Three great copywriting quotes (and what they mean)

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I recently came across a fantastic little book called Instant Inspiration for Copywriters, by R. Scott Frothingham. It’s packed with thought-provoking quotes from eminent copywriters. And that’s it!

Many of the quotes tell a much bigger story, so I’ve selected three and given them more context. I hope you find this useful.

“The more your copy sounds like a real conversation, the more engaging it will be.”

- David Garfinkel -

If you’ve been around copywriters before (or you are one), you’ll have heard the recommendation to ‘write as you speak’. Too many people become formal and dull when they start to write. And yet, to hear them speak is a different matter.

Why is this?

Personally, I blame the English teachers. But they’re only working to official guidelines I suppose. Writing grammatically correct English is not the same as being a copywriter.

Good copy engages your reader. What’s the point in writing something nobody wants to read? And words without a reader is like putting tape over your mouth.

You get the gist.

So, how do you write like you’re having a conversation? How do you write as you speak?

Firstly, start writing for one person only. Not the masses. Like I’m writing to you.

You’ll notice I’m using the first and second person. For the layman, that’s ‘I’, ‘We’, and ‘You’. None of ‘The company believes this’ and ‘The customer requires that’, which comes from using the third person.

It’s warmer and more engaging. Yet, still professional. Copy that's written in the first and second person is just nicer to read.

Here’s a great tip for you. Record yourself saying what you want to get across in your copy. Then play it back, or better still, transcribe it. From this, you can write copy that’s far more human and engaging.

Just try it. You’ll see the difference, I promise.

“Don’t tell me how good you make it, tell me how good it makes me when I use it.”

- Leo Burnett -

I’m going to be brutally honest. People aren’t especially interested in you or your product. What they really want to know is how it can help them be, and feel, better.

People read about your product (or service) because they have a problem. It might be a practical problem or more of an emotional problem.

  • They might want to become more productive
  • They might want to become more confident
  • They might want to build their sales

To put this into context: if you provide business software to SMEs, their problems are likely to concern inefficiencies and errors. Perhaps a feeling of being out of control.

What if you told them that fundamentally, your software could give them back the control they need? What if you promised to transform their business into a slick operation, free from silly errors? Oh, and give them time to focus on other things.

Being benefit-focused is far more compelling than relying on features alone. Whilst the compatibility of your software, or the integration potential, is helpful to know, they really want to understand how this will make their life different – the benefit.

So, always think benefits first.

If you fancy learning a bit more around this issue, read my blog: Why benefits are more compelling than features.

“Nothing sticks in your head like a story. Stories can express the most complicated ideas in the most digestive ways.”

- Sam Balter Junior -

It turns out the world has been built on a pile of stories. For generations.

People love stories. It starts soon after you’re born. The bedtime story, the fairytale, children’s TV. And it carries on as we grow up: books, films, computer games. You name it, there’s a story in it.

You’ll have a central character (some say, the ‘hero’) and there’ll be someone to guide them. Around them, there’ll be other characters, but we’ll ignore these for now. The ‘hero’ will have a problem or a challenge. The ‘guide’ will help them overcome it.

Ok, so this is really basic, but you can see how it works.

Creatives have realised the power of a good story. If we’re wired to engage with good stories, why not use them in business?

When someone reads a story where the ‘hero’ has the same challenge as them, it’ll quickly grab their attention. Far more than your salesperson telling them how you can help.

And this is where the strength of customer stories comes from. Stories format the information you want to get across in a way the reader understands. And if they can identify with the central character – the hero – all the better.

Remember: your customer is the hero. You’re their guide.

Want to read more about customer stories? Start with my blog: Why a good story (or two) can grow your business.


Three quotes, three contextual explanations. There are hundreds of quotes in Scott’s book. It’s certainly an inspiration for any copywriter or businessperson trying to improve their own copy.

Need a hand with your business copy? Please do get in touch.