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All copywriters have a box of go-to tools for speeding up the job: Where can I find a pithy quote? What’s the reading age of my copy? Is this hasty rewrite good enough to count as fresh content?

So here’s my list of copywriting resources. It’s an ever-growing list, expanded whenever a new idea comes to me. If you have some favourite resources to share, drop me a line and I’ll drop them in (with a credit of course).

Note that there are no books or SEO tools (apart from keyword search) on this page. They’ll come in other posts.

Readability

The lower the reading age, the better. It’s not dumbing down, it’s making life easy for your readers.
  • Measures of readability: Readable provides an excellent run-down of the many, many different scales for calculating readability.
  • Check your text for readability: Readable again – just copy and paste your text to get a result.
  • Check a web page for readability: Often more useful – especially if you want to prove that some existing text (or another copywriter’s work) isn’t fit for purpose.
  • As good as Hemingway?: The master (or his digital heirs) keeps you on your toes. The Hemingway App (online or on your desktop) is the best by far of the readability checkers. Use it to weed out passives and adverbs, and to cut long sentences.
    «source: Graeme Piper, DropCapCopy»

Plagiarism

You would never, ever rip someone off, but it would be good to know if someone else has taken a shortcut (see below). And you might legitimately want to reuse one of your own pieces, suitably tweaked, for a bigger PR hit.

To test the checkers below, I cut and pasted a 200-word extract from this page. The better tools want your cash or limit your checks. So you have to flip between them to use whatever tests you can get for free.

I recently discovered that another copywriter has plagiarised this page, but they covered their tracks so well (identical topics, selections, and links with different and badly written text), none of the checkers below found their unoriginal page. Just goes to show that you can’t catch everyone.

  • Check for plagiarism (1): What should be a neat device from Small SEO Tools (gives you a percentage value for plagiarism and uniqueness – max 1,000 words) turns out to be a bit suspect. It judged my piece to be 69% plagiarised and 31% unique.
    «source: Nigel Graber, Mightier Than»
  • Check for plagiarism (2): A virtually identical tool from Dupli Checker did better: 93% plagiarised and 7% unique. Plus this one gives you a pdf report.
  • Check for plagiarism (3): Lots of choice over what you can compare with Copyleaks, but difficult to test without handing over some dosh. Still to be tested.
  • Check for plagiarism (4): Unble to test Check Plagiarism because it insisted my disabled adblocker was still active.
  • Check for plagiarism (5): For a freebie, PrepostSEO is solid-gold value for money: it said my piece was 100% plagiarised.
  • Check for plagiarism (6): Copyscape is the one everyone’s heard of, so you can’t test much for free, apart from a single url against the rest of the web. I suspect it’s good, but who knows?

Terminology

Never let a smart-arse outdo you with the jargon of marketing and copywriting. These are the glossaries to get us copywriters up to speed.

And just in case a client should ever challenge your comprehensive knowledge of grammar, here are several lists to bone up on before you respond. You’ll naturally pretend you knew it all along; professionalism and all that.

  • Typographic terms (1): If you love type, the Fontsmith page is a delight. Simple explanations, beautfully illustrated. Plus you can download the full list as a pdf poster to cover the damp patch on your studio wall.
  • Typographic terms (2): This is my own list of printing and typography terms. Feel free to challenge them.
  • Technology terms: WhatIs.com’s exhaustive dictionary is the best by far. I liked it even better when they published the entire thing as a proper physical dictionary.
  • Marketing terms: There are so many cobbled-together dictionaries out there (I suspect a good deal of cutting and pasting), it’s hard to choose. This one from TheBalance explains each term with a mini essay, which proves they’ve put some thought into it.
  • Language and grammar terms (1): The most useful list comes from the Oxford English Dictionary. Generous drop-down definitions with plenty of examples.
  • Language and grammar terms (2): Lexico’s list is shorter and the definitions are briefer. But there is a helpful set of categories at the top which lets you zero in on, say, terms to do with pronouns. It’s a different list to the one from the OED, which is odd because they come from the same place.
  • Language and grammar terms (3): For yet another set of terms (with very brief definitions), try English Club. Between all three lists, you ought to find just about every term you come across.

