how to become a nonsucky copywriter
June 8, 2007 12:16 PM   Subscribe

When adding items to my online shop, how can I learn to write awesome product descriptions? How can I stop being the most boring copywriter ever?

Whenever it's time to write up a description of something I'm selling, my brain freezes and I pretty much end up with: "hey, look at this thing I'm selling! buy it!" It's sad and boring, and not at all the kind of vibe I want to give off. I want my descriptions to be cute and sweet and playful, but short of copying something verbatim from Fred Flare, I don't know what to do.

Any tips/suggestions/resources for getting over my total mental block in this area?
posted by logic vs love to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you could pretend you're telling a story about it. I used to love reading the J. Peterman catalog for just this reason. If you want to be cuter, and less...adventurous, what the Fred Flare people seem to have done is grabbed one particular aspect of each product. Eg, that's not a necklace they're describing, but rather, it's about the octopus aspect of the necklace.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:24 PM on June 8, 2007

Don't copy other descriptions that you like -- figure out why you like them and do the same thing.
posted by kindall at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2007

Have you ever thought of hiring someone else to do it in exchange for free schwag? I rule at product descriptions, and others do too. I see you have an etsy shop. Find an etsyian who gives good copy, and offer to give her/him some freebies in exchange for some titillating text.

As far as writing them yourself goes, you could take a product and write 4 or 5 descriptions for it, and then ask your friends to pick which they like best, or which would make them most likely to buy the product, or whatever. Learn from that. And relax! Have fun, be cute and fun and playful. The only thing that should be freezing your brain is Slurpees.
posted by iconomy at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2007

I'll do it for free. But anyway, your products seem to be all buttons. Maybe create names for the boy/girl buttons, and for the other ones, since it's all vintage stuff, perhaps use vintage terminology? Talk of Victrolas and Derby Hats, whatever the name for those old big shutter cameras is, etc.

Who do you think is going to be buying your buttons? What would they search for? What would they like to read?
posted by cashman at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2007

Know your audience. So much depends on the nature of the interaction between your products and your target audience. Who is your target? What do they like to read about?

Teens? Pop culture references.
"With this [stuff], you can assure your girls that you're still Jenny from the block, without having to downgrade your Ben to a Marc."

Disaffected teens? Snarky pop culture references.
"Lindsay is buying a dozen for her new friends at Promises. Sisterhood!"

Naval battle historians? Naval battle history references.
"With [thing] at his disposal, would Nimitz have run aground on the Decatur in the Phillipines? Perhaps. But he would have [value statement about thing]."

Etc. With more details, we could probably get you there.
posted by rush at 12:56 PM on June 8, 2007

read woot
posted by magikker at 1:16 PM on June 8, 2007

As a professional copywriter, I've had a fairly high success rate with whiskey. It is a very effective brain lubricant.
posted by pantsonfire at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2007

When you're selling a lot of variations on the same product, you can't describe the product anymore because they're all the same. You can however, tell different stories about each product variation and let the consumer "buy" the story.

For your buttons, write a story about what's on the button or what you or some imaginary person was doing while wearing it. Because in the end, it's not about the buttons, it's about the people who wear the buttons and you want your customers to get those same experiences while wearing your buttons.

Give a few different ones to outgoing button-wearing friends. Check in a week or two later and ask them what happened during that time. A great story is worth a product description, even if it's not related to the button.
posted by junesix at 4:50 PM on June 8, 2007

Oh, and in general I've found that the effectiveness of storytelling is inversely proportional to the price. That is, when I'm buying something cheap, I like hearing stories but if I'm about to buy a car or TV, I just want to see the specs.
posted by junesix at 4:54 PM on June 8, 2007

Decide what kind of character, or which actor, is talking about your stuff, then pretend to be them. That's how I often find my voice for writing copy. Sometimes I need John Gielgud on speed, or Mary Steenburgen minus the Sally Fieldness. Basically, define your perfect spokesperson, then write for them.
posted by headspace at 6:12 PM on June 8, 2007

Don't take yourself or the product too seriously. Think about the fun side, and write about that.

Once you've got a concept for how your description might run, start thinking about who would be interested in the product but not realise it because they don't know it exists. Then think about what keywords they might use to search for something else that they do know about. Now you have some keywords to think about incorporating in the description that serve two functions:
(a) they give you the chance to show people why "if you like XYZ, you'll like this" (and don't just write "if you like X you'll like this" - it's the why that is an opportunity for fun writing),
(b) they allow search engines to bring people to the product who, while they were not searching for it, are likely to be interested in it.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:45 PM on June 8, 2007

Check out Maggie Mason's Mighty Goods for ideas.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:09 AM on June 9, 2007

« Older Active Directory name game   |   Help me find a job near Ann Arbor! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.