When copying ads by hand - should you be focused?

19 replies
This is one thing I have a little trouble with.
When copying ads by hand, do I have to be fully focused on what I'm writing or can I think about other stuff while I'm doing it?

Sometimes I find myself having copied a whole page without knowing what I've written. I have simply wandered off into daydreams.
#ads #copying #focused #hand
  • Profile picture of the author simplewriting
    Originally Posted by stolpioni View Post

    This is one thing I have a little trouble with.
    When copying ads by hand, do I have to be fully focused on what I'm writing or can I think about other stuff while I'm doing it?

    Sometimes I find myself having copied a whole page without knowing what I've written. I have simply wandered off into daydreams.
    Hi there,

    This is something I can relate to, it usually happens when you're starting out. Here's how I dealt with it:

    My solution was to read the ad and analyze it word-by-word before copying it on to a sheet of A-4 sized paper. I turned off my wi-fi modem, kept my phone on flight mode and everyone at home knew not to bother me at the time or they'll have hell to pay. Make it a point to finish it in a single sitting.

    After you copy out your first 10 ads, It gets much easier and more interesting. But its exhausting and mind-numbing when you first start out. Its important that you stick to it and complete the entire process.

    Don't just copy ads, Make it a point to craft at least one sales letter/email every week.

    Good luck.


    You're only as good as your last sentence...

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  • Yes you can do do what Kunal suggested.

    But if a crowd of people say "I wrote an Ad 20 times by hand and was completely focused on every word" - grab a large pinch of salt.

    By the 7th time all you are thinking about is how much your hand hurts.

    By the 20th time your hand is so numb you are past caring. You've virtually memorised the words and they are just a blur.

    And you can write it while spinning plates on and stick singing an opera in italian.

    What I'm trying to say is don't even think about concentrating.

    Just write the damn thing 20 times - (do this with 10 different Ads) and the techniques will automatically wire themselves into your system.

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  • Profile picture of the author Ryan Kuchel
    Yeah man I've been experiencing the same thing too.

    But I've noticed the more I do it the easier it gets to concentrate and "soak up" the ad.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Hill
    There are two ways to look at the process of repeatedly copying successful ads by hand.

    Forced repetition is one way. Repeatedly and blindly copying ads in the hopes of memorizing how someone else wrote ads does ingrain some structure, but one's mind is likely to wander. It is boring because you are just a mindless automaton.

    The second way is to understand the basic structures and elements of copywriting first, then be analyzing and studying the ads as you copy them. This is much more interesting.

    In my experience, the second method will produce better results. You will be learning by example, not by memorization, and developing your own strengths and style. If there are personal areas needing improvement, it is easy enough to find corresponding ads and work with those. Focus is not a problem.

    The second approach is part of the process that Gary Halbert was getting at here:

    Copying ads by hand is just one part of the overall process, and the basics need to be in place first.
    Learn more - earn more: Books for Copywriters
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  • Profile picture of the author Jonwebb
    In my experience you don't need to be totally focused the act of writing the copy is more for the subconscious anyway. The conscious study comes from the act of studying and analyzing

    - Jonathan Webb
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  • Profile picture of the author svedski
    Some really great answers from all of you. Thanks!
    I'll try the analyzing-method at first, and after 30-40 ads or something like that, I'll go over to mindless copying. And then I've done both.

    Right now I'm at sort of a mixture between them, but mostly towards mindless copying.

    Steve The Copywriter: Do you mean I should copy an ad 20 times in the same day? Or should I do the ad once, for 20 consecutive days?

    Steve Hill: Yea, I just finished that "challenge" by Gary Halbert.
    Right now I'm copying Gary Halbert ads only.
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  • I think you'll drive yourself barking mad if you spend all day writing an Ad 20 times.

    The best way is to set aside a time each and every day - you may think of every excuse under the sun not to.

    But honestly if you just get it done without fail - say 1 hour a day - you'll reap the rewards.

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    • Profile picture of the author svedski
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      I think you'll drive yourself barking mad if you spend all day writing an Ad 20 times.

      The best way is to set aside a time each and every day - you may think of every excuse under the sun not to.

      But honestly if you just get it done without fail - say 1 hour a day - you'll reap the rewards.

      Ok great, I got a little scared there for a moment.
      Actually, one hour per day is what I do right now, and I plan to continue that for at least a year.

      However, to really immerse oneself into copywriting, and if you had the time to do it, investing a whole month by copying an ad 20 times per day, for 30 days would probably be insanely good for your skills. After that, you can go back and just do 1 ad per day, or an hour per day, or whatever rocks your boat.

      If you're already pretty good I guess you don't have to do it. But for one just starting out, that would probably be the best method to become a great copywriter in as little time as possible.

      Unfortunatley I don't have the time to do that at this moment though (and I doubt I ever will).
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  • If I was started all over again.

    I would do a split.

    Write Ads 20 times by hand.

    And write my own Ads.

    Pick a paper and magazine choose an Ad that is a bit lacklustre (usually they all are) and rewrite it.

    Make up a product or service - and write an Ad (sales letter, website, emails etc).

    Soon you won't be "making them up" you'll be creating your own products.

    What you're aiming for is discovering all the "techniques" from the experts, putting them into practise AND most importantly developing your own style.

