Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

How to Write Good Ads for Your Small Business

03.21.2010 · Posted in Advertising, Copywriting, Offline

writing copy for small business ads

There is no secret to writing good ads.  There are basic principles.  And I didn’t invent them.  George Orwell did (or at least he described them best so far).

In 1946 George Orwell wrote “Politics and the English Language” where he explained how academics were (they still do) butchering the English language – writing truly unintelligible dribble that no normal reader really understands.

But you don’t have to read the whole thing.  I’ve got Orwell’s key points here:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never us a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

In my experience as a copywriter, I’ve pretty much learned that it boils down to these simple rules, and it’s just as true today as it was back then.

When you’re writing for the purpose of advertisement, you have the reader’s attention for maybe less that a second.  Make sure you have one (and only one) clear message, and that it is a message that encourages the reader to do something (buy, call, click, etc).

Be brief.  The less space you have, the less words you should use.  Don’t try to jam a bunch of information into a business card sized ad space.

Proofread your stuff.  And ask a couple of other people to proof it as well.  Make sure everything is spelled and punctuated correctly.

Use words and terms regular people understand.  Look over your ads and make sure there’s no industry jargon or unusual language.

And don’t use clichés unless you have no other choice.

Lastly, what kind of an advice-giver would I be if I didn’t give you some follow-up resources?  If you want to get better at writing better copy – for ads, for your website, for newsletters, for your blog, or for anything, follow copyblogger on Twitter and on his blog.  For added measure, read the Writer’s Digest blog to improve your general writing skills all around.  You can catch it on Twitter, too.

I hope this helps you get a jump on your mad ad skills.  Happy writing!

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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