Steal My Secrets: How I Do “Uppercuts”

How I Do Landing Page Copywriting Uppercuts - Punchline Conversion Copywriting

Hello and welcome back to the latest edition of Steal All My Secrets (I’m Literally Banking on the Fact That You Won’t)!

ohhhh shit

Ohhhhh shit

Today, I’m gonna show you exactly how I perform the black-magic combination of rewriting and editing that I call an Uppercut.

What’s an Uppercut?

Uppercuts are my most popular productized service.

They’re custom-written improvements to existing landing or sales pages that need some love — both on the overall optimization side (think structure, layout, and design) and on the copy side (think tone, messaging, and personality).

They’ve been called “copy wizardry” by happy clients, and “black magic fuckery” by impressed/jealous copywriting peers.

Here’s what my most recent Uppercut client had to say:

Hi L, great job — the more I read it the more I like it! Def got my money’s worth. I really did get a lot of value from this. Specifically, it is a solid balance between humor and professionalism, nice job of cutting the fluff, loved a lot of the rewording as it helped clarity.” 

Steal my process! Here’s how I do Uppercuts

Step 1: Structure

The very very first thing I do when starting an Uppercut is enjoy a 15-minute roll on a bed of crisp 100-dollar bills, cackling to myself.

money is so great

“They paid me! I’m a real boy now!” I crow to my mother, who is confused about how I turned out this way

The next first thing I do is  look at the structure of the page.

I ask:

  • Does the page meet prospects where they are, and speak to their exact stage of awareness?
  • Are the messages on the page in a logical order? Do they mirror the progression of thoughts the reader is likely to have?

If the answer to any of those questions is “Lol nah,” the structure needs fixing.

At this stage, I’m doing quick-and-dirty restructuring — cutting and pasting messages where they need to be, and adding placeholder headlines and subheaders. Like so:

This is so meta

If this is too meta to follow, I am very sorry and I did it on purpose.


HOT TIP: If you’re using both headers and subheaders, you’ve probably accidentally hidden the REAL benefits in the subheader. Try swapping them.


Once I’ve got the basic section structure down, I apply the same process to the body copy.

Because people write how they think — and we frequently forget things and remember them later— there tends to be also be some disorganization and repetition in the body copy.

Like I do with sections, I’ll cut body sentences and paste them where they need to be to improve the logical flow of the copy.

Then, I insert placeholders and/or highlight spots where I know I’ll need more information or transitions between sections. Voila:

You’re getting a sneak peek at a blog I haven’t finished yet! Lucky you.

Sometimes, people overlook structure in favor of focusing just on smaller line edits. That’s a mistake. Restructuring can help you take advantage of HUGE opportunities to clarify your offer.

Here’s what another client had to say after she saw the radical restructuring I did to her page:

Lianna,

Oh my. You slayed right through the copy and it looks so different but still using the copy and adding your tweaks to it. I had to noodle it over for a day. The first day, I was in shock (in a good way). The second day when I read over it I understood what you did with the structure. Soooooo, a BIG “THANK YOU” for your feedback and your help with restructuring the copy!

Step 2: Hone Messaging + Fill Holes with Swiped Copy

Once I’ve got the structure of the page all fixed up, it’s time to make sure the copy matches what the prospect is thinking.

Before I start working, I ask my fabulous clients to share me on any qualitative customer research they’ve got — things like survey responses, interview answers, customer service logs, etc.

These sources are a G-D goldmine of insight into the words that prospects need to read in order to identify and trust the copy.

Plus, they’re chock-full of descriptive, “sticky” phrases that can go straight into the copy verbatim.

For example,from research for a mattress manufacturer:

“After a year of playing Goldilocks and trying out beds at every mattress store in the Salt Lake Valley we stumbled on [CLIENT NAME]…” 

And from research for a veterinary pharmacy:

I wish you guys were my primary care and not just for my dogs ☺” 

 

^^^^ These tasty morsels are pre-written copy.

