keep going…
… and going…
… and going.
Unless you’re using them to replace bullet points, it’s still good practice to have them at the end of the copy you’re bridging…🤭
… and at the start of the next line…
… so that your reader knows to keep reading…
… and where the story continues.
Ellipses are terrific for:
- Emphasizing your points just like bullets.
- Illustrating those points with examples.
- Captivating your readers’ interest with alluring pauses.
7. Use Emojis And Capitalization
That’s right. You don’t have to limit yourself to using emojis only on social media. 🤫
After images, emojis are the next best form of communicating across borders. EVERYBODY uses them, regardless of language or location.
AND, they help convey emotion, which can often be missed in the written word.
Oops. Notice how I screamed there? Capitalization in copy… You can do it, too. Capitalization is more widely accepted now. Just know when to scream appropriately.
It’s best to capitalize words when you can imagine your reading screaming right along with you! 📢
Plus a bonus tip — YOU YOU YOU
Your copy should be all about “you” — not you the business owner, but you — your client. For years, people taught you to use the third-person voice. However, that’s not the case for your web copy —- or any copy for that matter.
Focus everything on “you” and see how quickly your prospects start to see themselves as your customers… with the simple flip of a word. (learn more here)
The Single Best Copywriting Technique For Your Business
The one rule of copy you must stick to is clarity. There’s no debate about it. The more clearly you communicate, the less you’ll need to write.
“Your copy should only be as long as it needs to be.” Erin
You don’t need to give your readers everything, just enough to leave them wanting more. Enough to make them look for more — by going to another page, opening another blog post, or requesting more resources.
Additionally, you want to make things as easy as possible for your audience so they don’t have too many choices to make.
Breaking the rules can be an incredibly worthwhile technique to convey your brand’s messaging. First, though, you need to determine exactly what that messaging is.
Have you zeroed in on your messaging yet?
And are you clear on a branding strategy, or do you struggle with attracting your dream clients? They’re literally out there just waiting for you! 😁 Book a strategy session with me and let’s figure out how you can break the rules to stand out!