Tara Hall

design. write.

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Jul 27, 2016

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3 Copywriting resources that I can’t do without

Whenever I begin a new copywriting project, there are three resources that I rely on to help me write original, audience-focused copy for my client.

If you’re a business struggling to write your own marketing copy, then these resources may help ease you into the process of writing persuasive copy for your target audience—while still maintaining your brand personality.

Sites that target the same audience

Before I touch a single key on my laptop, one of the first questions I ask a client is, “Who are you targeting?” In other words, who is it that you want to sell to?

Knowing who it is you’re writing for makes writing a lot easier. When a client defines for me their target audience, I imagine writing for just one member of that audience and not a group of faceless strangers who fit a description.

Once I have that ideal client in mind, I look for sites that target the same target audience to see how those sites speak to that ideal client.

I’m not referring to competitor websites, though I certainly look at those too. I’m referring to websites that meet one or more of the following criteria:

Let’s say, for example, that my client is a manufacturer of sleek, compact baby strollers. Their ideal client is an urban mom between the ages of 26 and 36 with one infant. Because she prefers city living, space is an issue. Like all moms, she values convenience.

Likely, I would start my search in a related industry that offers products that address the audience’s concern: baby furniture manufacturers whose goods are designed to fit small spaces. However, I won’t stop there.

Other businesses that may target young, urban moms include baby food producers and manufacturers of common baby products, such as diapers. I may need to know more about the ideal client to know which businesses to investigate.

For instance, does this urban mom buy organic baby food? Does she buy her baby clothes at Gap Kids or TJ Maxx? Does she use disposable diapers or a cloth diaper service? Answers to these questions can lead me to businesses addressing the same audience.

After finding sites that cater to the same potential client, I read through the top level pages—home page and about page for starters—and take note of the language used to speak to the audience.

When taking notes, I use my second must-have resource: a swipe file.

Swipe file

A swipe file is a tool used by copywriters, marketers, advertisers, and others to list terms, phrases, sentences, and so on that effectively convince readers to take action. A possible swipe file might include subject lines that persuaded you to open an email or article headings that prompted you to read more.

The purpose of a swipe file is to provide ideas especially when you’re feeling stuck or blocked. Your swipe file is a reference tool that you can return to over and over again and that you can continually add to as you find more engaging content.

As I read through sites that target the same audience that my client wants to target, I write down anything that appeals to me—or to my client’s target audience—in my swipe file. It may be a word that conveys a specific image or phrase that evokes a certain feeling.

It may also be an issue or concern that my client hasn’t considered, but that affects their target audience. If it motivates, inspires, persuades, or intrigues, then it goes into my swipe file.

When I find myself repeating the same phrases too often, I look to my swipe file to find new ways in which to express the same idea. If you as the writer grow tired of hearing the same words repeated, then your reader will feel the same.

A swipe file can help keep your writing fresh for your reader and interesting for you. The more you add to your swipe file, the more you have to choose from when you need it.

I start a new swipe file for each copywriting project so that I’m not wading through a lot of content that doesn’t apply to my current project.


Thesaurus.com is a website that I use often when I’m writing. I’ve probably used it a half dozen times while writing this blog post. This free site is invaluable to me.

Much like a swipe file, I use Thesaurus.com to find alternative words for ones that I might otherwise overuse. But I also use it to find words that are more concise or more representative of what I want to say.

An alternative site is the RhymeZone.com. Yes, you can use it to find rhyming words, but you can also use it to find synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and other things that you probably haven’t considered since your high school English classes.

One thing that Thesaurus.com doesn’t handle so well are idioms. For those, try the Idioms dictionary from TheFreeDictionary.com. When you need to sound conversational and relatable, an idiom is helpful—assuming that your audience speaks English.

With the Idioms dictionary, you can enter a word to find a list of idioms that include it. Or when you want to avoid using an idiom particularly in cases of translation, enter it into this online dictionary to find other words or phrases.

Final thoughts

Having to express yourself or your brand in writing can be intimidating. To make it easier for yourself, focus on the process.

Begin with understanding your ideal client and what his or her needs are. Worry less about writing clever copy and use the language that your target audience uses. It’s one of the best tips that I can give you as a copywriter.