How to edit for believability (Sweeps 3 + 4)

Presented live on Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017

Register for our next tutorials

So you’ve done the clarity sweep and the voice-and-tone sweep. Things are starting to come together in your copy edits. And now comes the easy + fun part: the So What and Prove It sweeps. In this Tutorial Tuesday, the original conversion copywriter Joanna Wiebe walks you through how to do these important sweeps.

Joanna is writing in Airstory, the beautiful drag-and-drop document platform. 


Joanna Wiebe:                     Okay. Good morning! Good afternoon, depending where you are. Good evening even, depending on where you are. Joanna here from Copy Hackers and Air Story, I am joined by Ms. Sarah Dlin. She is here if you have any chats or anything as we go through this morning’s Tutorial Tuesday. Today is Tutorial Tuesday. Then just feel, you’ll be probably chatting with Sarah. She just said, hello to everyone.

Cool. Okay. So, welcome. Today we are talking about the third and fourth out of the 7 sweeps, which are the editing sweeps you do when it is time to take your first draft and turn it into something better. It might be your second draft, could be your one that’s marked final. Whatever it is when you are going through the editing process before publishing, it is time to the 7 sweeps.

People who are saying hi, and happy Thanksgiving, which is very nice. Yes, happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans and those celebrating Thanksgiving. Yeah, Sarah I think just chatted over that we had ours in October, Canadians have Thanksgiving in October, but we get to enjoy all of your Black Friday and cyber Monday sales. Thank you for those. That is awesome.

Quick housekeeping. Yes, we are recording this. You can chat over any comments you have as we go, any quick questions as we go, but if you want a question answered be sure to put it in the Q&A area. That way at the end of this, we will go ahead at the end of today’s tutorial, I will go in there, and move through all the questions and take them at that point. If you have a question, throw it in Q&A, everything else can go in chat. If anything goes wonky, and I’m suddenly robotic, or the screen goes wack or something like that, just give it a second, it’s probably an internet thing, we are like streaming live over the inter webs. Yeah, just give it a second and let it refresh or let things just come back online and we should be a-okay.

Cool, so I know I say this every time, but today’s Tutorial Tuesday is going to be very swift. I really think it will. Because these two parts of the seven sweeps they are kind of no brainers, right? Let me just quickly share my screen and we can like very quickly discuss. Desktop numero uno. Share a screen. The seven sweeps, you should be seeing my screen now, looks like you are. The seven sweeps again, are showing here on the screen, I’ll zoom in so you can see them better.

When we were doing the clarity sweep which we did two weeks ago, clarity is something that that is sometimes easier said than done. Like you need some explanation, like is it clear or isn’t it? Like when we’re talking about cardinal sentences and other things you can do to check on clarity, that kind of required a bit of a lesson, right? We had all of this information here for the clarity side of things. Same for voice and tone.

Voice is something that a lot of people have a lot of questions about, differences between voice, tone, mood, that kind of stuff people have questions about. It’s not that clear. The sweeps that we are talking about today, I hope it’s not just me who think they’re very clear and obvious, but I think that you’ll find that they are. That’s why today’s question won’t have a big front load end lesson side of it. It’s really just going to be like, let’s talk about what so what is, what prove it is, how they work together and let’s just dive in and start going through and sweeping.

I also have faith that this will only be 20 minutes today, what if it was even shorter? We could aim for that. Imagine getting time back. I love when meetings end early and you get time back.

Okay, so what and prove it. Very quickly, So What, when you’re going through and reading the copy that you’ve written, or the content if you’re doing this for a blog post, which it’s not designed for by the way, this is meant for copy writing or writing that’s meant to get [crosstalk 00:04:15] yes. When you’re going through, you’re reading line by line, really. I showed you like reading backward from end to beginning as a strategy too for different things. In this case, we are really just reading line by line and we’re asking ourselves in the voice of our customer, like put yourself in your customer’s shoes, you’re asking the question as the prospect who is reading the copy, question after every line is so what and prove it.

As we go through, we can look at the control again is right here, it’s this one. I can chat this over to you, it’s just a landing page for Asana when I search basecamp. This is the page that we’ve been working on. We want to go through that and as we’ve been doing, we had the control in here where we were highlighting stuff. Then as we’ve been sweeping it, we’ve been updating this swept version which would end up being your final version or if you need a lot of edits to it, it wouldn’t be your final version, it’d be the version just before final where you go through and make edits.

