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Copywriting Drafting Rules For Professionals

By Expert Author: Benjamin Brown

As a professional contractor who wears many hats, you owe it to yourself and your clients to be as organized as possible. In a previous article, I discussed the importance of delivering an organized draft that your co-creators can easily work from. Following are some suggestions for freelance copywriters who wish to streamline their copy submission process and ensure a crisp, clean draft every time.
General Copy Drafting Rules
1. Do not deviate from the standard fonts, Arial or Times New Roman, 10 or 12 point.
2. Submit all copy with ONE SPACE after a period, NOT TWO.
3. Save all copy drafts as a Word document.
4. Make sure that SMART QUOTES and all "autoformatting" is shut off before typing your copy into a fresh Word document. That means NO auto indents, NO auto bullets, NO fraction symbols, etc.
5. Use BOLD, ITALIC or UNDERLINE where necessary. You may also html tag these as so bold if the client has requested it.
6. Every draft should be spellchecked by computer and by eyeball.
Setting Up Your Copy Draft
Develop a Standard Copy Draft Template. Use this template to set up each initial copy draft you create. Be sure to include the following:
A Header that lists:
1. The client's name or company name
2. The author (your name)
3. Today's date
4. Project description
5. Draft Number
A Footer that includes the page number.
(To add page numbers, go the top menu and click INSERT and then PAGE NUMBERS.)
When creating a new document, follow the drafting process as outlined below.
1. Open up the Copy Draft Template on your desktop
2. Immediately do a Save-As and rename the document as follows:
XXX_descrip_draftX
In this naming conventention, the three Xs represent the first three letters of the client's company name. The label "descrip" should be replaced by a qualifier. "DraftX" will be the draft number.
Sample filename for "Rocky's Hot Wings" menu copy, draft number two:
ROC_menu_draft2
In creating additional revised drafts of this copy, use an identical file naming format, replacing only the X value at the end of the filename.
Note: If for some reason you don't have access to your Standard Copy Draft Template, you can create your own document from scratch provided the following is included:
Before you being typing, "prep your document" by doing the following:
1. Turn off the SMART QUOTES feature.
The reason for this is because HTML and PDFs do not interpret curly quotes and curly single quotes or apostrophes correctly. This will CORRUPT your text with weird-looking symbols throughout.
Despite what your college professor may have told you, MAKE SURE YOU USE STRAIGHT QUOTES (") AND FOOT MARKS(') in all of your copy drafts for any client jobs.
2. Turn off all AUTO FORMATTING.
Auto formatting is of absolutely no use to someone who plans to format text into their own style sheets or graphic design. It is more trouble than it's worth so DO NOT hand in formatted text of any kind.
Do not tab, bullet, auto-number, auto-correct, auto-cap, make fractions out of or otherwise format your text.
Label Your Sections
While not every project will require you to divide it into sections, items such as e-book copy, catalog copy and web copy will. If you're working on something that will be presented visually in pieces, label each section of your copy with an appropriate descriptor. Use a BOLD font or some other qualifier to indicate section descriptions.
Note: your section descriptors should not be confused with your headlines. Do something "different" to the section descriptors and apply that treatment uniformly throughout the piece. For example, if your headlines are bolded already, you may want to ALL-CAP your section headers to eliminate confusion.
For example, if you're writing web copy, you might title your descriptors as so:
HOME PAGE
ABOUT US PAGE
PRODUCTS PAGE
SERVICES PAGE
CONTACT PAGE
You can also label your headlines and subheadlines so that whoever is picking up your copy can be sure of how to lay it all out. For example:
TIPS PAGE
Headline: Web Copywriting Basics
Subhead: Master the Tricks the Pros Use
Formatting "Lists"
Some projects such as taglines, banner ad ideas and headline brainstorms will require that you submit them in list format.
Type your lists at 12 point and don't skip a line between each listing. The customer will likely be paying by the page, so he'll want his money's worth of creative input.
Editing An Existing Draft
You may be required to edit a draft occasionally that someone else will make changes to. If this is the case, use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. As you edit, your "suggested" revisions will show up in the document as crossouts, replaced text and word additions in a different color than the original text.
You may also be required to make the final revisions on a document that has already been edited with the Track Changes feature. If this is the case, open the document on your desktop, do a Save As, and rename the document to the next consecutive draft number.
You will have to go up to the Track Changes menu again and uncheck the boxes so that you'll be able to make your revisions without "crossouts" and colored edits showing up.
After you've shut off this feature, implement the requested changes as per normal draft creation. Don't forget to SAVE every few minutes!


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