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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Before studying or copying successful ads, learn the basics. Otherwise, you might as well copy the Gettysburg Address for all the good it does you.

    By learning the basics first, you'll learn about various persuasion techniques. And the various components that comprise a sales piece.

    Then you won't be drifting off into la-la land. As you study or copy an ad, you'll be looking for the persuasion techniques and sales letter components you've learned.

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  • Alex made a critical point. No point handwriting or creating ads without a guide.

    Pick a few books from here -


    Read them first.

    Then knacker your hand.

    And let your mind flow with great ideas for your own Ads.

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  • Profile picture of the author Marvin Johnston
    Perhaps an analogy might help clarify.

    One of the things I do for relaxation is play the piano. Most of us who play have heard the stories of people who practice something like scales, arpeggios, etc. doing so while reading a book or whatever.

    After all, isn't muscle memory a good thing?

    That part of the puzzle might be possible with a really good foundation in place. But there are too many things to be aware of to make practicing the notes alone useful. At least from the standpoint of making music.

    I once heard a recording of someone playing the Paderewski Minuet on the piano playing the notes correctly but totally devoid of music. The notes were technically correct, but it sounded terrible.

    Compare that to copywriting, and it becomes obvious that mindlessly copying, even great copy, is unlikely to produce anything very useful.


    PS, the recording was played on KUSC many years ago on a New Years Eve program called Schlock Night.
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  • ...I get the analogy. And it's a good one. And for all I know the results could be even more dramatic.

    My view is -

    If you are just writing the musical notes by hand you don't have to concentrate too much.

    But when you are playing the music that's when you have to put your heart and soul into it.

    Same with copywriting.

    Write the letters 20 times - no great need to concentrate because by the 20th time you "know" what the "notes" mean and where they go.

    Start writing your own stuff - now you have to make the real effort to get it "pitch" perfect.


    P.S. The write 10 sales letters 20 times by hand is more a theory. Truth is very few people have done it (f*** sake 200 maybe 10 - 30 page spiels - it's beyond endurance!).

    And there's the time factor (it takes like forever).

    But if you do it - without thinking about it - it's a lot easier.

    I did about 25 years ago (damaging admission I only did 7 letters about 15 times and it was agony) - but I did feel that I got enormous benefits.
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  • Profile picture of the author svedski
    Thanks all.

    Alex Cohen: Great tip. However, I think I know the basics pretty well already.
    I've read most of the books that were in the link Steve posten, plus I've seen all the seminars and listened to all the audiobooks from John Carlton, Gary Halbert, Gerry Bencivenga etc.

    And yea, as I said, I also just did the Gary Halbert Copywriting Challenge where I read eight books on mail-order and copywriting twice, and copied seven or eight ads.

    So yes, the basics are covered.

    Ken Caudil:

    I don't know if you were joking or not, but I actually believe in what you're saying.
    As a matter of fact, I have been meditating for 20 minutes every morning for a little over a year now, and it has gotten me some great benefits.

    I also do some breathing excercises before I write something, like breath in for 5 seconds, hold it for 20, and then blow it out for 10.
    Try that one, and do it 10 times. The energy and mental clarity you get from that is amazing.
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  • Profile picture of the author ASCW
    Yes you should be focused. You want your attention going deep beneath the words.

    Site being revamped.

    If you want help with copy stuff, pm me.


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  • Profile picture of the author JJaouli1
    I did this with a bunch of carlton's golf and self defense ads, and halberts ads from the motherload collection.

    SUPER painful. Legit my hand was killing me by the end.

    But I can honestly say there is nothing that improved my understanding more. I had bought a bunch of recommended copywriting books, I read them and I was still somewhat confused. I listened to a halbert seminar on how to write copy. I listed to a Dan Kennedy seminar on how to write copy. Still somewhat confused.

    Handwrote ads over and over. Confusion gone. Re-listened to those seminars. Crystal clear understanding. It was ridiculous.

    Blind copying will still ingrain it in your head.
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    • Profile picture of the author aidacopy

      If you're losing focus while writing try reading the sales letter again, and identifying all the different parts (headline, first paragraph, call to action, etc.). Then start out by copying headlines, bullets, bonuses... Finally, go back and re-write the whole letter. That helped me both gain an understanding of sales letters, and it internalized the rhythm of a letter. So even if you lose focus again, you know you've went over it with understanding.
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      • Profile picture of the author MrJman006
        +1 for meditation! That's my little secret as well.
        As far as copying ads, I would recommend what most others are already saying. Go through just reading the ad sentence by sentence and analyze how the copy is put together. Also look at transitions between concepts and paragraphs and obviously bullet points and headlines. This will do 10x more for you then the actual writing of an ad. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the writing is mainly to train your mind to think copy as you begin to write your own, but for that to work you have to read/understand/analyze the ad while you copy it. As others mentioned, begin writing your own ads for existing products or made up ones as well. That is where you really start to see results in your salesman ship take off.

        Here is just a little fun tid bit for everyone too. Its an interview with Ron Popiel and Billy Mays. I won't say that the picth Billy gives at the end is world class, but for ad hoc on the spot, it's pretty dang good.

        - MrJman006
        How To Make Cash In Just 24 Hours Guaranteed
        Passive Income System

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