Formulas

A formula is a set sequence of copywriting elements that leads a prospect gently but firmly (much like a bull with a ring in its nose) to the sale. AIDA is the one everyone knows.
  • Understand every copywriting formula ever written: All of them? Who knows – but far too many to count. From AICPBSAWN to PASTOR (and way beyond), Copyhackers has amassed more formulas than the Institute of Mathematics. It’s a heavy-duty read with diamonds in the debris. Somewhere.
    «source: Nigel Graber, Mightier Than»

Inspiration (or lack of)

Sometimes even the most brilliant copywriters need a nudge in the right direction.

  • Headline generator (1): To be honest, this is a rubbish tool. But if you’re desperate for an instant clickbait headline (6 laziest faults of the zombie copywriter), this could be your page.
  • Headline generator (2): Blog Title Generator does much the same thing, but lets you tailor the selection according to the type of content you’re dealing with.
    «source: Graeme Piper, DropCapCopy»
  • Refine your headline: Drop your precious headline into the CoSchedule analyser for an instant evaluation of its clickability – but you do have to sign up.
    «source: Graeme Piper, DropCapCopy»
  • Refine your email subject line: Another CoSchedule analyser, this time for openability. Since these analysers are purely mechanical, you can game them with nonsense text that scores brilliantly.
    «source: Graeme Piper, DropCapCopy»
  • Blog topic generator: Hubspot’s free version gives you the same five predictable titles for every topic. Hand over your details and you can download a spreadsheet of 250 topic titles. Maybe helpful if you’re in a tight corner.
  • Ideas that worked elsewhere: Swiped is a huge resource of ads that may (or may not) have worked for others. It’s big on long copy and the hard sell, but may offer the germ of an idea for something you’re working on.
  • Find a quote about [topic]: Quoteland lets you search by topic.
  • Find a song with [word] in the lyrics: Looking for a song that mentions your subject? Lyrics will find you plenty. But you do need to check the wording; many lyrics have been poorly transcribed.
  • Find a list of the top [something]: Want to know which are the world’s favourite doughnut flavours? Or maybe the most poisonous creatures in the sea? Ranker has just about everything listed.
  • A different word, a new direction of thought: Thesaurus.com is the best of the online thesauruses because it’s multilayered. Scroll down for a different take on the meaning, and click through for a fresh set of words.
  • Lorem ipsum: What, no inspiration at all? In that case here are 1,300 words of cod Latin for layouts and concepts. Note that lorem ipsum text comes out at 5.8 characters a word (excluding spaces). If your words are shorter, you may need to edit your sample to match your super-spare writing, and to provide clients with a more accurate representation of any given word count. Save your edited sample for repeat use.

Research

Great copywriting is supported by facts. You can never have enough of them.
  • Academic papers: Google Scholar is your route to a near-limitless body of research. Don’t expect to be out again before teatime.
  • Statistics: Pew Research Center gathers stats on just about everything.
  • Multiple searches: Ref Desk puts all your online search options on a single page.
  • Websites from the past: Want to know what was on this website 20 years ago? The Wayback Machine drags up everyone’s dirty secrets.

Keyword search

Whatever you write online, you need to keep one eye on keywords. It’ll be your splendid copy tweaked (or debased) to incorporate the phrases that ordinary people tap into Google. If only we could read their minds.

  • AnswerThePublic: A clever tool for catching all those unexpected search questions that real humans tap out. Could easily prompt a fresh approach to a blog story. Two free sessions a day. Unlimited use plus loads more supporting info if you subscribe.
    «source: Luke Doulton, Free Range Web»
  • Soovle: It’s free, which is brill, but you’re not gonna learn much from Soovle that you couldn’t generate through guesswork. The best part is that you get to see what each search engine returns for any given term.
  • Jaaxy: Provides lots of useful data on keyword competitiveness and value, and how much traffic you’re likely to generate if you can reach number one for any given term (tip: it’s 17% of the number of monthly searches). 30 free searches (with very limited data) before you have dip your hand in your pocket.

Language and grammar

There’s not much to choose between the online grammar checkers. The free versions tell you almost nothing, and no self-respecting copywriter should be forking out for the premium service. If you’re in a rush to meet a deadline, a free check might just catch something you’d have missed.

