A Guide to Writing Copy for Print

Just because you can fill a page with text, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

When writing copy for print, the space around your information is just as important as the message you’re trying to get across, especially in design terms.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to be as clear and concise as possible, thus improving the flow of a document and making your information easier, and more enjoyable to read.

Designing for print isn’t just about copying and pasting words into text boxes with pretty backgrounds – it’s the designer’s job to lay out a page in a logical but visually pleasing way, that guides the reader through the information in the most direct and simple way possible. Getting this wrong can make the difference between a ‘boring document’ and a ‘fascinating document’.

You needn’t worry about the design side though – we’ve got that covered for you! Just have a look at our 9 tips to writing successful copy for print:

  1. Avoid Alienation

    When writing your copy, don’t set out to impress the reader; leave the poetic, flowery language to Shakespeare and Wordsworth.If your wording is clear, it will enableyour information to be easily comprehended and will ensure that you don’t intimidate or alienate your readers.

  2. Confidence is Key

    It’s easy to waffle on when you’re not 100% confident with what you’re writing about, but if you’re not certain on what you’re explaining, how are your readers supposed to get it? In this case it helps to organise your thoughts into bullet-points or headings first and fill in the gaps. Draft and re-draft until you’ve cut out any information that isn’t directly related to the point you’re trying to get at.

  3. Punchy Paragraphs

    Unless you’re immersed in a novel, when are you honestly likely to pick up a document that’s crammed full of text and read it from beginning to end without getting fed-up? When delivering important information to your readers, it’s much better to cut it down into short paragraphs. This helps to make the reading easier, more enjoyable and more likely to be absorbed and understood.

  4. Short and Snappy Sentences

    Try to condense one single thought into each sentence; as soon as you start adding more information and explanation, your writing runs the risk of turning into waffle. This is where good use of grammar comes to the forefront; with a few choice uses of the appropriate grammar you can turn a boring and longwinded sentence into something exciting that encourages your reader onwards.

  5. Clear Up Your Copy

    Getting out your trusty thesaurus at every opportunity is all very well but you end up gambling with the overall clarity of your copy. What’s the point of using the word “emulate” when you can say “copy”, or “satiated” instead of “full” – using simpler language means that you avoid isolating or intimidating your readers with words that they potentially don’t understand. You don’t have to ‘dumb-down’ your copy too much, but be aware of using overly complex words when they’re not needed.

  6. Simplify Statistics

    Statistics are boring to read (we’d nearly always suggest using an infographic or other visual tool to get your statistical information across) but if you absolutely have to include them in the bulk of your copy,don’t use non-specifics. Instead of writing “The rate of sales continues to increase exponentially as we continue to work with the client” (this sounds like insincere marketing patter), try “Since beginning work with our client, their sales have increased at a rate of 30% per month).

  7. Forget Formality

    If you’re aiming to engage with a wide audience, try to write in a way that is both conversational and friendly – avoid being overly formal or you’ll alienate your readers. Simple things such as using “it’s” instead of “it is” and “don’t” instead of “do not” brings your writing down-to-earth and makes it easily relatable. Unless you’re writing a formal document such as an academic paper, don’t be afraid to add a little character to your writing.

  8. Seek a Second Opinion

    It’s easy to know what you mean within a document because you’re writing it, but that doesn’t mean that every person who reads it will get your jist. Where possible, read out your copy to others so they can pinpoint anything that they don’t fully understand. This will also help to rid your document of awkward grammar and overly formal words; if it doesn’t sound right when speaking it out-loud then you shouldn’t include it in your copy.

  9. Inspirational Imagery

    Can you say it without words? Sometimes, an image, icon or diagram is enough to convey your message. An infographic is a fantastic way of getting lengthy (and potentially boring!) material over to your reader in a fun and inspiring way. As mentioned in step 6, statistical information (i.e. percentages and mathematical data) is always easier to digest when displayed in a visually pleasing way.

Need your information turned into an infographic? Or stuck on what the best way to deliver your message is? Get in touch, pop in for a brew, and we’ll help you to turn your write-mares into visual poetry! *bah-bum-tsssshhhh*