What we want to do with this is then go through, line by line and again, we’re just highlighting first. We don’t have to go in and fix things immediately. We want to go through and identify problems just by highlighting them and then wee can go back and fix them. Sometimes this will be like, especially if you are editing someone else’s work, let’s say you’re the marketing manager for a product and you have a copywriter writing a landing page for you. You go through it, your job as the editor is not to change things. Your job is to identify problems, or inaccuracies, or whatever that might be, and make sure that the copy writer sees them and addresses them. That’s your job as an editor. The copywriters job is to go in and fix them.

When we’re doing the seven sweeps we are doing it as the editor. We’re just going to go through and make those highlights to identify the problem or the opportunity and then afterword, you if you’re the editor/copywriter, you go in as the copywriter and fix it. If you’re just the editor, you don’t fix it, you just make sure the copywriter knows what’s up. Okay? Very clear distinction, editors do not have to do and should very rarely do the actual job of typing in the copy. Which is so hard for reviewers. I’m going to get off task if I keep talking about this, so I’m going to move back into so what and prove it. You now kind of get the distinction between what you do as an editor verses what you do as a copywriter.

Again, when we’re sweeping, we’re editing, so we just want to go through and highlight opportunities. So what, means again, so what. If I read each line, and I’m your prospect and I look and I go like, so what? Then that’s a problem. You need to fix that. Then the next question is, okay, prove it. Once you’ve got the so what handled, then comes the part where you add in proof.

Now a lot of people jump straight to social proof. They lead with social proof, they think it’s the most important thing. It is a very, very good thing. I think it’s a rookie move to jump straight to social proof. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers/editors, or whatever you want to call them who have jumped into, where’s the social proof? Where’s the testimonials? Lead with a testimonial, that kind of stuff. Where it’s just a rookie move. It’s not the point, you don’t have to lead with that unless your strategy is fully, we’re going to lead with all the social proof that we have. I just want to make sure that we’re not. That when you’re doing this work you’re not very quickly jumping into the whole, where’s the proof part?

Wait until you have your message clearly on the page, make sure your voice and tone, are accurate, are good, they’re on brand, and then you can get into the so what and the prove it, okay?

Proof, when we’re going through and we’re looking for the prove it side of it … So what is again, like so what? It’s a really obvious question to answer. So what? Why do I care? Why does this matter to me at all? Having a little tone about it can also be helpful when you’re going through. Don’t assume that everybody reading your copy is your mom, who is like, “Well done you. I get it. No I get it. You did a really good job. That was good.” Just assume that there’s a little bit kind of a so? Not that people are mean or angry, but they do need you to help them understand like, so what? Why do I care?

Proof for the prove it side of it can come in the form of social proof, absolutely. Social proof is of course a testimonial. Influencer proof is really, or authority proof is a testimonial from somebody who is a big authority. It can also be logos from companies that use your solution or trust your solution. Other forms of proof are demos themselves. If you have like a video demo that you could embed on the page or screen shots as well, you can put those in the page is proof, okay? You’ve got a variety of options for proof, it is not just testimonials proof definitely when you’re working on product pages in particular or pages for SAS, having screenshots of how features work, gifs of how they work, things like that, that’s really good proof, okay?

Now we want to go through, we want to have the ability to highlight where there are problems, or opportunities, or challenges, or whatever fancy word you want to use for it. We’re going to go through and we’re just going to highlight on so what. We’re going to start there and then we’re going to do prove it. Again, a sweep is a fast thing. I’m going a little slower because I’m walking you through it, but when you do it, go fast. Don’t get caught up on things that you don’t need to get caught up on frankly.

Okay, “Move Work Forward”, continues to be a pain in the ass as a headline, I can’t get passed it, it’s going to stay highlighted, this would be something that we would then go work on as a team, identify what’s wrong with it, how we can like get deeper into what it’s really trying to say, etc, etc. I would just leave that highlighted. I have to point that out, because every time we go back to this it’s still highlighted. This is all the way back from the clarity sweep.

