Marie Forleo introduction

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I'm Marie

You have gifts to share with the world and my job is to help you get them out there.

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Want to make a bigger impact with your copywriting in half the time?

Today on The Marie Forleo Podcast, learn three copywriting exercises to transform long, rambly sentences into copy that’s powerful and to the point. Iconic brands and prolific writers use these strategies to dazzle readers and skyrocket sales — and now you can too.

Practice these copywriting exercises often and you’ll be able to:

“I wish they took LONGER to get their point across.” ~ No one, ever. Learn 3 steps to write short, powerful copy →  https://bit.ly/3copytips Click To Tweet

Ready to ditch your writing insecurities and become a better copywriter? Hit play below or listen on your favorite podcast platform. 

(Warning: this episode contains magical singing from yours truly. #sorrynotsorry.)

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Check out this episode on The Marie Forleo Podcast

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Transform Your Sales Copy With These 3 Copywriting Exercises

Worried that you’re scaring away potential customers with long, boring sales copy? You’re not alone. We surveyed over 20,000 people about their writing habits and 33% struggle with being too wordy and long-winded. Use these three copywriting exercises below to write stronger, more concise copy — in half the time.

Copywriting Exercise #1: Write A Shitty First Draft That’s Waaaay Too Long.

I know, I know. You want it to be short and powerful right off the bat, but that’s not how writing works. If you want to become a better copywriter, practice getting all your ideas down first. Best-selling author, Anne Lamott, calls this your “shitty first draft,” because that’s exactly what your first attempt is — shitty. The first step in the writing process is to get it out on the page, not get it perfect.

Key point: Just write, don’t edit. 

Why? Because writing and editing are two different functions. Doing both at the same time will only slow you down. Write the shitty first draft and trust that the copywriting magic happens when you spend time editing and polishing.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples:

  • The Continental Congress made 86 changes to Thomas Jefferson’s first draft of The Declaration of Independence.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote 47 endings to A Farewell To Arms.
  • Marion Roach Smith submitted her essay Spam Chop Suey to NPR after draft 45!

Copywriting Exercise #2: Write It Rude.

Politeness leads to long-windedness. If you’re trying too hard to make everyone like you, your writing will suffer. You’ll add all kinds of unnecessary parentheticals and word softeners to your message, which will make it bland and forgettable.

Writing it rude will help you write more
effective sales copy, faster and clearer. 

These iconic ads are the perfect example of writing it rude:

  • Got Milk? — They didn’t say, “Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but I’m just wondering whether you have some milk?” No! They kept it short and sweet.
  • Just Do It. — Nike didn’t write, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you did it?” Or, “We strongly suggest that at your earliest convenience, you do it.” Instead, they wrote. “Just Do It,” and the rest is history.

To be clear, writing it rude doesn’t mean keeping it rude. Use this copywriting exercise to zoom past your inner critic and say what you want to say, without a filter.  

Copywriting Exercise #3: Trim the Fat.

Once you have a shitty first draft that contains the essence of what you want to say, it’s time to edit. Cut as many words from your copy as you can without losing the meaning. Be ruthless. Lose every unnecessary word, adverb, and cliche.

Here’s a quick editing trick: use your document’s find and replace tool to cut common “filler words” like the following:

  • Just
  • That 
  • Really/very
  • You can
  • Start

Want to see some copyediting in action? Here’s an example from our flagship copywriting program, The Copy Cure.

BEFORE:
I firmly believe that everyone is fully capable of writing their own copy and developing their own truly unique voice, as long as they have the necessary knowledge of how to implement certain techniques, which I am about to share.
AFTER:
Everyone can write. Everyone can develop a voice. All it takes are these simple techniques. 

In our writing program, The Copy Cure, we show you how to trim all the extra words (and include a list of words to avoid at all costs) so your writing is tight and powerful. 

Today’s Insight Into Action Challenge

Now I’d love to hear from you. Today’s question has two parts:

  1. What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?
  2. Try one of our 3 copywriting exercises to something you’ve written: a sentence, tagline, or headline. Share your before and after in the comments below!