Insert them into the spaces you’ve left open to assuage fears, explain specific benefits, and persuade prospects.

Step 3: Punch That Sh** Up

This is the fun part! After the restructuring and message-honing, it’s time to make the page copy stand out from competitors.

stand out

There are many ways to stand out from the crowd. Laser eyes are two of those ways

 

I punch up copy in two ways: by making sure it has its own voice, and by adding humor where appropriate.

First, give the copy its own voice

“I hate to admit it, Lianna,” you say, glancing furtively around the coffee shop. “The truth is that ‘voice’ is one of those things I always reference, but I couldn’t really define it even if you held a NERF gun to my head.”

I’ll save my darts for the next guy, ‘cause I got you, fam!

In her excellent guide on writing voice, Abbey Woodcock defines voice as made up of three parts:

– Tone — The copy’s emotional background or inflection, AKA where the copy is coming from. Tone can be excited, gloomy, sarcastic, angry, you name it.

– Cadence — The rhythm created by the copy’s sentence length and variety

– Vocabulary — The words your copy uses to convey meaning

So, when I’m punching up copy line by line, I’m essentially:

– Matching the copy’s emotion and inflection to the way the client wants to come off, and/or the way they’d like the reader to feel

– Varying sentence length so the copy doesn’t feel endlessly monotonous or — on the other end of the spectrum — choppy and interrupted

– Using casual and accessible language wherever possible, so the copy is easy to read

Then, add humor where it matters

As you might expect from a company named “Punchline,” I’ve got a loooot to say on the topic of humor.

One face-palmingly easy way to inject your page with humor? Add a GIF. Here’s how to identify where you should use GIFs, and how to pick the right one.

If you want to know even more about being funny on paper, read my post for Autopilot: 10 Easy-As-Pie Punchups for Warmer, Funnier, More Personable Copy.

Finally, I explain with a video walkthrough

I rarely send *just* a GoogleDoc to clients, even if I’ve worked with them before.

Instead, I’ll make a 5-10 minute video walkthrough to explain how and why I’ve reworked the page. THEN, I’ll link ‘em to the GoogleDoc — so they’ve always got context for changes that might not be immediately intuitive at first glance.

Nope, my face is not featured in the videos. Which is fine, because by this point it’s wan, puffy, and haggard, like 95% of the GOP.

Uppercut delivery video still

Actual still from an Uppercut delivery video, with client name obscured because I am an international spy

Clients love not having to figure things out for themselves. Here’s what the client above said:

“I just watched the video and quickly scrolled through the notes. I’m definitely going to start implementing these starting this afternoon. Great idea with the video response. Thanks for that.”

Congrats! Now you know all my secrets and you don’t have to pay me. Wait… what did I just do??

As for me, after a long day doing Uppercuts for all sorts of businesses, from motivational speakers to sugar-dating profile writers, it’s time to slink back to my bed of Ben Franklins (which is much less comfortable than a real mattress, but gratifying in other ways).

Are you gonna try my Uppercut process? Leave a comment and let me know how it works for you!

Or…

New Orleans Style Guide for Editors

Snowball
Snowball photo by Megan Braden-Perry @megandoesnola.

Po’boy or po-boy? Snoball or snowball? Y’all or ya’ll? (That last one, y’all should know already. It just makes sense.)

Living in New Orleans offers about 100 million opportunities per day to correct someone’s spelling. As a copy editor for several local publications, I get paid to do it—but I’ve been party to a few disagreements about the correct spelling of NOLA-centric names.

So, recently, I’ve developed a New Orleans Style Guide for editors, and others in my shoes. It was the right thing to do, being a native and all.

Feel free to disagree with it, or tell me I’m ignorant or wrong or ill-informed—just don’t accuse me of being inconsistent.