“Asana is the easiest way for teams to track their work, complete tasks, and get results.” So what? We have the so what. Now with so what, sometimes the so what is baked into the message. You don’t have to be really, really, really, really hard on your messages when you’re doing this sweep. Know that sometimes it’s just baked in. We’ve got it and then sometimes it’s actually just solved. I’m going to show you one down the page where it’s like baked in. Where the so what is the message and that will make sense when we get there.

For now we want to say okay, do I understand why I should care about this? “Asana is the easiest way for teams to track their work, complete tasks, and get results.” So what? So what for me is answered in the “and get results”. Again, so what. Not prove it, yet. Just, so what. So what, I have nothing to worry about here, I’m not going to keep sitting on this, I’m just going to move forward, nothing in my opinion to highlight, just going to move on.

“Track projects from start to finish.” Now again, I didn’t mention this. When you’re going line by line, know that there’s like, everything’s taken in context, right? You don’t have to at the end of every single sentence or every little phrase that we have that has a period at the end of it, you don’t have to have a so what immediately after it. For best results, when you’re newer to copywriting, you should think of having a so what at the end of every statement. At least make sure you’re like holding that question in your head as you’re reading through your copy, but we’re talking generally about a block. If you had a message, like this “Track projects from start to finish”, we want to ask a so what for that.

If it got very long, there’s a big section, we’d want to ask more so what’s as we go through. Okay, again, the point is not to do the exercise just for the sake of doing the exercise, but to get to a point where your copy is actually more persuasive and that’s what the so what’s going to do. “Track projects from start to finish.” Okay, if we were to leave this at so what, we would ask this headline or this cross headband to say why that’s important. That’s what this body copy is for, right? “So your team’s responsibility and next steps are clear with Asana.”

Okay, if we ask so what, we would need a so what that follows. In this case, we’ve actually got a so what that’s a really obvious one, because it actually begins with “So”. “So your team’s responsibility and next steps are clear with Asana. So you can set lofty goals and actually reach them.” I still don’t have a problem, I still feel like we’ve got the so what covered here. Then we move on.

“Asana is trusted by teams everywhere. From companies with off the charts growth, to local businesses and non-profits, teams love Asana.” The so what … This is an example where the so what is already baked into the message and so what is the message. “Trust is not something that you have to unpack for people. They understand trust.” This might be somewhere where we have to show some really goo proof because you’re just making a claim that’s not about your features, not about anything that can be really, people can look at it and say, “Yes that’s absolutely true.” We have to make sure that when we do the prove it sweep, or we can already tell when we do the prove it sweep that we’re going to need to do something in this space to make sure that this whole message, which is all about so what, like why you should use Asana, here’s why. It’s not just about the features, it’s also because, look, it’s trusted by teams everywhere.

We don’t need a so what, because it’s baked into the exact message here. Moving on. “Finish short and long-term projects together. See how how creating and moving projects forward in Asana will help your team. You’ll know who is doing what and when they’re doing it.” So what? Now, I don’t think that this has the so what covered. “See how how creating and moving projects forward in Asana will help your team.” So what? Help my team so that what? Right? So what? What happens when my team is helped? We could say, well isn’t that the same as trust? It’s not, because you’re claiming that Asana will help your team.

You might think, well the average person will know why that matters, like helping my team, there’s an obvious so what there. We have to … I’m hesitating, I’m pausing around this area, you have to trust your instincts on this as well. You’ll know who is doing what and when they’re doing it, so what? So what? Like so what? So what if I know who is doing what and when they’re doing it? So what? What does that actually do for me in my life. That’s missing at this point, so I’m going to highlight the whole thing. Then we’ll go back through afterward, that will be the job when you’re actually doing editing, like hands on, the copyediting that comes afterward, that’s where we’ll address that. For now, we’re like okay, it’s missing a so what.

“Get started today. If you can make a list or send an email” and this is again highlighted still from clarity and the voice and tone one it’s just not sitting right with me. “Get started today” so what? If you can make a list or send an email you can use Asana, starting a team is really that simple.” So what? Can we answer so what? Is there an obvious so what there? Like so what? Why does this matter to me. “Get started today”, matters to you Asana. “If I can make a list or send an email, I can use Asana.” Okay, so what? Right? “Starting a team is really that simple.” This is a part where we can identify that this copy isn’t as strong as it could be. Because I’m sitting here as the prospect going, it’s not wrong, but it’s not right either. We’re not at a place where this is actually right. I’m going to highlight that and my job later will be to go back through and clean that up.

