Here are a couple of my personal rules about writing copy:
1) Be true to your format in your tone and content. Web content should be informal and conversational. Press releases and direct marketing need to get to the point and be absent of jargon. Advertising needs to be catchy but not so clever it’s annoying.
2) Be clear and concise. This applies across the board. No one wants to wait for you to circle around and discover your point. People might not be rude enough to walk away from you or hang up on you, but they will certainly stop reading.
3) Be respectful of people’s time. I have better things to do with my time than read about what is important to someone else. Convince me it’s important to me within the first few lines, please!
4) Be real. Sound like a real person and think about what appeals to real people. If you wouldn’t be convinced by your gimmick or special offer, why would a “random” stranger be?
5) Understand who your audience is and where they are likely to be. If you are publicizing the launch of a new IT company, send your press release to an IT reporter and use language complicated enough that it sounds like you know what you are talking about but not so dense that someone who doesn’t know IT won’t understand. If you are talking to 14-18 year olds, use their jargon and social media as a medium. The same goes for any specialty group – and EVERYONE is a specialty group – so take the time to think about this.
6) Understand what your audience wants to hear. Reporters look for hooks that they can turn around and convince their editors of so give them a hook (in the first few lines of a press release). People should (hopefully) want what you are selling so tell them what it is and why they want it (immediately). Web browsers need something to catch their attention so be interesting.
7) Proofread! If you spell it wrong, misuse words or use slang out of context, it’s over. If you aren’t sure about something, check it first! Once it’s out there, it’s too late.