Copywriting terminology

Copywriters and agencies have a language of their own. Here is a glossary of copywriting terminology, which includes writing tips and ideas.

Researched and written by marketing consultant, trainer and author Nigel Temple.

  1. A/B split testing: Writing two versions of an advertisement, headline, web page etc to ascertain which is the most effective. In my experience, discovering a better headline makes all the difference to response rates.
  2. Above the fold: The top part of a web page that is visible without scrolling down.
  3. Advertisement: Classic print ads contain a headline, body copy and a call to action.
  4. Advertorial: Paid for advertising space which looks (at first glance), like editorial i.e. written by a journalist. Advertorials should be marked clearly with the word ‘Advertisement’.
  5. AIDCA: (Sometimes known as AIDA). A marketing system commonly used in direct response copywriting: A = Attention (the headline). I = Interest (the product / service). D = Desire (an offer). C = Conviction (social proof, i.e. testimonials). A = Action (a call to action).
  6. Anchor text (Internet marketing): The text within a hyperlink. For a full description and an example see:
  7. B2B: Business to Business, i.e. one business is marketing to another business. An example would be a management training company.
  8. B2C: Business to Consumer. i.e. a high street retailer.
  9. Backlinks (SEO): Inbound links to a page on your website. It is a good idea if your backlinks contain relevant text.
  10. Banner adverts (Internet marketing): Sometimes called web banners. Advertisements which appear within websites which click through to the advertisers website, squeeze page or other online resource. They can be placed manually by the website owner, or delivered via an ad server (which is how corporate online banner advertising campaigns work – this is all sorted out by an digital advertising agency). There are numerous forms of payment on offer, including a flat rate for a period of time, click through rate,advert impressions, and payment upon sale. If you search for ‘ad networks’ if you are interested in this type of thing (however, be careful, because there are some dodgy outfits out there). Also see ‘Google AdSense’ within this glossary of marketing terms.
  11. Benefit: An advantage or result that is described within a headline or the body copy of a marketing piece. My advice is to ‘write in the language of benefits’.
  12. Blog: (Social media): Contraction of ‘web log’. A blog is an online journal. It is chronological, so the most recent entry appears first. Blogging can help with your SEO results. My favourite blog platform is WordPress, which I use for my blog:
  13. Body copy: The main body of text within a marketing piece. For example, an advert has a headline, body copy and call to action.
  14. Bonus: An additional item which is offered to the reader, in addition to the product / service being written about. May be combined with a deadline.
  15. Brand: A set of attributes which make it easy for customers to identify your product / service. Includes visual brand identity (i.e. logo, colours, typeface), as well as psychological factors including emotional brand attachments.
  16. Brief: A step by step description of what the copy is meant to achieve for a given marketing piece. It may be written by the client or a marketing manager.
  17. Brochure: Used to be print only, but now can be print + PDF. Brochures are are multi-page documents which provide information about a company, product or service.
  18. Call to action: A request or suggestion to the reader, listener or viewer to take action i.e. “For more information, either email us or call 01234 567 890.”  or: “To take advantage of this offer, either email us or call 01234 567 890.”
  19. Call out: A section of text which is highlighted. For example it could be in a different / larger font, or within a box.
  20. Case study: A story describing a problem which a consumer or business was facing and how you helped them to solve it.
  21. Client: The person or enterprise that the copywriter is writing for.
  22. CMS (Internet marketing): Content Management System. This software allows you to make changes to your website. Examples include WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Copywriters are often required to work directly with a client’s (or employer’s) CMS.
  23. Collateral: Traditionally, this term refers to printed material, i.e. brochures, leaflets, folders, business cards etc. However, with the rise of digital marketing, it can also refer to websites, PDF brochures and other digital marketing assets.
  24. Content marketing (Internet marketing): Planning what you are going to be writing about, in a structured way. Usually based around a content marketing calendar.
  25. Conversion: The completion of an activity or action i.e. a customer fills in a website form, calls a number or sends an email requesting further information. Used to measure the effectiveness of a marketing piece.
  26. Copy: The words written for an advertisement or other form of marketing collateral.
  27. Copy length: Tests show that long body copy outsells short body copy.
  28. Copywriter: Someone who writes ‘marketing words’ for advertisements, internet marketing, PR campaigns etc.
  29. Copywriting: Marketing words, i.e. within advertisements, hence ‘body copy’. (I worked for three years as a professional copywriter, in my late 20s. I can remember my boss looking at something I had written and saying: “Well, I like the font and the paper you have printed this on. Now let’s talk about the words you have written.”)
  30. Corporate: A large enterprise (usually either a Limited company or a PLC). Writing for corporates is different to writing for SMEs in many respects.
  31. Customer: Someone who buys from you once, which makes this transaction based. (See ‘client’).
  32. Deadline: The amount of time that a specific offer is available for. In my experience, short deadlines work much better than long ones.
  33. Decision maker: The person who has the authority to give the go ahead for a sale / order. Can be difficult to determine within larger organisations. The copywriter needs to understand the mind of the decision maker as far as possible.
  34. Demographics: A somewhat old fashioned way of segmenting customers using gender, age, socio economic group and geographical location. (The challenge being that this only gives you a crude interpretation of a customer’s characteristics).