Three minutes left. I was totally wrong about getting this done in time.

We’re going to go through now and do the prove it. “Move work forward” again is just not even. Okay, “Asana is the easiest way for teams to track their work, complete tasks, and get results.” I need proof of that, right? “Asana is the easiest way for the teams to track their work, complete tasks, and get results.” Prove it to me. Easy is something that you’re going to have to prove to me here and also that you’re talking about teams and that they’re going to get results. In this case I would want “get results” to have something going on there. Prove to me that I’m going to results. That could be a data point, right? That’s another form of proof where you can say nine in 10 companies carve 20% off their project time. Whatever that is. You can’t just say you’ll get results and expect people to believe it. You can’t do that. You can try, it’s not the best practice.

Here I’m just going to add in the comment that’s like data proof to support. Okay, so now I know that for that. “It’s the easiest way for teams to track their work.” We’re going to want to talk here about proof of ease. If we want to say if we’re not sure if teams and tracking their work, if there’s like a need for proof there, we could go further there as well. Now this proof of ease, or this data proof to support might also address the whole team part of it. Because, again you are saying that this is for teams, not individuals. That’s like a whole other ball of wax, right? Working for teams verses working for individuals, there’s more complexity there.

We’re going to leave it for now, we’re going to start with this proof, knowing that we’ll go back through as we do these sweeps and we’ll go back through after every round of edits is done, until we get to the point where we feel really, like we’ve got all of the seven sweeps covered.

“Track projects from start to finish. Your team’s responsibilities and next steps are clear, so you can set lofty goals.” I need you to prove to me, prove it that my responsibilities and next steps are clear. I’m going to do gif to support. Right? We can then see actual responsibilities and next steps. If you put that into a gif, that’s great. I know that we’re short on time and I just want to make sure that you know that as we go through and do these, we’re going to move back up the sweeps after each round that we do. At that point we might find that there’s more ways to clarify and to make sure that we’re still getting voice and tone in there. This is why we don’t just move down the sweeps, but we move back up them after making edits too.

Okay, “Asana is trusted by teams everywhere.” This clearly needs social proof. That is these logos which it already has. I didn’t put those in the version that we have that we’re working on here, but we know that it’s covered, so I’m not going to worry about it. Because it’s already there in the live page. “Finish short and long-term projects together.” We have a basic page, a basic view that shows the interface, but is it saying, is it actually proving that you can create projects and move them forward? Is it proving that my team is going to feel helped by this tool? Is it proving that I’ll know who is doing what and when they’re doing it? No. It’s a perfectly nice screen shot, it might be good up here around easy, because it makes things look easy, but not entirely, right? It’s maybe more around like if your value prop was, it’s a clean design, this would be good proof for that. It’s clean, right? Learning curve is probably going to be pretty low on this one, because it’s easy to look at.

It’s not supporting this. It’s a sort of form of proof, or it’s trying to be, but it’s not doing the work. We want to add in, and in this case I also think, gifs can go a long way, videos as well, maybe auto play as well can go a long way. We want to make sure that people, I’m just going to go in here and just say gif to support this whole message.

Okay? Now we’re starting to get there. “Get started today. If you can make a list or send an email you can use Asana. Starting a team is really that simple.” There are two things happening there, you’re saying, if you can do this very simple thing, you can use Asana and starting a team is that simple. Those are two separate things. Starting a team has nothing to do with making a list or sending an email. “Starting a team is really that simple.” At this point, I don’t even know why they have that message in there. I’m starting to … Like if this were my page I would start to question like why are we even saying “Starting a team is really that simple”? What’s our message here?

“If you can make a list or send an email, you can use Asana.” We’ve already had a lot gif proof going down this page. The proof should be in getting started today since that’s the message.”If you can make a list or send an email you can use Asana.” Yeah. Is it proof by just get started, by having this in here? It might be that you’d need to have a little bit of an indication of what happens next. Like, “Next you’ll invite your team.” That way, our next deal import, something that where you’re saying, “It’s easy, starting a team is really that simple.” You have to prove the simplicity. If you’re waiting until they enter their information and get to the next screen to prove that simplicity, that’s a step too late. Because you have to make sure that they believe it before they actually take the leap and do it.

