Copywriting tips from Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway was a gun-loving drunk. He was also married four times and frequently started feuds with other writers.

Today we're going to take a leaf out of Hemingway's book.*

This American writer once said: “Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.” Dude lived by his own words, so much so that he once wrote a story that was just 6 words long. He came under scrutiny for his crazy writing style, but his concision is so revered that there's even an app designed to help you nail it.

 

Why does Hemingway's approach work so well?

So how can Hemingway help you write killer sales copy? Concision, my friends! Saying exactly what you mean, in as few words as possible.

Your average customer spends less than 7 seconds looking at your web page.

11 seconds looking at your email.

2.8 seconds looking at your print marketing.

I know, right? Hardly enough time for you and your life story.

I've had a fair few documents passed through my hands, begging to be edited and proofed and the number one problem with the majority of them was (and continues to be) the quantity of waffle.

We aren't sitting down to breakfast here, guys, and we certainly aren't in Belgium.

The key to great sales copy or customer-facing content is short, snappy sentences that convey the point quickly a way that's easy to understand. No one is going to sit there and read pages of word vomit about your business or your passion. They want to know what you're selling, why they should care and (if you're lucky) how they can get it.

Run your copy through these simple checks to heming-ify it:

Can you say it in one sentence?

Read through that paragraph you just wrote. How many times have you said the same thing using a variety of different approaches? Comb through for extra prepositions, adverbs or adjectives that don't need to be there. If you can say it in one, cleverly constructed sentence...DO IT.

Are you using a huge long word when two shorter ones will do?

If you write sales copy that requires a Master's degree to read, no one is going to engage with you. You aren't going to sound human and your customers will feel alienated. We get it...you're clever. If you can replace that long, fancypants word with two shorter ones that are in plain English, make the swap.

Is it good to speed read?

In order for your full message to be read, you'll need to up the speed of your copy. This means taking out unnecessary punctuation and cutting your sentences right down. You don’t want one sentence with three clauses stuffed into it — if you've used more than two commas, it's too long. Cut that lil sucker up.

And there you have it! Hemingway's entire career boiled down to one blog post. Perhaps even the man himself would be proud. Still struggling to see where the extra fat can be trimmed? Get in touch. I got you, bro.

 

 

*Not literally...I don't want you tearing pages out of your copy of The Sun Also Rises.

Emma Cownley