A 9-step copywriter’s guide for taking effective notes

November 18, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

notes for copywritingMany people think of copywriting as a creative act. It’s true that all forms of writing fall into the general area of creativity.

However copywriting is creativity with a purpose. It’s all about crafting the right message, getting a profitable result, and meeting tight deadlines.

I’ve found that the key to efficient and effective copywriting is organization and preparation. And it all starts with taking good notes and organizing those notes into useful chunks.

Here are some tips on how to take good notes.

Collect all the information you need before you start writing. You can use my copywriting checklist to get you started. Having information at your fingertips will save you time and make your writing more specific and relevant.

Write your notes in a notebook. Yes, you could type them. But writing out notes in longhand forces you to slow down and focus your mind so that you can become familiar with the information. This is something I learned in a former life as a teacher. The physical act of writing helps you learn faster, with more retention and comprehension.

Categorize your notes. What I do is label each sheet of notebook paper with a description of the type of information, such as features, benefits, unique selling proposition, offer, guarantee, etc. Then I write notes on each page for just that specific category of information. This helps you get organized, plus it can help later on if you do thumbnail sketches. Sections of your thumbnail can match categories in your notes.

Write slowly and legibly. Notes won’t do you any good if you can’t read them later. You may want to hurry and finish, but you’ll actually save time by taking good notes and understanding all the details about the subject you’re writing about.

Write on one side of the paper. I know you want to save trees. But this isn’t the time to get conservative about how much paper you use. By writing on one side only, you can spread out your notes and see everything when you start writing copy.

Leave plenty of empty space. This lets you come back to each page to add notes that fall into that category. Again, don’t try to conserve paper. Use all the sheets you need to carefully organize the information.

Write notes in your own words. This forces you to think and understand the information. It’s too easy to fall into a daze when you’re just copying something verbatim. Taking notes is the beginning of the creative process, when you’re fishing around for how to express ideas clearly in a fresh way.

Don’t wordsmith anything yet. Yes, write your notes in your own words, but don’t get hung up on the exact wording. If a great phrase comes to mind, write it down. But keep the process moving. You’ll do your copywriting later on.

Review and edit your notes. Rewrite anything that’s not legible. Move information from one sheet to another if it fits better in another category. Make a list of any questions you have or additional information you need. Your notes don’t have to be pretty, but they do need to be clear and well-organized.

When you’ve collected and organized all your information, you’ll find that you are much smarter about the product or service you’re writing about. You may already have ideas about headlines and the concept you want to use.

I find that ideas come to me quickly when I follow this notetaking process. So I create a separate page for brainstorming. I write headlines. Doodle layouts. Try out different ideas. And before you know it, I’m diving into the copywriting phase of the project.

Do you have any notetaking tips of your own?

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Smart Comments

5 Comments on A 9-step copywriter’s guide for taking effective notes

  1. Joseph on Nov 18th, 2010 12:04 pm
  2. Dean, Thanks for the great post. I appreciate all of your copywriting tips.

  3. lawton chiles on Nov 18th, 2010 4:23 pm
  4. I sent a new client your marketing checklist-it freaked them out a little but got their brain’s going as to what they needed to fix.

    It showed that I cared, and that, well, that’s worth far more than any cool “changes” I could do for their copy.

    Thanks again, Dean.

  5. Become a Freelance Graphic Designer on Nov 20th, 2010 7:46 am
  6. Great blog! I have bookmarked your blog so I can come back to get updated helpful information.

    Thanks,
    Susan J

  7. Dean Rieck on Nov 20th, 2010 10:57 am
  8. Thanks, Susan.

  9. Codrut Turcanu on Apr 5th, 2011 3:03 am
  10. It never come into mind to re-write (review and edit) my own notes, but use them “as is” for whatever I’m working on. Valuable tips you shared today!

    Going to check your checklist now :)