I’m going to put this in here as like, “Opportunity to prove that it’s easy to add team members. Possibly a click trigger,” that’s what we call the language or the copy that goes under or around a button, “around next steps re inviting team.” Ways to make it easy.

Okay, we’ve gone through and we’ve got our so what tackled, it’s 23 minutes, I’m sorry. Then we have our proof as well. Now we would go through and work with the copywriter or if this is yours you go back over it and start adding in the so what messages and then make sure that you have the right proof in there as well.

From there, once you’ve got that in place, then you go back to voice and tone. You check. The new testimonials we’ve added, are they on tone. Are they in keeping with the brand if there’s a crosshead that introduces them? Is the voice on or not. Then back up to the top to say, and is everything as clear as it can be? That again is where you can say, okay, well we’ve added the screenshot, or this gif, but it’s not actually really clear, like we might want to put a caption below it, or we might want to add some like highlighting in on the gif, so people really know what they’re supposed to be looking at, or we might want to zoom in on the gif so it’s a lot clearer what it is that I’m supposed to be paying to attention to.

That’s what you always want to do, you’ve done all four of these sweeps now. As you go through, remember, always work your way down and then back up, down and then back up. That’s how we want to move through it, okay?

24 minutes after the hour. I’m never going to hit the the 20 minute mark. I used to do it, but then I started talking too much. Hopefully that is clear for now at least and we’ve got the remaining seven sweeps. They won’t be next Tuesday, next Tuesday we have a different webinar that we’re hosting at this time. It’s on being a freelance copywriter, if you are a freelance copywriter watch for invitation to that. The following week we’re going to get into specificity which is my favorite heightened emotion and then zero risk.

Okay, I’m going to take questions. I’m just going to stop sharing that. Cool, cool, cool.

Okay, [Alesandra 00:24:10] says, are the sweeps good for newsletter copy too? Any special tips? Yes, they’re good for all copy. Just because you do the sweeps, when you do the sweeps, you’re bound to find that your copy is going to get longer. That’s okay. It’s okay if it’s longer because it’s hitting more of the persuasive marks that it has to hit. Go over it. Your newsletter copy might get longer. It’s also clearer, it’s also got real proof in it, people know why they should care about things that you’re saying. As we get into the remaining sweeps you’ll better understand, or better see how it is that this stuff will all come together and turn something that was a perfectly nice page of copy into something that is more likely to persuade or at least to make for a stronger AB test. Yeah, you can try it for newsletter copy Alesandra, I’m not doing that as the example that we’re working on across these, but go ahead and give it a shot with the newsletter copy and then just like let us know over on Word Workers on Facebook in particular. Okay.

Tanya says, does social proof only mean a testimonial product or review? Are there other examples? Yeah, there are other examples which I mentioned, I’ll say them again; data points, Fresh Books early on was really good at using data points and points about usage at that exact moment, which we’ve seen more of, even that little tool that people use now called proof that shows up at the bottom of the page to say like, “Hey Jessica from Albuquerque just signed up for this.” Proof of people actually using the solution is good for social proof too. Again, data, screenshots, gifs, videos, videos that demo ideally, things like that. Anything where you can say, “here’s proof of what I’m saying.” It should be proof that’s most logical. If you’re saying, this is a beautifully designed product, you could add a testimonial that says, “hey, what a beautifully designed product.” You could add an influencer testimonial, which would be stronger from like a strong well known designer like [Andra 00:26:07] Wilkinson who’s like, “This was a beautifully designed product. Someone who’s well known with beautifully designed products.

Or you could do the more obvious one which is a screenshot of said beautifully designed product. Your could also, if it’s a really core message, you could have that screenshot as well as having the testimonial from Andra Wilkinson. Here look, we’re telling you it’s a beautifully designed product, take a look, look with your own eyes, plus here’s what other smart people in the design world and in the software world think about our design. It doesn’t have to be just one thing either. It can be multiple things that can really drive home your point.

Adele says, it seems like it’d be a great process for case studies too. Yeah. Totally. Hopefully, give it a shot.

