Why You Should Ignore the Experts and Be a Copywriting Rebel

Always include a keyphrase in the headline.

Always include bullet points.

“How-to” or “list” posts are sexy and always get read.

Feeling like your copywriting career is dictated by too many rules?

Well, this is your permission to break them.

Assuming you’re experienced enough to know how.

Most copywriters start their careers by closely following the copywriting rules. They devour the books by Bob Bly, read sources like Copyblogger –  maybe even read this blog – and pattern their writing style accordingly.

Heck, I did the same thing.

My two biggest writing influences are Stephen King and Tom Robbins. For years, you could see those influences peeking out in my Web copy (which made for some strange – yet effective – sales pages.) I dotted every “i” and crossed every “t.”  I was a good girl copywriter – and good girls follow the rules.

And then I became a rebel.

I started doing things you weren’t “supposed” to do (like starting a sentence with “and.”) I experimented with styles, flow and voice. My writing style became less King/Robbins and more Heather.

You know what? It worked. My writing flowed effortlessly. The results were solid. The conversions were clicking. I was even happier with my writing – it felt fresher, more original, and more interesting.

I went from being a rules-following good girl into a copywriting rebel.

You can do the same thing.

How to find your voice and change your copywriting career

First, you have to know the rules to break the rules. That means hours of study, and even more hours dedicated to writing, testing, and working “in the trenches.” You can’t get around this. No, you won’t get to this point in a few months – this will take years. It’s OK. It’s part of your copywriting career growth.

Then, you have to understand your art enough to know the difference between what you can break, and what rules you should always uphold.

For instance, keyphrase-stuffing will never be an interesting way to grab the reader’s attention – or get in Google’s good graces. It’s just bad.  Writing a long-form Web page without paragraph breaks, subheadlines or white space isn’t “trendy” – it will make your readers’ eyes bleed.

Yes, you’ll want to experiment and test. Sometimes, your new way of doing things will kick ass. Sometimes, you will fail. This is normal. Embrace the process. If you want your writing to stand out from the crowd, that means that you’ll be shedding a little blood along the way.

Eventually, something magical happens. You will find your voice – not the voice of your mentor, your high school English teacher or your favorite author. It will be YOUR voice. And that’s a wonderful thing.

So, learn from the copywriting experts – and then blaze your own career path. Listen to their advice, evaluate it (is this necessary, or just a suggestion) and put your own stamp on the process.

Or in the words of Alastaire Allday “Forget everything you’ve heard. No, seriously. You’ll learn a lot more by doing than by listening. Make your own mistakes. Learn from them.”

What great advice.

Thanks to Alastaire’s post for today’s blogging inspiration.

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15 replies
  1. Abhishek says:

    Good One Heather. :)

    I also experiment a lot with different writing styles. But I enjoy writing less copy and headlines for articles & blog posts.

    I’m new to your site. But will keep visiting now on.

    Best wishes ! :)

  2. Katherine Andes says:

    Thanks, Heather. Sometimes I have felt guilty because, even from the get-go, I didn’t follow all the rules. Partly because I started my business when I was older and crankier. And it worked well. Now I can shed the vague guilty feeling I’ve had all these years …

  3. Heather says:

    LOL- yes, shed the guilt and be free! :) Isn’t it funny how NOT following the rules can work well? Ah, the things we don’t learn in school. :)

    Thanks for your comment, Katherine!

  4. Dean Rodgers says:

    The great thing about blogging is it BEGS you to break the rules. I’ve spent 20 years trying to keep my real voice from coming out too much, lest people would find out I’m actually not an uptight and boring corporate writer. How things have changed. Now I let my freak flag fly a bit. Very freeing.

  5. pjoee says:

    wee hee Ms.Heather. Now i know that experimenting with our own style is not actually going against the law :D You are my only inspiration in this field of copywriting. Hopefully some day I will be certified from you :)

  6. Alastaire Allday says:

    Just spotted this post – thanks for the link and the kind words!

    Good copywriters learn the rules. Then they figure out when to break them :)

    I’m a Stephen King fan too and one of the more interesting things about the way he writes is that he often doesn’t know how his books will end, or even what will happen in the next chapter, and that’s a big no-no in most creative writing teaching where you get told to plan, plan, and plan ahead.

    SK found a way of writing that worked for him, and that was all that really mattered.

  7. Breeza says:

    Breaking the rules will only give you more of a uniqueness and people wanting to follow you. Following the rules like a law is boring – find your own voice!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I’m even a copywriting rebel – because “following the rules” may not make sense 100% of the […]

  2. […] I’m even a copywriting rebel – because “following the rules” may not make sense 100% of the […]

  3. […] it is for your brand, your style of writing, or whatever, find your own voice and stay true to […]

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