Give your online copy the face-to-face test.

Read your online copy face to faceWhat do I mean by the face-to-face test? It’s simple.

When you have finished writing a draft of your copy, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable reading it out loud to one of your readers, face to face.

In fact, imagine someone from the audience you are writing to is sitting at your kitchen table, and you are reading your copy to him or her.

I suggest you get as close to this being real as you can. If you can get a family member or friend to sit across the table from you, so much the better. Look them in the eye and then start reading. Or hook up with someone through video on Skype. If there is nobody around to take on the role of your audience, find yourself a mirror and read your copy to yourself.

Completing this face-to-face test can improve your copy in three important ways.

1. It can help you cut out unnecessary hype.

It’s your job as a copywriter to be persuasive. You are being hired by your client to sell stuff. This is our craft. And very occasionally it makes sense to use hyped-up language as part of a fast-paced sales piece. But more often than not the use of hype is acting as a crutch to hold up some copy that simply isn’t good enough to stand on its own two feet.

This second breed of hype – the unnecessary kind – can quickly be revealed with the face-to-face test. Your listener might raise an eyebrow, as if to say, “Really?” For your part, you might suddenly feel a little awkward as you read it.

If you do feel a little awkward, that’s a sign that you need to go back and work on that section some more. Get it right, and you probably won’t need that breathless, hypey passage anyway.

The bottom line is that your copy isn’t ready until you can read it out loud to someone and feel totally comfortable about every line you read.

2. It can help you uncover weaknesses in the sequence and flow of your copy.

As you read your copy out loud, watch your listener’s face. Look for clues. If she is nodding her head and listening carefully, you’re probably doing fine. But if you see her suddenly frown, or looking lost, it’s probably because there was a break in the logic or sequence of what you’re reading. Don’t ignore that moment. Don’t assume that it’s her fault for not listening carefully enough. Because it’s your fault and nobody else’s.

Go back and figure out where you lost the thread, and fix it. Sometimes a break in the flow can be fixed with a quick edit or the addition of an extra line or two. At other times, that break in the flow is the result of a deeper, structural problem with the piece, and you have to start over from the beginning.

3. It helps you develop an approach to writing copy that builds trust.

I think most people online, at some point or another, have said something to someone, or about someone, that they would never say face to face. The online version of yourself isn’t always true to your real, flesh and blood self.

This happens with writing copy too. You can end up writing in a way that the flesh and blood version of yourself really wouldn’t feel comfortable about.

The surest way to find out if you have crossed the line is to use the face-to-face test. You’ll know right away if your voice doesn’t feel true.

Once you have trained yourself to always stay on the right side of the line, something interesting will happen. Your readers will sense that your voice is genuine and sincere. They will trust you and your copy more.

And there is a very solid correlation between the level of trust people feel and how willing they are to reach for their credit cards.

Wrapping it up…

In the days when we all wrote print, there was a much greater distance between ourselves and our readers.

Online, most of that distance – actual and perceived – has evaporated.

In addition, our audience of readers is no longer passive. They are online writers themselves, even if only on their Facebook pages. They know what bullsh*t smells like. And they recognize sincerity too.

As a result, people online are more responsive to a voice that feels honest and sincere, even when they are reading sales copy.

And the best way to figure out whether your copy will survive this new proximity between copywriter and reader is to try the face-to-face test.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.


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2 thoughts on “Give your online copy the face-to-face test.”

  1. Hi Nick,
    Thank you for delivering a version of this message at last week’s No-Hype Copywriting Telesummit. The feedback from the audience was enthusiastic. It looks like there’s a hunger out there for communication without bullying, exaggeration, manipulation or lies – both on the part of the communicators and the audience. The image of talking across the kitchen table aptly conveys the sincerity and tone needed in this alternate paradigm of marketing.
    Marcia Yudkin
    Director, No-Hype Copywriting Telesummit


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