Copywriting — why you should make your words visually appealing as well as persuasive

Super long sentences, tombstones of text, wallflower headlines…ugh! When it comes to copywriting, good looks matter. Copywriters sometimes neglect the aesthetics of their work. We get so caught up in what the words say that we forget the importance of how they look. But visual presentation is a hurdle your copywriting must sail over to get read at all! And this is not a job that lies solely with a graphic designer.

Truly terrific copywriting starts with the end in mind
I’m not arguing against the importance of your copy’s message here. Without a doubt, crafting compelling, persuasive and appealing content is a chief concern of every copywriter. But our content is always bound for a final destination — whether online or in print. So a graphic designer will need to take your copywriting and make it look incredible within a visual layout. Quite a tall order when you’re delivering a solid slab of unbroken content. As a copywriter then, you need to keep in mind the medium your content is bound for. Break up your content into easily definable ‘bite-sized’ chunks. Draw out strong word elements to highlight key messages. These are just some things you can do at the copywriting stage. There’s plenty more.

I’ll be sharing some easy and effective ways for achieving aesthetically pleasing content in this blog. So you can instantly put greater visual appeal to work in your copy.

But first, let’s take a look at why good looking copywriting is so important.

It’s not just about making graphic design easier. It’s about doing justice to your copywriting and making this even better! Visual presentation can:

  • help your copywriting appeal to your audience
  • support your content in achieving its purpose
  • make it easier to navigate your copywriting
  • guide your reader to better follow and understand your copywriting
  • unfold your copywriting like a story to improve persuasiveness
  • logically lay out key detail and information
  • capture and convert time-poor readers at a glance.

Visually effective copywriting encompasses varied pace and different presentation tools

Here are some great techniques you can use.

Include a headline
Here it is…the first line of copy that your reader will see. So you should seldom write copy without a headline. A headline makes your pitch for you right up front. It hooks the readers’ attention and determines whether they see benefit in reading on. If you are a copywriter, you’re concerned with crafting a powerful punchy headline — as you should be. But you should also use visual savvy to boost headline impact by:

  • setting your headline clearly apart from the rest of your copy
  • making your headline 10 words maximum as a general rule
  • setting your headline in a larger font than the body text
  • using a different coloured font…but don’t get too funky
  • leaving a little white space between your heading and body copy.

Soup up the subheadings
Subheadings are vastly underused but make a valuable tool for any aesthetically-minded copywriter. They visually break up paragraphs, group information and clearly drive home key ideas. Plus subheads work in tandem with your headline. Telling a compelling ‘at a glance’ story to time-poor readers. Tricks to using subheadings include:

  • keeping the message simple — a clear summary of the following paragraph in a few words
  • having one idea per subheading — so readers can pick and choose information of interest
  • getting action-oriented — using your final subhead as a call to action to convert your readers.

The silver bullet for visually appealing copywriting
Nothing turns a reader off more quickly than great swathes of unbroken content — especially for today’s readers who like to scan. So bullet point lists are a great way to make your copy visually easy to comprehend and succinctly emphasise important info. These are perfect for time-poor readers with short attention spans.

But bullet points can be a double-edged sword. You should use them judiciously. Avoid lengthy bulleted lists — 6 or 7 bullets per list are generally the most you want without overdoing it.

Pull out the pull quotes
A pull quote is a short extract from your copy strategically positioned on the page. Pull quotes are a terrific way to highlight your key ideas. They break up your copy in a visually striking way too. Set your pull quote in a larger font size to create greater visual priority.

Short is sweet for paragraph length
Keep your paragraphs and sentences short in your copywriting! Succinct paragraphs are heaven to modern readers’ eyes. They are easier to digest, take little work to read and look better too. The same goes for sentence length. Aim to keep your average sentence length under 20 words. (You can find the average sentence length in Word, as we explained in a previous post at www.wordnerds.com.au/2009/02/copywriting-basics-aim-for-a-short-average-sentence-length/)

 

Finally…easy on the font
Don’t extend your creative flair to font choice. A common font will pack a much bigger punch than Wingdings or the like. Stick to one font throughout your copy too. You can select a font family to differentiate headings and subheadings. If you do want to mix it up a little, have no more than three different fonts in one piece of copy.

Remember: consistency is the key to visually appealing copy. So be consistent with typefaces and headline sizes for headlines, subheadings and body copy.

So the next time you need to do some copywriting, infuse visual appeal into it. Your readers and clients will love you for it.