  35. Description Tag (SEO): Part of your website’s meta data. 155 character’s worth of description of a web page’s content. IMHO a professional copywriter should write this as it is, in effect the bodcopy of an ‘ad’ when seen within a SERP page.
  36. Desire: The feeling that the copywriter is trying to produce within the prospective customer as they read the compelling copy.
  37. Differentiation: The key point or collection of points which makes an enteprise, brand, product or service stand out from the crowd.
  38. Direct response copywriting: A piece of copy which has the objective of enticing the reader to take immediate action, i.e. call a free phone number.
  39. e-shot (Email marketing):  An email which is trying to sell something. (It’s usually OK to send an occasional e-shot to subscribers of your newsletter list).
  40. ezine or e-newsletter (Email marketing): An email magazine or email based newsletter. May require quite a bit of copywriting.
  41. Feature: An attribute of a product, i.e. it is yellow. Professional copywriters are constantly turning mundane features into sizzling benefits.
  42. Hashtags (Social media): Within Twitter, you can use hashtags # in order to highlight keywords. For example, if you wrote: #Oxford …within Twitter, it would appear in blue and this word would become a clickable item – which allows Twitter users to click on that word and see recent Tweets which contain the same word. The use of hashtags enables Twitter users to find other Tweeters who are interested in specific issues / topics / products / people / locations etc.
  43. Headline: Arguably, the most important part of the copy.
  44. Hooks: A phrase (which may be repeated several times) which has the objective of getting under the reader’s skin.
  45. HTML (Internet marketing): HyperText Markup Language – the computer language used to build (most) web pages. IMHO copywriters benefit from a conceptual understanding of HTML.
  46. Keywords (SEO): Words or phrases which people search for (i.e. within Google, Yahoo or Bing). As part of your SEO strategy, it is a good idea to have a list of keywords and phrases which appear within your website’s content and meta data, in order to attract the search engines.
  47. Kicker: A second headline, placed just above the main headline, which is used to create more impact. For example:
    Do you need more customers?
    Download this free guide to customer attraction
  48. Landing page (Internet marketing): A webpage that has a commercial intent, i.e. newsletter signup, event registration, sales lead generation or sale.  Tip: online advertisements work better when they link to a landing page.
  49. Market segment: A market segment = a group of people with shared needs. If someone has done their homework and written about target market segments within the marketing plan / brief, the life the copywriter is so much easier.
  50. Marketing piece: An item of marketing collateral, i.e. an advertisement, brochure or website.
  51. Meta Data (SEO): Within websites, this refers to information held within the Header section of a web page, which helps search engines to decide what that page is about. Meta Data includes the Title Tag and Description Tag.
  52. Mind Mapping (Creative thinking): A graphical thought organisation technique, useful during planning, presentations and talks. A great way of planning a copywriting project.
  53. Ps (The four): Product, Price, Place and Promotion. AKA ‘Marketing-mix’ coined by Neil Borden in 1953. See:
  54. Packaging: If you have a physical product, it is important to have professional packaging, which includes well written copy.
  55. Pop-up adverts (Internet marketing): Advertisements that appear in front of the content of a web page.
  56. Positioning: How you decide to position yourself in your market, i.e. ‘cheap as chips’ versus ‘reassuringly expensive’.
  57. PR: Press Relations, which is the art of trying to get journalists to write about your products / services. (I prefer to use the term ‘Media Relations’, which includes digital media, such as blogs).
  58. PS: Post Script. Legend has it that within direct mail letters, the PS always gets read.
  59. Press release: A single story that is sent to many different media, with the hope of publication.
  60. Proof: May include testimonials, facts and figures, photographs, case studies or media coverage.
  61. Proofreading: The art of checking the copy before it is made public. Particular care is given to spelling, typos, grammar, punctuation and syntax.
  62. Promotional technique: A specific way of promoting a product or service, i.e. a website is a promotional technique. SEO and blogging are separate techniques.
  63. Promotional mix: All of the ways in which you promote your business, i.e. website, advertisements, networking, SEO, social media.
  64. Questions: A tried and tested copywriting element. The human mind answers questions automatically, doesn’t it? On this basis, skilled copywriters include questions within their work, usually in order to get the reader to say ‘yes’ to themselves.
  65. Sentence length: Keep it short if you want them to keep reading.
  66. Script: The text which is written for a speech, TV advert, YouTube video etc.
  67. Segment:  See ‘market segment’.
  68. Squeeze page (Internet marketing): A web page (or website which usually only comprises a single page) which has the sole objective of tempting visitors to ‘join your list’, i.e. your newsletter list.
  69. Strapline (AKA slogan): A line of text which is incorporated within a logo. Straplines should be short and memorable. For example: “Never knowingly undersold” ~ John Lewis.
  70. Subheads: Little headlines, scattered throughout the marketing piece. Subheads can make it easier to scan an advertisement, web page, blog etc.
  71. Teaser: A few lines of copy which (hopefully) entices the reader to open the envelope, click on a link within an e-newsletter etc.
  72. Testimonials: A short statement endorsing your business, brand, service or product – written by a genuine customer (not you).
  73. Testing: See A/B split testing.
  74. Title Tag (SEO): Part of your website’s meta data. Title Tags appear with SERP pages and look like headlines. Looks like a headline, when seen with a SERP page.
  75. Twitter (Social media): A social media website. Tell the world about your business in 140 characters or less. (Well written Tweets make all the difference).
  76. USP: Unique Selling Proposition – something which the competition doesn’t have. This term was originally coined by American advertising executive and guru, Rosser Reeves.

Researched and written by marketing consultant, trainer and author Nigel Temple.

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