Big Copywriting Secret: When You’re Writing Copy, Remember It

Even if you’re not a copywriter, there’s a big copywriting secret you need to know.

BTW, by copywriting, I mean writing advertising materials: advertising copy is meant persuade. With any luck at all, this persuasion leads to an action… The action is the goal of the copy.

The copywriting secret applies to ALL your copy, but first…

Before we get to the secret, consider this.

If you don’t believe your words, others won’t either.

No, this isn’t magic. Your belief in what you’re saying comes through in your words. Alternatively, it’s obvious from the words that you don’t believe in the product about which you’re writing: you’re faking it.

Occasionally one of my writing students will tell me that certain advertising copy is “cheesy”. Excellent. This means that the student picked up on the fakery. The copywriter didn’t believe his claims—and neither should you.

Unless you’re a sociopath it’s hard to tell untruths. So, copywriters want to believe their copy; it’s the only way they have a chance of doing a good job. But what if you’re writing advertising copy and you don’t believe in what you’re writing? That’s easy: you research, until you believe.

Talking about belief may seem a digression from our secret, but it’s not. That’s because the big copywriting secret is simple: it’s emotion. You can usually tell from the words if the emotion is faked.

The big copywriting secret: emotion

Please don’t try to fake emotion. As the saying goes, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

I’m sure you’d rather eat glass than listen to political speeches, but they’ll help you to spot emotional fakery.

Contrast the standard emotional fakery in political speeches with a political speech in which the emotion isn’t faked—one of the most famous political speeches of all time, delivered 2,000 years ago.

In 63 B.C.E., Roman politician Cicero gave his speech to the Roman Senate against the conspirator Cataline:

“Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which every one here possesses of it?”

Cicero believed his speech; so did the senators. Cataline fled Rome. 

So, how do you write emotionally? You guide your audience. You encourage them to experience.

Let’s look at an ad from David Ogilvy, the master of advertising… And of emotional writing.

Copywriting, emotion and information: the Rolls-Royce clock

David Ogilvy said in his book, On Advertising:

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

Interest equals emotion.

If something is interesting, it’s because it arouses an emotion in you.

Consider one of David Ogilvy’s most famous advertisements, an ad for Rolls-Royce:

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

Do you think that Ogilvy did his research on Rolls-Royce before he sat down to write the ad? Did he believe his own words in the ad?

You can use the “emotion” copywriting secret in much of your writing

I started my writing career writing fiction. That helped when I set out my shingle as a copywriter.

Most forms of writing can be improved if you’re aware of emotion while you’re writing. Look at your current project. What emotion are you trying to arouse in your readers?


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Rolls photo by Matheus Bardemaker on Unsplash