Copywriter tips stolen from Kurt Vonnegut

Some years ago, novelist Kurt Vonnegut outlined eight rules for writing a good short story. Of those eight rules, five apply directly to great copywriting:


Kurt Vonnegut - popular novelist offers copywriter tips

As a proponent of gallows humour, would Vonnegut be amused by a copywriter stealing his novel-writing tips?

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted

Like motivational speakers love to tell us – K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid.

People visit your website in the hope of finding some useful information, so tell them what they want to know immediately.

See how points 2, 3 and 6 are missing below? That’s because they are irrelevant to copywriting and will only waste your time.


4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action

No fluff. Stop padding. Don’t be governed by imaginary word counts.

Tell your story as quickly as possible. See point number 1.


5. Start as close to the end as possible

No one cares about the complete life story of your business when they drop by to find out about a specific product. Save that for your ‘About us’ page.

And even then you should keep it short, and razor sharp. See point 1.


7. Write to please just one person

If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Know your audience, their needs and how you can help. Content marketers call them “personas” – the specific people each article or document is supposed to to target.

Whatever you call it, make sure your copy speaks directly to your prospective customers.


8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible

Kurt Vonnegut continues, “To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”

Guess what – your customers don’t have time to waste on fluffy prose and extended intros. Just tell them what they need to know as quickly as possible. See point number 1.


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