No writer can say what he wants to say in the most succinct way
the first time. Even when the sales letter may be passed on
to a final editor, the copywriter should still do a final review
before the copy is placed into circulation.
Here are some important pointers that will help you make the best
of this editing stage:
1. Place the copy aside for a couple days so you can return to
it with fresh eyes. When you are temporally close to your
writing, your brain gets so accustomed to what you have written
that it is hard to see your errors. Many writers refer to this as
the 'cooling off' period. This doesn't mean you do nothing but
you may start working on a new project or better still, do
something completely different like playing a musical instrument.
The most important thing is that you 'forget' the copy so you
can see your writing with fresh eyes. One trick I like to use is
to place the copy in a different physical form. So if you write
by hand, then you read the copy after it is type-written, or if
you use your computer then you convert the copy to a different
font or print it out first. This physical change makes the copy
appear new to your brain.
2. Read the copy for the major problems first then go for the
smaller problems (like grammar and misspellings) later on. So pay
attention to the flow of the copy, the structure, the logical
pattern of ideas and such 'forest' views before trimming the
trees. And while you are trimming, remember to save the deleted
portions because you never know if you'll need them later.
3. Completely rewrite unclear and troublesome parts. Sometimes
you have to simply start from scratch when you realize that a
section of the sales letter just doesn't read right. Getting
hung up on just changing a few sentences and hoping that you'll
avoid having to rewrite can be equated to leaving a cancerous
polyp hoping it will disappear without treatment. Some sections
of your letter may require drastic surgery rather than cosmetic
treatment. So go for it.
4. Read the copy from beginning to end in one sitting. When
you read the copy in this way it's easier to spot any
disconnect, redundancies and imbalances. A mason first lays out a
line to make sure that each brick is in place. He doesn't need
to line the bricks after they are laid. But as a copywriter,
while having a line in mind for the sales letter, you must sight
the completed letter to ensure everything lines up.
5. After making a correction reread for meaning. Often a
simple deletion or change in one part of a sentence can cripple
the meaning of the sentence or paragraph. Rather than making a
correction at the end and moving on to the next sentence, reread
the sentence and even the complete paragraph to ensure that it
still flows after the change.
6. Give your letter to a prospect to read. If you can find
someone in your target market to read the copy and let her tell
you what she thinks, then you're more likely to get an unbiased
opinion than asking someone close to you. It was legendary
copywriter Vic Schwab who wrote that "three of the most
expensive words in advertising are perhaps 'My wife says ...'".
7. Work with the graphic artist to help determine the final
layout. This is a critical stage because the physical layout and
graphics used in a sales letter can either hurt or enhance the
persuasive appeal of your copy. Think about readability and
elements that help you letter get read such as paragraph lengths,
bullet points, headline color, font choice and background color.
There are no perfect standards for copywriting so changes will
always be needed as far as the copywriter is concerned. So
waiting for perfection and trapping your sales letter in a
'paralysis of analysis' prison wouldn't help either. Every
writer has to get accustomed to their 'best' knowing that there
are no perfect sales letters.
Then just give it your best shot!