If you feel like you write like a robot or keep telling yourself, “I suck as a writer” remember this: writing isn’t rocket science. It’s a learnable skill anyone can develop. 

Use these exercises and keep going. Because the world really does need that special gift that only you have.

With enormous love,

XO

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56 comments

  1. Jerry

    How do u write funny?

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      That’s a great question! It may help to consider the writers that make you laugh and study their work to see what they’re doing with content, pacing, etc. that creates the humor you appreciate. There’s so much to be learned from those who have gone before us.

    • Hey. Jerry. I used to hate my posts on social media–and I am a professional copywriter. So I prayed for help and got a diving insight: check Google. Which I did, and in short order found a nifty little article which was the distilled wisdom of 2 old school comics. They said, start a sentence, and end it with a twist. Now people like my comments more, some of them cackel at them, (not on linkedin), but Facebook. Give it a try. Find your own comic genius. Hope it helps. 😉

      • Jerry Jean

        Thanks, Chet and Mandy

      • Love that, Chet. …”start a sentence, and end it with a twist.”

  2. I love those techniques, thanks for sharing. What usually happens with me is I get super attached to the first draft because I take so long in writing it and I find it hard to “trim” even a single word. Thank you Marie for always being so inspiring ❤️

    • Me too…
      It’s even hard to change it… and it not only about copy… when it comes to short stories I feel like I can’t change anything… :/

    • Kate - Team Forleo

      Hey Muna, we’re so glad these techniques are helpful! Elizabeth Gilbert talks a bit about attachment to work and how to shift from seeing your writing as your own to seeing it as something for the world. You can check out Marie’s interview with her here: https://www.marieforleo.com/2015/09/elizabeth-gilbert-big-magic/

      I hope this helps!

  3. My biggest struggle when it comes to writing is that I want to write in English and it’s not my first language.
    I created a FB group, “Non-Native English Writers,” to connect with fellow writers who are non-native English speakers but prefer to write in English, and it’s been helpful to have a community of people who are in a similar place.
    These tips are useful, Marie, I’ll try them the next time I write a blog post.

    • I tried to write in English on insta… and there is so many question in my head… that it’s make writing imposible 🙁

      I made link to insta not to website 😉 in this comment.

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      You write so well in English, Teodora! I wouldn’t have known you weren’t a native speaker.

  4. How to write to publishing houses? How to make them believe in story you wrote?

  5. Jen

    What are the key differences between the different types of writing that are needed for content writing for websites, copywriting, and book writing?

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      Good question, Jen! Typically writing for websites and copywriting is to encourage someone to take an action you want them to take (for example, buy your product, sign up for your email list, etc.), so those types of writing are oriented around the ultimate action you want the reader to take. For books, it really depends on what kind of book you’re writing. Poetry and fiction can entertain, nonfiction can educate, etc. I hope this helps!

  6. Thank you Marie, so helpful! My main problem is staying on point. When I sit down to do my shitty first draft, my mind wanders in so many different directions. My writing loses focus and becomes watered down or wanders off-topic completely. Outlining doesn’t help, or if I do outline, I call an “audible” and decide to change it up midway through (about 1,000 times). So at the end of a writing sesh, I’, left with a bunch of random thoughts or lines of copy that don’t connect and I am afraid to delete them because I don’t want to “lose” them and try like hell to squeeze these thoughts into my copy, but remains a tangled mess. Please help!

  7. Alyson

    These are great tips, thank you so much!

  8. Juhanna

    English is not my first language, and I have some questions…
    1. What words can I use instead of “you can” or “start” or “just”? Never knew those were filer words. And don’t I need them in my copy if I’m to write like I talk?
    2. I’d prefer to use “tight and strong” copy, but I worry that might disrupt my current communication style with my clients. I feel like it would make my copy(or writing voice) suddenly too bad-ass-y. If that makes sense.
    Any advice? Thanks so much!!

