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You VS “The Rules”

When you start out as a copywriter, you begin to develop a long list of rules. Dos and don’ts.

You read blog posts ad infinitum… watch videos galore… attend endless webinars and expensive seminars. Maybe you get mentored.

All in an effort to get up to speed and start writing copy that converts.

This is how copywriting is learned. This is how I learned. One rule at a time.

Here’s the challenge:

The world is changing. People in high places KNOW the power of copywriting and its ability to influence and persuade.

So when it comes to things like politics or public safety or finances, they like to change the customary rules of commerce.

All of a sudden, the rules you’ve learned to write great copy under won’t work. The copy is DOA.

Your copy will be rejected. Either by the platform or by the client or the Department of Justice.

Even if everything you say is 1000% true and legit.

For instance, I have a CBD promotion I’m working on. You can’t say shite about CBD. Why?

Because the FDA considers it a drug. A drug that despite enormous research is still considered unproven.

So how do you get around that?

Most copywriters would throw up their hands and move on to the next project. Why?

Because the rules they’ve learned won’t work anymore.

Can’t talk about CBD’s benefits. Can’t make any claims at all for that matter.

And this is how you know when a copywriting rule has turned into a “copywriting crutch”–because you can’t see any other way of succeeding without it.

When confronted with situations like this, I like to pull out one of my favorite quotes.

“Rules are made to be broken.”

I’m sure you’ve heard that quote. Douglas McArthur said it. He was a general in WWII.

But here’s the part of the story that’s actually going to be a bit of a “punch in the gut”–especially if you’re one of those copywriting rule collectors.

General McArthur didn’t actually say that. Here’s what he really said:

“Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”

Ouch. That would sting a bit if you’re one of those “lazy” copywriters.

The truth is if I had followed all the rules, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

At this point in my copywriting career, I rarely get excited by learning more copywriting rules.

Not because I’m bold, or a rebel, or a nonconformist, it’s just I’m more concerned about the FDA and FTC regulations, Facebook ToS, etc.

I want to make sure I’m in compliance. Not for myself, but for the Client’s sake.

My Brit conservatism kicks in and I care more about my Client’s welfare.

So to stay in compliance, maybe I have to break a copywriting rule here or there.

For instance, have you ever put up a sales letter that didn’t have a headline?

I have and the promotion still converted really well.

Or have you ever written a sales letter where all you did was talk about yourself (as opposed to talking about the prospect and their needs and desires)?

Yes, and the client loved it.

I think when you’re starting as a copywriter, learning the rules is a good thing.

But I encourage you to be open to the idea that there may come time when you can just LET GO of them and write your heart out.

And your copy will still be emotional, it’ll still be compelling and it’ll still convert.

And maybe you break a few copywriting rules along the way, but really, who cares?

I say your copy will come off as fresh, original and at bare minimum, DIFFERENT.

Other copywriters will marvel at your “creativity.”

But you’ll know the secret–in fact, you LIVE the secret.

Talk soon,


P.S. Lest I leave out my own heritage when it comes to being a rule breaker… Harry Day, the Royal Flying Corps First World War fighter ace, once said:

“rules are for the obedience of fools, and the guidance of wise men”.

Harry Day was captured by the Germans and repeatedly helped others to escape and many times attempted to escape himself. He finally did escape, stealing a VW car and driving it to Allied lines.

Harry fought against the rules, and in doing so, he saved many lives.

Something to think about… 😉

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