In my experience, copy tends to receive far more scrutiny than design during the creative process. This makes sense for the simple fact that copy is literally telling the reader what the brand wants to get across. But how can you tell when copy is actually good or bad? Here are four tried and true signs that your copy is top quality – and how to manage it more accurately and efficiently.

1. Clear and concise

Is the copy easy to follow? If the casual reader can get through it and not get stuck, or worse – lost – you’re on the right path. And once you’ve found the right balance, save some of these as examples to follow in the future.

2. On brief

Is the copy hitting your creative brief? The copy should help you achieve your core objectives, be written appropriately for your target audiences, and should align with the creative direction that’s informed the overall concept.

For example, we were once tasked with updating the digital channels for a university’s student dining program. We were handed draft copy with headers like “Majestic meal options!” and “Oh – what a feast!” The copy wasn’t bad, but the headers weren’t quite geared to students. In response, we offered a new direction for the headers, such as “Budget bites,” “Sweet savings” and “Fast, fresh, affordable” – simple copy that hit the brief and aligned with students’ on-the-go mindset. 

3. Interesting to read

Are you pulled in? Intrigued and want to read through to the finish? Your copy should incorporate proven writing techniques as appropriate per the brief:


Several words grouped together that start with the same letter: Four founding fathers. Tingling taste buds.


No description needed, but be sure to use sparingly or it can read like a song: BOGO FROYO (buy one get one free frozen yogurt)


Like a basketball coach with ten seconds to focus the team: bring it home, bring it home, bring it home.

Variable lengths

Experiment with different sentence lengths, paragraph lengths – even word lengths. Predictability quickly results in boredom.


Strive to elicit emotions and speak to senses: Heart-pounding. Feverous and fast-paced. Calm, cool, collected.

Active over passive

“Joe did something” is always easier to follow than “Something was done by Joe.”

4. On brand/on guide

Many marketers associate brands with graphics – logos, colours, photography and illustrations – but when it comes to copy, certain choices are important to align with as well.

Do you have technical requirements around spelling, e.g., advisor vs. adviser? Do you have style preferences, such as fundamental vs. essential (one denotes a base, one denotes a requirement), supporting vs. guiding (one backs, one leads)?

When thinking about and incorporating some of the writing techniques in #3 above, watch for options that really help support your overall brand, or the product or service you’re writing for – and document it to help wash, rinse and repeat.

What to do with this information today

Start a tone and voice guide for your organization. Establish your technical requirements and style preferences, then elaborate by creating a list of “this, not that” – a way to specify the types of words your organization would prefer to use, or the tone you’re striving for to help represent your brand. Augment your tone and voice guide with examples that have worked in previous ads, emails, letters, etc. Your biggest enemy is a blank page, so write down whatever springs to mind and take one step at a time.

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