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Every copywriter has their 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 not nearly complete. I’ll add to it whenever I can. 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 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?: Just when you think you’ve nailed your copy, the Hemingway App (online or on your desktop) puts you in your place. The best by far of the readability checkers captures your passives, your adverbs, and your 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. And you might legitimately want to reuse one of your own pieces, suitably tweaked, for a bigger PR hit.

Terminology

Never let a smart-arse outdo you with the jargon of marketing and copywriting. These are the glossaries to get you up to speed.
  • Typographic terms: 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.
  • 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.

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 the best of us 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»
  • 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? Ranker may well have it listed. In fact Ranker is brilliant for all sorts of oddball lists.
  • 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. If your words are shorter, you may need to edit your sample to match your writing and to show the extent 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.

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

If you want to do a decent job, there are no shortcuts. 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 neat 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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