Copywriters aren’t designers.
But when it comes to concepting ideas, you do need to come prepared with ideas for the project. For example, if you’re writing a banner ad to get people to book a vacation and want the copy to say something like “Go from ARGH!!! to Ahhhhhhh” you may envision someone yelling in an office contrasted with someone relaxing in a beach chair.
When you and your designer nail down the concepts you’re going to execute, you’ll go back to your computer and start writing. But there are still a few visual elements it helps to consider as you’re writing copy.
These tricks can help you better display the message in a way that’s compelling and easy to read (and beats a large chunk of text).
Search for inspiration
One of the things I frequently hear from copywriters is, “I have no idea what size this piece is!” Do a quick Google search with the type of ad you’re working on and size. For example, if it’s a banner ad, do “banner ad 300 x 250” and you’ll get an idea of the space you’re working with.
You can also do searches for things like “Direct mail postcard” and see examples of how people have laid out copy on more complex, hard-to-visual pieces like tri-fold brochures.
For emails, look to your inbox. Does the company have a template with the logo and navigation (similar to the homepage navigation) at the top? Do you need multiple modules for different messages within the same email?
Remember the logo
Look at any type of ad—billboard, email, Facebook ad, direct mail. Did you see a logo on it? I’m willing to bet you did.
Almost anything you create will have the logo on it (and, potentially, the company’s or product’s tagline). And while it’s not your job to include that on the piece, it can help you save valuable copy real estate.
Do you need the company name 5 times in the copy if it’s already there? Probably not
The great thing about digital copywriting is we don’t have to spell out URLs. You can simply link text, or, even better, put copy on a button that’s linked.
Buttons tend to perform better because most people skim copy. And, when you’re skimming, a button with a clear, compelling CTA is going to stand out more than linked text that may get hidden with your other text.
If you’re working on a print piece and directing users to a website, you will want to include the URL, but see if you can get a short version.
Use bullets and bolding
As copywriters, we don’t have to always write in complete sentences and paragraphs. Bullets are one tool at our disposal that, in the right scenario can help:
- Break up text.
- Get points across faster.
- Emphasize key ideas.
You could also recommend using icons instead of bullets if certain graphics may help make the text easier to understand. (Remember those skimmers? Icons can help us understand information faster and retain it.) You may even find a small infographic is the best way to display certain pieces of information.
Similarly, bolding key words may help certain phrases stand out. If you’re using subheads, that can certainly help (or the designer may choose a larger font).
Of course, use these sparingly and talk with your designer about whether it makes sense.
Break up text with subheads
If your text runs on for five paragraphs, chances are subheads could help you break it up into easier-to-digest chunks.
Ask yourself: is all this information related? If not, how could you group it with relevant subheads so each section covers its own self-contained topic?
What’s the best flow for all of these topics? Is one more important than the other? If someone is going to scroll, do I need to repeat the CTA? Or do different CTAs make sense for each section?
Consider white space
As copywriters, we often want to maximize the space. We have the room, why not fill it with words?!
But the truth is white space is important for readers. It gives the eye a break and can increase comprehension. And it’s crucial for designers—it just looks better.
Start noticing how pieces are designed. Headlines are often a much bigger font than body copy.
So, while something may be short in a Word document, it may end up being a lot longer in layout. One sentence may look like an entire paragraph! As with any writing, say what you need to say to get your message across and if you end up with a little extra white space, remember you don’t need to fill it.
A Word of Caution on Canva
Canva is a fantastic tool, but, as you know, we’re copywriters not designers! Just like copywriting, graphic design is its own career that requires training, too. Combining copywriting and design services is one of the major ways that new copywriters spread themselves too thin and don’t end up reaching their goals.
That said, Canva can help copywriters start to think visually. It’s particularly helpful at understanding just how much (or, more often, little!) room you have for your copy. Watch the video below for more on how you can use Canva to help you when writing copy.
Your turn! What are some tips and tricks you have for thinking visually?
Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Kate Sitarz