Copywriting is rewriting: the art of lightness

“The only kind of writing is rewriting”, wrote Ernest Hemingway, referring to the painstaking revisions that writers have to make to their own texts. Not only writers but translators, copywriters, web writers, you name them… All text creators rewrite continuously, until they reach their objective: being understood and appreciated by readers.

Each author has a different idea about rewriting, a different working method, different priorities. Italo Calvino focused on the importance of lightness: “My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.”

How can we apply Calvino’s lesson to copywriting?  How do we subtract weight?

Here are a few ideas that will help you to make your texts “lighter”:

  • substitute “marketing” hype (“an awesome hotel”) with realistic terms
  • substitute passive verbal forms with active equivalents
  • substitute long words with shorter synonyms
  • eliminate unnecessary sentences
  • eliminate clichés
  • eliminate redundant words (especially adjectives)

There is a lot of tightening and cutting involved, the main aim being to reduce verbosity. But lightness is not only achieved by subtraction, by chipping away at your text until you can’t eliminate anything else. A lot can also be achieved by substituting – not an easy task for a writer because it entails finding new ways of saying things and abandoning habitual forms of expression. As we will see, using synonyms and adding variety to content is a crucial strategy also for SEO copywriting. Lighter texts are more digestible, both for humans and engines.

By our WiseGuy Andrea Spila


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