7 steps to review your own copy

May 22, 2018 •
Reviewing your copy

Who’d a thunk reviewing your own copy could be so hard? But it is.

The problem is, by the time you’ve finished writing your draft, you’re so focused on reviewing your writing, that you tend to read what’s on the page, not what should be on the page. And you also tend to read it the way you think you wrote it, not the way you actually wrote it.

So if you’ve written something clunky or missed parts of the brief (or even the entire brief) it usually doesn’t jump out at you.

Here’s the process I use to make sure I’m saying what needs to be said, and saying it the right way…

Step 1: Step back and look at the big picture in the brief

Look at the big picture in the copy brief

Re-read the brief and the questionnaire – but kinda from a distance. Don’t deep-dive into the detail. You’ve already done that and you’re already too close to it. Now’s the time to step back and get some perspective. Make sure you hit the nail on the head when it comes to the spirit of the brief.
Scan it for the high-level feelz, and re-read the bits that say things like, “We want to convey…”, “We want readers to see us as…”, “We want people to feel…”

Step 2: Walk away

Walk away before reviewing your copy

Leave your computer for a few minutes and stop thinking about everything. Get your subconscious back in the game. Let it go to work for a few minutes, pushing aside details and irrelevant concerns.

Better yet, leave it overnight or for a couple of days. (BONUS OFFER: This can be a very ego-stroking experience! When I come back to my copy, days after I wrote it, it’s almost like reading someone else’s work, and I’m often surprised at how bloody good I am! 😉

Step 3: Come back, take a deep breath and BE the target reader

Be the reader when you review your copy

I literally do this. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, tip my head back and imagine I’m the reader of the piece. I even talk to myself: I recite my imagined pain point and needs, and try to feel the things the client would most likely be feeling at the time of reading, and be aware of their reading conditions and constraints on their time. Try to replicate their understanding and state of mind.

Step 4: Scan your copy as that person

What jumps out at you when you look at your copy from a distance

Return to your copy and scan it for cues that address my pain points, needs and feelings. Perhaps stand up and step back from your computer, so you literally are looking at it from a distance, and only certain bits jump out at you.

Start with just the headlines, subheads, calls to action, etc. Read them all, and when you’re finished, ask yourself if you feel the way your client wants the reader to feel.

If you don’t, you need to do a bit of massaging.

Step 5: Check if it draws you in

Does your copy draw you in

Look at each page, in isolation. Revisit the headline, and ask yourself if it compels you to read the next line. When you read the next line, do you still feel the same way? Are you intrigued? Do you want to keep reading? Do you understand what the page is about?

If not, massage.

Step 6: Read every page, out-loud, in your radio voice

Read your copy in your radio voice

Well, not quite your radio voice. That would make it sound cheesy. (Unless it’s actually copy for a radio ad!) But definitely in a classy promotional voice. Imagine you’re Cate Blanchett or Chris Hemsworth reading the copy to impress someone, or to persuade them to buy.

Unless, of course, the client has specified a brand archetype. If they say they want to be perceived as Gandalf, then read it in his voice. Nearly.

This process will highlight any clunkiness or staccato, and any areas that require additional balance or lyricism. If you’ve missed joining devices between clauses, sentences, paragraphs and sections, they’ll jump out at you, because it’ll feel like you just stopped and suddenly started talking about something else.

These things are VERY important to readers, even if only sub-consciously, so don’t overlook or undervalue them.

Step 7: Ask yourself, honestly, if there’s anything that makes you cringe

Does your copy make your cringe

Sure, you might ‘get away with it’, but ultimately if it makes you cringe, there’s a good chance it’ll put the reader off.

If there is, change it.

The one exception here is if you cringe because you’re writing for a reader who thinks in a way that makes you cringe. But chances are, if that’s the case, you probably wouldn’t have won or accepted the job…

How do you do it?

What process and tricks do you use to review your own copy? Please comment below. 🙂

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Peter wrote on May 23rd, 2018

Can I phone a friend? :)

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comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on May 23rd, 2018

Absolutely. I should phone a friend more often. Getting an editor involved is always a good idea! ;-)

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