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How to write anything: foot to the pedal, we’re taking a shortcut

Here’s the fastest way to improve your writing, or master any writing style

If you want to master a particular writing style, there’s one proven technique said by many to be the fastest and possibly most effective method going.

It’s a technique that can be used to master anything, from writing in the style of a particular author, matching a writing voice, or learning how to create copy for specific purposes, such as sales pages or advertising.

What’s more, it’s possibly the simplest and cheapest method you could ever hope to find. You don’t need books, or courses. It takes only minutes to learn. And you don’t even need a computer.

You don’t need books, or courses. It takes only minutes to learn.

All you need is a pen and a piece of paper, plus some text that you would like to emulate. That could come from one of your favourite writers, or from a great sales page, or from a newspaper, magazine – any piece of writing that you really admire.

You take the original text, and you write it out by hand. Again and again. As many times as seems necessary. Once is helpful. Doing it five times or more is better still. If you really want to master the secrets of how a piece of text was put together, you keep going, writing it out by hand until it seems like its part of you.

It’s great way, for example, to learn the rhetorical tricks and techniques used by master writers, or to get a feel for how they express their ideas using a unique voice. This technique won’t necessarily give you full conscious awareness of the writing techniques being used in the original. But you will learn the lessons on a deeper level.

Write it out by hand. Again and again.

If you want to emulate one of the great writers of fiction, or a master prose stylist, then this is an immensely rewarding, and enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

It’s also one of the fastest ways to learn how to write effective copy for use in advertising, sales and marketing environments. It is method recommended by Ted Nicholas in his book Magic Words That Bring You Riches, and by Maria Velosa in Web Copy That Sells. Maria writes:

In web copywriting, the best way to model success is to select a website that you admire greatly and that you know has produced tons of sales for its owner. Start copying it by hand. Write the entire sales letter out in your own handwriting. Write it out two or three times over the next week. Depending on how fast you write, this will take roughly five hours—less if you write quickly or if the sales let- ter you choose is short.
This takes a lot of discipline, not to mention time, but I assure you, it is worth the effort. You will not know the value of this until you do it. It’s positively eye-opening.

So, if you want to emulate any writing style, from the directness of web sales pages to the high rhetoric of the greatest prose stylists, the shortcut is to take out your pen and paper, and get copying by hand. Give it a try, a let me know your thoughts if you can. I’d be interested to hear how you got on.

Photo by e_walk via flickr.
{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Mits June 25, 2010, 9:40 am

    This is a great tip, I will definately be giving this a go — instead of handwriting can you substitue pen and paper for MS Word

    • Simon June 28, 2010, 10:43 am

      You could simply type into a word processing programme if you wish. It can do no harm. But the general consensus is that it’s not as effective as writing things out in your own handwriting. There’s probably something subtle going on between the brain and the act of handwriting.

  • Ross McCulloch July 2, 2010, 4:09 pm

    This strikes a chord.
    As a fledgling copywriter, I’ve often sat thumb twiddling waiting for the Muse to call, only to hear the Avon Lady calling.
    Thanks for the handy hint.

  • John November 1, 2011, 5:06 am

    Are you aware of any studies that show benefits to writing things out by hand first (e.g. speeches) as opposed to writing using the computer?

    • simon November 1, 2011, 11:04 am

      John – sorry but I don’t know of any studies. All the ‘evidence’ I’ve come across is actually anecdotal. But I’ve seen it attested to by a number of professional writers. I suspect it’s simply to do with levels of attention. You can type something up and barely read what’s in front of you. Writing longhand is slower and I think you pay more attention to the words.

  • zeeshan taj March 4, 2012, 8:09 am

    it sounds good……but a bit time-taking activity….

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