Here we go, in no particular order:

  • po-boy. I’ve always been a fan of hyphenating this name for the world’s most delicious genre of sandwich. You’ll often see it spelled “po’boy,” “po’ boy,” or “poboy,” given its origin as a “poor boy” sandwich–but I think the hyphen gives the two words a nice, even weight. It’s how we say the word: PO-BOY (emphasizing both syllables).
  • yat. When used in a question, such as “Where y’at?” this lowercase term takes an apostrophe. However, to refer to native New Orleanians, capitalize and remove the apostrophe: Yat.
  • snowball. Despite what the various tractor-trailers around town may call these icy treats (“snoball,” “sno-ball,” “sno’ball”), I stand by its most sensible spelling.
  • go-cup. Don’t you dare call it a “geaux cup”. That’s just straight-up foolish.
  • N’awlins. No one says this. No one writes this. Do not say this. Do not even think it. The closest a real New Orleanian will come to pronouncing our city’s two names as one is “N’Orleans”.
  • shrimp. Not “prawns”. Similarly, if you ever change “crawfish” to “crayfish,” you should immediately move back from whence you came.
  • fa’ sho. I’ll allow a little leeway on this affirmative expression meaning “for sure”. “Fo’ sho” and “fasho” would also be acceptable.
  • yerdmeh? Sadly, this remarkable expression cannot go into print as rendered, since a copy editor’s entire job is to make text readable/understandable by a wide group of people (and other places outside of New Orleans do exist) . Change to “You heard me?”
  • Uptown. This neighborhood designation should be capitalized. But if you capitalize “Downtown,” you are the worst. I’m not sure why, but that’s okay–lots of stylebook rules have little to no reason behind them.

Should I think of any more outrageous transgressions, I’ll update this list. NOLA editors, feel free to add yours to the comments!

How Copy Editing Makes the World Better

Terror-Eyes
Terror-Eyes seek out and destroys your typos!

Sometimes I feel like Atlas, using both hands to keep the world from getting stupider.

Just kidding, y’all. I have long been a natural copy editor–constantly pointing out typos, missing words, and incorrect punctuation wherever I see it (and I see it everywhere).

To a lot of people, copy editing seems like nitpicking. LET ME TELL YOU WHY IT’S NOT.

Copy editing pays (my) bills.

Aaaand on to the next one.

Copy editing improves reading comprehension.

People understanding what they read is pretty much super-pivotal. How many times have you tried to read the impossible “English” on product packaging and been completely enraged by its obscurity?

Or have you ordered breakfast from a badly written menu, and received something other than what you were expecting?

Oxford orange
Haaaaaaa, get it?

Copy editing makes text as perfect as it can be.

For anyone who appreciates the sheer beauty of words, this is a crucial consideration. There’s nothing like getting into the flow of a piece of writing, and having a typo or missing word straight-up donkey-kick you out of your Reading Rainbow reverie.

Beauty is important. Copy editing, in its small way, helps preserve beauty. [Click to tweet]Tweet: Beauty is important. Copy editing, in its small way, helps preserve beauty. - @theenglishmaven http://ctt.ec/M47X7+

Copy editing preserves the English language.

Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, in all of its truthiness, here is the crux of the issue. English is a living language, yes. But like all living things, it can only take so many unceremonious gut-punches before it shudders and dies.

Please stop misspelling “night” as “nite”. Please stop thinking “you’re” and “your” are synonymous. Please stop eliminating commas, one by one, from every sentence (though if it’s a stylistic choice, I’m down for that. But you have to be doing it on purpose; most people are not).

And please understand that these things matter, for the reasons listed above.

I’m not casting myself as the last, valiant defender of a dying art–but I am saying that if you speak to me in “abbrevs” one more time, I will break your laptop.

The “shameless plug” section

Did I mention I’m a copy editor, and that I offer Editor On Retainer packages so you never have to worry about provoking the anal-retentive rage of people like me? Get at me here.