Grumpy Grammarian, Autumn Tompkins, is our guest for the 134th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Autumn has been a member of the club almost from the beginning. And she’s shared her editing and proofreading advice with anyone who asked. Now we took the chance to ask a few questions about her business. Here’s most of what we talked about:
• how she went from ink slinger to grumpy grammarian
• her business rules that keep her from being miserable
• the difference between copyediting (art) and copywriting (science)
• the impact of spending 7 months in the hospital and how she dealt with it
• how she uses music to inspire what she does—and her copywriting mix tape
• the resources—her personal master class—she’s used to learn copywriting
• living with muscular dystrophy and what she’s learned from it
• the fine line between grumpy and bitchy and the need for lightheartedness
• her editing process and tips for doing your own copy editing
• the 5 mistakes she sees copywriters make over and over
• a few tips for improving transitions in your copy
• her 3 favorite rhetorical devices and why they work in copy
• how she finds clients and what her packages and pricing look like
We also asked Autumn about her copy edit school and the 5 components she teaches her students. To get hear everything that Autumn has to say, click the play button below, or download the episode to your favorite podcast app. Prefer reading? Scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Erika Lyremark
Copy Edit School
The Grumpy Grammarian’s Guide to Copy Editing
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Underground.
Kira: It’s our new membership designed for you to help you attract more clients and hit 10K a month consistently.
Rob: For more information or to sign up, go to thecopywriterunderground.com.
Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes, and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 134 as we chat with author, copy editor, and grumpy grammarian, Autumn Tompkins, about the ins and outs of copy editing, how it’s different from copywriting, what she’s done to find success in spite of serious life changes, and we’ll ask, ‘Why is she so grumpy?’
Kira: Autumn, welcome.
Rob: Hey, Autumn.
Autumn: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Kira: It’s great to have you here, Autumn, because we’ve worked closely on many different projects. You’ve cleaned up my copy many, many times. You’ve worked with The Copywriter Club on our newsletter as well, cleaning that up and making Rob and I look a little bit smarter than we actually are. So, it’s so wonderful to finally bring you onto the show.
Autumn: Well, I’m so happy to be here. It’s a total honor.
Kira: Well, let’s start with your story. So, how did you end up as The Grumpy Grammarian?
Autumn: So, I used to be a copywriter for hire. I would sling ink for the right price. I had good intentions, write copy for business owners, so their prospects would buy from them. As soon as I landed my first client, I put my head down, never came up for air. And fast forward five years later, and I burned out. Back then, my marketing plan was simple. Find clients, write copy, get money, but part of the reason why I burned out was because that I didn’t put my business first, and the other part of that reason was because I didn’t know what I stood for. Who was I as a business owner and copywriter, and what did I believe in? Right around that time, I got hooked up with Erika Lyremark, and she helped me figure out that the [inaudible 00:02:32] was real, and her name was Autumn. I didn’t put effort into growing my business. I never expressed my personal opinions, and fun wasn’t something I should be having while writing copy or even business, but with Erika’s help, I was able to align my business and my life and my viewpoints so that I could evaluate where I was, where I wanted to be, and what I loved to do.
And with her help, that’s when I made the decision to become The Grumpy Grammarian, and it’s where I embrace my grumpy self, but also copyediting because for me, it’s not about how great of a writer I was, it’s how well I could edit. I know I could take word vomit that I wrote and spin it into word gold that everyone wanted to read. So, I decided to transition from copywriter to copyeditor. I could spot certain words and phrases in my copy and sweep them so that the writing made sense, and it connected with readers on a deeper, more memorable level. I started to share helpful tips. I got vulnerable with my email subscribers. I made a list of how I wanted to move through the world, and when I started living by my own set of rules is when I started finding my perfect partner, and following these rules allowed me to share my viewpoints and what I believe in, and when I started doing that, I discovered that I had so many opinions about copywriting and copyediting. And so, for once, I put myself and my business first, but nobody’s just born with a moniker like The Grumpy Grammarian. It’s a title that I earned, and that’s based off my childhood where I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital from chronic pneumonia and other complications associated with muscular dystrophy.
My average hospital stay was three months, but my longest when I was kid was just shy of seven months. So, all of that made me kind of grumpy because staying in a hospital bed, I had no siblings to play with. They had to be at school. I had no pets to cuddle with because they weren’t allowed at the hospital. A lot of the times, I was in the hospital during the holidays. So, we didn’t celebrate until we were all together. A lot of the time, I was also in the hospital for my birthdays. I couldn’t have cake because I was hooked to a ventilator. So, all of that, needles and uncomfortable beds and ventilators made me totally grumpy. I embraced my grumpy side from when I was a child and really projected that into my business, which is sort of how I became The Grumpy Grammarian.
Rob: I like it. Love the story and definitely want to ask you more about your childhood, but while you were talking about the process that you went through to identify your viewpoints and maybe some of the rules, will you tell us just a little bit more about that? How did you decide what were the viewpoints that you were going to go with? Was it a natural process? Did it take some digging, some real thinking work? How did that all come about?
Autumn: Well, it took a lot of work. I had to go through and make a list, like I said, of how I wanted to move through the world. For example, I make connections without expectations. To me, people are not transactions, but before I made that rule when I was a copywriter, I looked at everyone as a transaction because it’s always a feast or famine cycle for me back then. So, I had to really make my own set of rules, and another rule that I came up with is that language is not about conforming to stodgy, old grammar rules. So, I’m not going to conform to those rules. I don’t believe in it or do that either, and also, you have to have fun. If you’re not having fun, your clients aren’t going to have fun, and it’s just going to be a trickle down effect where everyone’s kind of going to be miserable.
