Anatomy of Copywriting

The Six Stages of the Craft of Copywriting.

Before you do the clear, concise and compelling writing, you must first do the clear, precise and insightful thinking. That takes the form of a Communication Brief: a one-ish page document informing you of everything you need to know and understand to write with knowledge and authority. In short — who you are talking to; what is your point; and the reasons to buy-in to your story.

A well researched and distilled Communication Brief is the copywriter’s best friend for turning a blank page into a good read. Your next best friend is the Anatomy of Body Copy. There are six stages and, like a good coffee, each one stimulates and focuses the mind every word of the way.

Stage One: The Headline & Image

The first thing your reader’s eyes will land on is the picture and the headline. Usually in that order. Your main point is articulated clearly and instantly in the art and copy. For example, the art and copy in this post tells us there are six stages for writing fine copy. I chose the image of six cups of coffee to stimulate interest and relatability. It could’ve been six ladder-steps but that’s boring. It could’ve been something more compelling, but that’s up to the creative oomph of  the storyteller. As long as the headline and image communicate a clear, concise and compelling point, your reader will get it in milliseconds and you’re off to a great start. 

Now there are two rule-of-thumbs with headlines and images to keep in mind. Firstly, the headline tells half the story and the image tells the other half. Together, they complete the message. Secondly, if the headline is straight, the image should be bent. But if the headline is bent, the image should be straight. Both these rules create tension, which is a golden key to capturing and holding attention.

In this post, I wrote the headline straight. There’s nothing clever or witty or obtuse in THE SIX STAGES OF THE CRAFT OF COPYWRITING. However, the image is bent. Six cups of coffee (representing the six stages) is not bent enough, if at all. But include some barista art into the brew (courtesy of JB at the Elwood Beach Shack), and we get a bit of a oh-wow! factor. It also sets the tone for signalling a fun and relatable read. Many of us accompany our writing with cups of coffee to keep us writing on. Whenever I take my work to the Elwood Beach Shack, I get some kind of portrait of me in my coffee (the snowman was on a chilly day; and the bulging ears were my headphones). 

Stage Two: The Opener & Introduction

Now that your headline and visual has arrested attention, the storytelling begins. Usually with an opening hook-line that expands on the  premise of the headline/image. There are many ways to write an opening-hook line and this post uses three literary devices — parallel phrasing, contrasting pair and the rhythm of three.

The next one or more sentences make up the rest of this introduction section. Your purpose here is to connect with your reader on their level. This makes them feel there’s something interesting or useful or meaningful to them. Hit one of those notes and rapport happens. This is about having a conversation for relatedness, inspiring enough trust in them to give you the benefit of doubt and their precious time.

In other words, you have earned their permission for you to keep talking.

Stage Three: Transition 1.

Technically known as a metabasis, this a short sentence that sums up what has just been said and sets up what will be said next.

In the Anatomy of Body Copy, Transition 1 is the bridging sentence from Stage 2: Introduction to Stage 4: Substantiation.  By summing up and setting up, you signpost to the reader where this story is heading.

Unlike creative writing, where the reader wants to be surprised by the story’s unexpected twists and turns, in copywriting they need to know what’s coming up next. Time is of the essence, and patience is limited to what is useful, interesting or meaningful to them.

An effective transition guides the story (and reader) forward in a smooth, logical and conversational manner.

Stage Four: The Substantiation

If your reader gets to Stage 4, they are now sufficiently engaged and willing to consider the reasons to buy-in to your claim / promise / offer / message.

Remember that Communication Brief mentioned in Section 2 of this post? It holds all the essential reasons why a subject matter is worth your reader’s time and money. The substantiation section is a series of sentences that narrate those reasons to-buy into features (quality, capacity, worth) and benefits (meaning, value, interest).

These sentences are structured according to narrative logic (cause and effect, sequential or order of importance), presenting all the features and benefits in a building block of solid qualification. 

Chances are, you’ll first need to list all the reasons to buy-in, then arrange them into a logical order. Some analytical think may need to be employed here. Once you’ve got an orderly progression of substantiation points locked in, you can confidently start writing them into sentences.

Stage Five: Transition 2

This transition sentence also sums up and sets up. But in this case, Transition 2 is the bridging sentence between Stage 4: Substantiation and Stage 6: Conclusion.

It sums up what has been said in the substantiation section and sets up what will be said in the conclusion section. It also signals to the reader the end is near.

Stage Six: The Conclusion

Your conclusion section enables your reader to see why all your analysis, information or argument should matter to them as they exit your story. 

You can use one (or a combination) of seven strategies toward a strong conclusion:

  1. Circle — return to the theme/idea by referring back to the headline or introductory paragraph, using key words or parallel concepts and images. This strategy brings the reader full circle. It also reinforces the idea while at the same time adding further meaning to it.
  2. Pull Together — synthesize, don’t summarise. Include a brief summary of your main points, but don’t simply repeat things that you’ve already written. Show your reader how the points fit together.
  3. Big Picture — This conclusion points to broader implications. To something greater than the story told. 
  4. Thought Provoking — this strategy includes a provocative insight, profound quotation or compelling statistic.
  5. Call to Action — Propose a course of action, a solution to an issue, or a question for further consideration.
  6. “So What?!” — When you’ve written a conclusion you’re not happy with, ask this question on behalf of your reader. Then answer within a ten second ‘elevator pitch’.
  7. Rhythm Out — Compose you exit-sentence using a literary device such as the Rhythm of Three, Contrasting Pair, Parallel Phrasing, to mention a few.

Just as the first impression counts, so too is the last impression. The introduction and the conclusion frame your story and provide a bridge for your reader to enter (with great interest) and exit (with an impression that lingers on).

in this post, I’ll use the circle strategy and leave you with these final sentences: great copy, like great coffee, is full of personality. Especially if it expresses the personality of the customer.

Meanwhile, my online copywriting course’s latest timetable is up and running and ready to take your booking now. It’s one copywriting course that makes you great at writing for all types of media.

2 Responses

  1. This post essentially sums up very briefly the main points about the Anatomy of Body Copy. Great reference point when in the middle of a writing project

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