Despite your hard work, your initial draft might turn out less than stellar.
The true magic will happen after running it through several rounds of editing.
'Edit, edit, edit...' You've heard this advice so many times.
Editing is a critical step in writing persuasive copy, yet surprisingly, this process wasn’t properly covered until Bond Halbert wrote a book about the subject.
For those unfamiliar, Bond is Gary Halbert’s son and, as a child, the recipient of the renowned Boron letters.
His book, The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III, is one of the most relevant resources on editing.
I was listening to one of his webinars and came across 3 techniques that can help you edit your copy like a pro.
To gain a clear roadmap for the entire copywriting process, here is how Bond Halbert approaches any copywriting project.
He breaks down the process into three phases:
- Phase 1 - Research. This is the phase where you get to know your product and audience.
- Phase 2 - Big idea/testing. As a result of Phase 1, you develop your big idea for your campaign.
Testing it could be as simple as asking a few potential prospects what they think about it.
- Phase 3 - Editing. It’s where the magic happens. Your first draft might be crap, editing will change that.
Now, zooming in on Phase 3, Bon Halbert introduces three techniques designed to refine and polish your copy.
Let’s see each of them.
3 Techniques to edit your copy like a pro
#1 Read your copy aloud - Basic editing technique
It's a basic editing step. Besides finding typos and grammar mistakes, reading aloud lets you see where your copy is not smooth.
When you are editing your copy, familiarity is your enemy. If you read to yourself, you will skip a couple of words here and there. Because you know what you are expecting to come up, your brain does not register the mistakes.
If you read aloud, you see the typos and grammar errors and find the places where your copy is not smooth.
If you stumble reading, you probably need to rewrite that part.
Reading aloud is the first step in the editing process he learned from his father. That process had 5 steps that I think are important to remember here before moving to the next technique.
Gary Halbert’s 5-step editing formula:
- Read your copy aloud.
- Break up the long paragraphs.
- Break up the long sentences.
- Insert subheads.
- Cut “that” from your copy.
By breaking up long paragraphs and long sentences and inserting subheads you provide eye relief and help people decide if they are going to read your copy or not.
#2 Pronoun hunt - Intermediate editing technique
This technique aims to enhance clarity by minimizing the confusion that ambiguous pronouns might cause.
When crafting copy, you use pronouns such as 'it,' 'she,' 'he,' and 'they' assuming the reader will easily follow the references. Relying on pronouns excessively can lead to confusion. Your reader needs a clear antecedent or proper context otherwise he gets lost.
To do that, we have to go back to the research phase. While you are doing your research, write down several ways to describe your product, your company, or yourself.
Then, when editing, replace vague pronouns with specific and descriptive language.
#3 The magic of the “I to You” formula - Advanced editing technique
This formula differs from the standard "You" rule, where you replace "I," "me," "we," and "our" with "you" and "your."
Bond’s “I to You” technique has nothing to do with that.
In great copywriting, the “I” or “me” takes all the negative, and the “you” gets all the positive.
Let’s see an example of the thought process going through your reader’s mind.
Suppose you start your story with “I know you’re staying up late at night.” Your reader might think, “No, I’m not. I go to bed pretty early.”
Then, in your letter, you mention, "You are nervous about not having enough sales every month." Your reader might relate to that statement and agree.
When you claim, "I've got the magic formula that will bring you all the customers you need to your door," your reader might skeptically think, "Sure you do."
The moment your reader thinks “No, that’s not me,” you break the spell.
By applying the “I to You” technique, the story could go like this:
You start the story with “I was sleeping in my car for days. I struggled to sleep at night because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would bring customers to my door before I ran out of money. That’s when I discovered the secret that will allow you to fill your business with a flood of new customers and sales. You’ll get so many customers that you will have to hire someone to help you run your business.”
Now you're telling their story by telling your story. It might be slightly different from their story, but it doesn’t break the spell. By applying the "I to You" technique there is no chance for your reader to say, "No, that's not me." And when he gets to the “you” part, he can visualize how great it would be to solve a problem they know they have.
If you are interested in listening to the whole webinar, you can find it here: Bond Halbert Editing Lessons