As a result of the last post I have received many enquiries about the best tools for copywriters. I fear my answer has disappointed some who I think were looking for something only a little short of magic ink!
To write copy for the web there are just two essential tools. An HTML editor and your swipe file.
HTML editors can be downloaded free of charge or they can be purchased. Choice is yours. For writing copy, very few bells and whistles are required so the free editors are normally more than adequate. Ideally look for an HTML editor which has a WYSIWYG interface so you don’t have to mess around and learn code. It’s always good to have an understanding of HTML, so you can do your own trouble shooting, but you don’t need a master’s degree in the subject.
A swipe file is the copywriter’s treasure trove. A good swipe file quickly becomes the most consulted resource in the office and it grows on a daily basis with examples of good and bad copy. It is never too late to start your own swipe file. You’ll find the examples you harvest from around the net provide an endless source of inspiration for your own copywriting.
Now, one thing is worth saying here. You are not collecting a swipe file so you can simply regurgitate the work of others. You are gathering examples of copywriting as a way of teaching yourself to be a copywriter. You are learning your craft. It is no different from reading instructional manuals. You would not copy huge chunks out of a book (no, you would not do that….) and you would not copy huge chunks from someone else’s copy. You are reading, learning, getting ideas and inspiration.
Expert copywriters recommend that you re-write the examples harvested for your swipe file in your own handwriting. I think the effectiveness of this exercise will depend on your particular learning style but it is worth considering. Copywriting is not something you can do by numbers. You need to grasp what is going on ‘in between the lines.’ Anything you can do, that helps you to join the conversation already going on in your customer’s head, will help you to become a better copywriter.
So these are the two essential tools for copywriters. Simpler than you thought?