Neils says, would you put a comment on that says, this highlight is a so what problem? Okay, so when we go back to the actual document that I was working on, when I just highlight for so what, it’s because I’m anticipating that prove it is going to have a lot of comments going on in it. So what, you absolutely could. For me, because I know what sweep I just did, it’s the so what sweep, when I go back into it, again because I’m going to be the copy editor for it as well, but not a lot of people always are. If you are unsure that the person reviewing the copy, even if that’s yourself, you might forget. If you don’t know absolutely that that person is going to go back in and know what the hell your comment’s about, definitely make a comment on top of it. Absolutely.

[Korbit 00:27:39] says, is there a blog post/checklist/template for the steps of each of these seven sweeps? There are recordings of these tutorials with transcripts over on under free tutorials, up in the top and also along the side bar you can see them all over there as well. You can go in here and you’ll get all of our past tutorials as well as the transcripts below them. The seven sweeps are here down at the bottom. We’ll have the third and fourth one going up today. That’s a start. Down the road, we might just do a blog post on the seven sweeps but I want to an AB test before I actually publish a post on that. For copyhackers’ blog, we’re unlikely to just publish resources. We want to make sure that we are proving it, we’re putting it to the test and saying, “here’s how it does or doesn’t work,” or “Hey did that work in this AB test?”

We’ve seen it work ourselves but not in an AB test that was purely about testing the seven sweeps. Which now that I say that, I’m going to go do it, because it’s going to be fun.

Neils also asked, would love require a testimonial with emotional weight? Sure, absolutely. Yep. If you feel like, yeah, it’s missing some proof around love, cool. Go for it. Do it. Add all the love you can, definitely.

Neils. Wow Neils, you’re really in on this one. Neils asked, being able to bring in a project that’s already in process would be a good thing to talk about and proof that’s a big risk for project management tools. Totally, okay. If you’re saying, we’re going to add in a new message about, “hey here is the process, or here how’s to take an existing project that you’re already doing and move it over into Asana” or something like that, remember our job is not to question the core message. The messaging hierarchy that’s in place, what the copywriter has put together, when you’re editing at this stage, a more junior reviewer would go ahead and start questioning all the messaging. That’s why we have the controlled seven sweeps.

One, trust your copywriter and all the inputs initially, if you didn’t brief them well, etc. you’ve got that going on. Make sure that message is … Right now, if something is a glaring problem during editing, obviously you want to address that. If you’re just like, “hey, why don’t we message this other thing too?” That’s where copywriter quit there jobs because it’s like, “no, no, no, let’s stay on brief, this is what we were talking about, this is what we wanted to do guys. Remember? If we’re going to change things, we’re going to stop this project and start all over again. Because I’m not work off people reviewing stuff and throwing new crap at me.” Use the seven sweeps, go through those. If you have something bigger, a new message you want to add in that has nothing to do with those seven sweeps, then we have to have a new meetings. That’s just like a good process to follow when you are working with people to try to actually get the copy out the door properly.

Alesandra said, is there an example of a great webpage that satisfies the sweeps? I want to say like the old Get Flow homepage, but I don’t know if it’s even up anymore. I don’t know. If we come up with one, we’ll mention it in our next sweep in our next Tutorial Tuesday on the sweeps in two weeks. Good question.

Okay, good. Tania just finished the up. Okay, alright. With questions all in, we’re only just over the 30 minute mark. That is everything for today’s Tutorial Tuesday. Again, we have a webinar next week at this time for freelance copywriters. If you are a freelance copywriter, stay tuned for that. Everything else we’re going to cover off the remaining seven sweeps at the beginning of December. Which will take us through I think, we’ve got two Tutorial Tuesdays in December before we break for Christmas time. Yeah, we’ll finish that off and then you’ll have all this editing stuff down. Maybe early next year we’ll do a test of the seven sweeps and then we’ll have a good post to share with you guys. Thanks for all of your questions and engagement. We will put this recording up on line with the transcript to follow shortly thereafter. Have a great week and enjoy Thanksgiving for all of those who are celebrating it.

Okay? Thanks everybody. Bye.

Get our new articles, videos and event info.

Join 89,000+ fine folks. Stay as long as you'd like. Unsubscribe anytime.