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      We encourage you to trust your gut on this, Juhanna! The goal is to write in a way that brings out your best self, so if your writing doesn’t sound like you then definitely consider what you can do to stay true to your voice.

  9. My biggest problem is finding subjects to write about for my blog. I’m hard on myself as to my choice of topics. But now, I’ll try writing a crappy first draft and see how it goes.
    Thanks for your podcasts. I really get something out of them.

  10. I have a loooonnnng list of those filler words…. But sometimes I’ve stared at the rambling so much I can barely see them anymore, so “Control + F to Find All” is my best friend <3

    I will be re-taking The Copy Cure again this year as it's been too long since I brushed up on my skills and applied them to my website!

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      Right on, Katy-Rose! We’ll be so happy to see you back in the learning portal 🙂

  11. How to identify the main take away from my article? I run a blog about Anxiety Management, when I write about something (e.g. procrastinating) I have SO many ideas on how to solve it that I don’t know which want to write about. Often my blog post get overflowed with many different ideas. Which make it difficult for me to identify the main take away .

    I fear my reader can get confused, which totally defeats the purpose of my blog. Please help!!

    FYI I am enrolled on the Copy Cure. I LOVE IT. I am still mid way to the end, but I have learnt so much! Thanks

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      Great question, Aracelys, and we’re thrilled you’re enjoying The Copy Cure! It might help to write down all the topics you want to cover, then break them down into smaller topics that you could write blog posts about so you can focus without overwhelm. For example, instead of writing about anxiety in general, maybe you want to dive into financial anxiety specifically, and under that umbrella maybe you want to cover anxiety around looking for a job, anxiety that comes with changing careers, how to manage the anxiety that comes when your budget is out of whack, etc. I’m just throwing ideas around; the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I bet Marie and Laura will have much more wisdom on this, so feel free to ask them during the coaching calls and Live With Laura sessions!

  12. Michele Marston

    Very applicable to resume writing too!

    • Mandy - Team Forleo

      So true! We’ll be cheering you on with your job search and hoping you find the perfect place for you.

  13. Jen

    My biggest writing issue is making it interesting while competing with all the “noise” from competitors or even better social media influencers. I want to be myself but it’s not easy when sharing content is a little vulnerable!

  14. Sherry Sink

    This is super helpful, thank you!!
    I’m definitely one of those long, rambling writers who get stuck trying to edit while writing that first draft, and then I second-guess each sentence. “Let it go” and treat it as a shitty first draft is great advice, but I also love “Write it rude.” So often I spend too much time trying to address every single option and every single person, when deep inside there’s a part of me that just wants to keep it simple and get to the point!
    Case in point, since you wanted an example: I’m trying to follow the StoryBrand guidelines and come up with a “one-liner” about my business. I’ve got a notebook page full of half-started sentences, words crossed off, and new sentences started, and feel like I’m getting nowhere. Basically I want to say I create focused, engaging websites, but my copy went on an on about structure and focal points and plans of action and strategic planning… it was a lot of yammering and I’m still trying to fine-tune it, but after hours of frustration, it really boils down to this:
    I create focused, strategically planned websites for business owners who don’t have time for this online shit. 🙂
    (I’m sure I’ll second guess that too because I’m not sure it pinpoints the sacred “ideal client” very well, I always have such trouble with stating that, plus I worry that saying “shit” will offend some people. But at my core, that’s really what it boils down to, that I’m super happy to take on all the online shit, helping map out a clear and engaging website so that you don’t have to do it yourself. )
    But see how long it took me to say that?? Rambling. I have a lot to “let go.” 😉

    • Julia - Team Forleo

      Hey Sherry! This is definitely a solid starting place ?? What you’re experiencing is really common, and from what you’ve shared – it’s clear that you know who you can best serve! We absolutely walk you through exactly how to let go of those excess words to really connect with your ideal customer effectively in the full Copy Cure program, and I also think you’ll enjoy this episode of MarieTV on honing your brand voice:
      https://www.marieforleo.com/2014/07/your-brand-personality/

      Thank you so much for sharing your process here!