Need some ammunition to take down someone who says your writing doesn’t follow the rules? Here are a couple of helpful pages.

Editing and proofreading

There are no shortcuts to a decent proofing job. But maybe a couple of techniques to help you on your way.

  • Extracting text from PDFs: Do you groan when someone sends you a 60-page PDF to edit or proofread? No more: the ever-resourceful Lorraine Williams found a way to export PDF text in its entirety direct to Word or to Google Docs. I couldn’t get the direct-to-Word method to work, but the Google Docs option is good enough. From there it’s a simple cut-and-paste to Word.
    «source: Lorraine Williams, Lighthouse Proofreading»
  • Foolproof proofreading: We’re not supposed to plug our own work, but I think my list of proofreading tips is about as good as it gets.

Text to speech, speech to text

Turning speech into text and text into speech are time-savers. One cuts hours of transcribing; the other helps weed out awkward phrases. For all types of writing – especially speeches and video scripts – no form of editing beats reading your copy out loud.
  • Automated reading: You can set up Word to read your copy back to you. The voice is a bit robotic, but a robot will only ever read what’s on the page, not what’s in your head. A Chrome extension does the same for G Docs.
    «source: Lorraine Williams, Lighthouse Proofreading»
  • Turn spoken word into text: Otter is a handy tool for recording interviews – for case studies, for example – and automatically transcribing them as text. The free option gives you up to 600 minutes a month.
    «source: James Daniel, James the Copywriter»
  • Be a voice-activated writer: Can’t type? Broken your arm in a unicycling accident? Dragon from Nuance is a life-saver. The programme does far more than transcribe what you say; it lets you control your entire desktop with your voice. You can even train it to spell out invented words or foreign words with awkward diacritics. For writers who’ve spent a lifetime at their keyboard, voice-activated working takes some getting used to.

Tone of voice

Tone of voice is often guesswork, gut feeling, or bland corporate values expressed as a personality.
  • Find your tone of voice: Voicebox is a kit of flashcards and questionnaires that help you and your client zero in on their natural tone of voice. A great way to convince the suits of your professionalism, but it ain’t cheap.

Avoiding spam filters

Spam filters are getting better at weeding out your sales pitch. The easiest way to see whether your email copy will get through is to mail yourself and a few volunteers. If it doesn’t make it, try removing some of the words below.
  • Massive list of filter-spooking words: If you follow Automational’s 475-word list, you’ll struggle to write anything. Nevertheless it’s helpful to have such a wide sweep of words and phrases that could cause problems.
  • Reasonable list of filter-spooking words: This is more like it. Karen Rubin’s list for Hubspot looks exactly like the kind of words you’d expect to cause trouble.

Diacritics and special characters

Copywriters who care about typography expect to get every single character right. If you can tell your horned-O (ơ) from your hooked-O (ỏ), and your A-circumflex (â) from your A-caron (ǎ), these are the links for you.

Images

Yes, this is a page of resources for copywriters. But even we writers have to compromise occasionally, and brighten our posts with an image.
  • Social-media image sizes: Much more than a checklist of sizes, the sproutsocial guide explains how each social-media format treats your pictures.
  • 33 brilliant sources of free images: Look no further, Thoughtfully has done the legwork for you. There’s bound to be something that’s relevant to your story in this collection of royalty-free image sites.

Legals

Dull, disclaimer stuff first: I’m not offering legal advice, just pointing copywriters towards helpful materials. Because it’s much easier to take a view on an activity with legal ramifications if you’ve read a decent summary of what’s involved.
  • The CAP Code: If you don’t have this stuff off by heart, things will go horribly wrong. You really do have to know what you can legitimately claim or, as some clients put it, what you can get away with.
  • ASA rulings: The best way to find out how the CAP Code works is to read a few ASA rulings. They publish a fresh batch every Wednesday, delivered straight to your inbox if you want. You’ll be surprised how many well-known brands get slammed for breaking the rules.
  • GDPR tips for cold emails: Sometimes we copywriters need to do a bit of marketing for ourselves. Bills to pay, and all that. But who can you email – and how? Looks like Woodpecker have it nailed.
    «source: Joe Jeffries, Joe Jeffries»

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