  15. My biggest issue is that have been thinking of writing for long now but i am just not doing it. I have many thoughts, however feel fearful to put it on paper for posting. Blogs, articles, book writing…want to all…but just not getting started. Feels like it is hell of a task! Feels i don’t write well…feels, i may not be able to express in writing. I also find choice of articles for blogs difficult. Let me take this challenge and write a long shitty, crappy first draft! Let me do it.
    Keep sharing more tips! Want to acquire this skill and get going with it now.

    • Julia - Team Forleo

      You are SO not alone in feeling this way, Shikha! Please keep experimenting with that crappy first draft 🙂 And also be sure to check out our top tips for overcoming writer’s block, I think they’ll really help you to keep writing, despite your common fears and blocks: https://www.marieforleo.com/2018/10/writers-block-writing-blocks/

  16. Amen to this episode that landed at the right time for me!
    I know about shitty first drafts: I’ve taken The Copy Cure, I’ve read Bird By Bird and still, it seems like I’m not cured!!
    Thanks for the reminder. After listening to the episode, I went back to my memoir and resisted editing this part 3 I still don’t get right, I added more ideas, printed the 1st draft and put it in my drawer. I’ll only edit it when done with parts 4 and 5. Second day working on part 4.
    Yeehaaaa!
    Thanks Marie, Laura and Team Forleo ❤️

  17. Thank you for the tips! I am writing too and find it hardest when starting a new article. But once you get past that, ideas just flow in 🙂

    • Ismeri -Team Forleo

      We’re glad you enjoyed it and hope those tips are helpful, Vivian! You’re so right — if you keep going the ideas will flow for sure:)

  18. Excellent tips, I have learned a lot here and applied these techniques on my blog.

  19. Thanks for the tips – I try to edit and do my first draft all at the same time. I will be putting the three tips into action – step 1: just write!

  20. Thank you! I love these! I always intuitively knew the first one, the shitty draft, which was the only way to get me going (I’m Miss perfectionist, so by telling myself to just write whatever comes out of my pen and it won’t be the final version helps me a lot!). But the second one!! Rude! YES!!!! so what I need!!;-)) Can’t wait to start the Copy Cure after I”m done with B-School. Love you guys!

  21. I cannot wait to implement these tips. Last night I was reading a local travel guide about these little towns surrounding Houston and I remember thinking “Wow! They make me want to visit my own suburb of boringness!” They literally made Pearland, TX, and Alvin, TX sound like a dream getaway. Now that is the kind of copy I need for my business! Haha!

  22. Maitri

    Oso Tips..! I implemented and it truly worked for me… Thanks 🙂

  23. I love these! Thank you so much. I’d love to hear more about how to throw humor into your copy. I LOVE HUMOR & laughing at great written copy… but feel like the most un-funny person when I write. (boring AF!) Help!

  24. Meri

    Thanks for the tips, Marie. They were short, to the point and practical.
    I’ve got a couple of questions.
    1. if I include such words as “that”, how many is too many in a copy? (per page)
    2. about “really/very”, should I eliminate only these exact words or synonyms of these as well, such as “actually, certainly” and etc.

  25. Short and straight to the point. Great reminder. Thanks, Marie!

  26. Love this – Write it Rude!
    I’ve been following the same principles in my copy and emails. It’s helped me a lot with getting my point across without fluff.

  27. I LOVE it! You give me confidence in my intuition! Cut the BS! Deffo the way to go! Thank you! You’re my business hero!

  28. Hi team, thank you for this fantastic post! Already excited for when the doors open next year. Went through this post and started revising my website copy. Biggest pain point? Figuring out ‘what is my voice’!? A continuously evolving process…

  29. reading is very important is culture, so live reading,https://bit.ly/2AQS93V

  30. you make me want to write a book marie

  31. Please How do I make my writing grab attention to my blog?

  32. Awesome article. I liked: “Ready to ditch your writing insecurities and become a better copywriter?” And indeed your articles give confidence. You are doing a great job!

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