So, I found that if I made these rules, and I came up with these viewpoints because my rules shape my viewpoints. And so, like I was saying where language isn’t about conforming to stodgy, old grammar rules, one of my viewpoints is that copyediting isn’t about memorizing grammar rules. There are so many different ways to move through the world, and when you look at the world differently, and you decide that this is how I’m going to move through the world, I’m able to expand on my knowledge base and really share and have more fun.
Kira: So, Autumn, when you create these rules, how do you share them? Are these rules posted on your website, or is this something that becomes blog content? How do you start to share that with the world?
Autumn: It is in the introduction to my book. I call it … My viewpoints are almost like a mini manifesto. So, that is where I share them, and it’s also eventually going to be on my website. I am in the middle of redoing my content again for like the hundredth time because nothing is ever perfect for me, and I want it to be perfect, but I have to acknowledge that everything evolves just like language. So, eventually, my viewpoint will be listed on my website.
Kira: Okay. Cool. And what’s the impact been on your business once you really figured out these rules, these viewpoints and shared them with prospects? How did your business change as far as the people you’re attracting, what you’re selling, and just kind of the bottom line, too?
Autumn: I’m learning more about myself as I go, and the more I learn about myself, the more I attract people who are like me that have the same ambitions and the same drive that I have, and we share the same … I don’t want to say mindset, but the same ideals, but when I really embraced my viewpoints and how to move through the world, I was able to get hyper-focused and super intentional. So, I was growing my business, forming lasting client relationships, having fun, like I said, and because of that, last June, I was able to offboard my final copywriting client, a long-term client. I absolutely adored her, and because of that, I’m showing copywriters and women business owners that their writing can be flowing, flawless, and fun all through what I call copywriting’s best kept secret, which is copyedit.
Rob: Yeah. Can we talk a little bit more about copyediting? What’s the difference between copyediting and copywriting?
Autumn: Okay. So, let me be very, very clear. Let’s call this a public service announcement. Copywriting is a science. Copyediting is an art. To me, copywriting is a science because your writing is created based on research and formulas. Copyediting is an art because of the subtle nuances of language. Copyediting follows rules, but those rules are often broken, and they need to be so that your copy is conveyed with the proper intention and so that your readers recognize what you’ve written makes sense, and it connects with them on a deeper, more memorable level.
Kira: All right. So, Autumn, I want to back up a bit. You mentioned that as a kid, you spent a lot of time at the hospital, and at one point, it was seven months at the hospital, which made you who you are today and The Grumpy Grammarian that we love so much. What else did you take away from that time as a kid at the hospital that has impacted your business today?
Autumn: Music really was a big takeaway for me, and so was learning how to adapt. For example, when I was a kid, you couldn’t have squirt gun fights. God forbid you did anything fun like that. So, the nurses and I would improvise squirt gun fights and use the big syringes. So, adapting and learning to have fun and music, they were all big takeaways from my time at the hospital.
Rob: And when you talk about music being a big takeaway, do you mean you use that as a way to while away the time, or what was the influence that that’s had on you?
Autumn: Well, that was exactly it. It was a way to spend the time, but for me, it was also a way to forget the pain because the pain is associated with the hospital like, ‘Hello, needles,’ and whatnot. But if you hear a song and you kind of get lost into the music, the pain is a little bit more tolerable.
Rob: Cool, and how do you use music in your day-to-day or in your business today to inspire what you do?
Autumn: Oh, gosh. A huge role in my business. First of all, I learned six, seven years ago that if you listen to music, you open up and use both your right brain and your left brain. So, that made me take my writing to a whole other level because I could ask on my intake questionnaire, ‘If your copy was a song, what would it be and why?’ So, my client would give me the song, and I would put it into YouTube or iHeart Radio and listen to other songs like it and that song, so I could really get a feeling for their writing, not just read it, but feel their words. So, that way, I was able to write their copy in a better way and really have more fun and get to know my client on a better level.
Kira: What else do you do to stay creative and funny? Because you have such a big personality, and you’ve built this really great persona, and I just love to read your writing because you do have those strong viewpoints that you’ve talked about, but you’re also really funny and punchy. So, do you listen to anybody, or are you following any particular mentors or any programs that just help you stay really kind of on the edge and creative?
Autumn: Sometimes, I feel it’s really a missed opportunity for a lot of writers is that they don’t learn from unconventional sources. I used to devour famous copywriters and their copy and books on writing, but then, I learned that there are other ways to learn copywriting and persuasions. So, comedians, musicians, TV, even ballet, they’re great resources. Every day, the world provides you with a free master class on writing. You just have to look for the opportunities. So, for me, to learn to write and to edit faster, better, and stronger, I took classes and read advertising books, but to really master language, I would study and still do study unconventional wordsmiths. To learn how to master playing with words, I listened to and watched George Carlin. To learn how to master writing with my whole heart, I listened to Tupac because I believe every lyric he wrote was filled with emotion. He wrote with his whole heart. To learn how to master flow, I listened to Eminem, listened to his transitions, how he goes from one thought to another. He’s also how I learned how to master rhythm and rhyme. To learn how to master writing with realness, I listened, again, the Notorious BIG because I believe every lyric he wrote, he actually lived.
And more importantly, the one person that I learned conversation from and to master relatability is listening to and watching Phyllis Diller, another famous comedian. These unconventional sources, they’re where I get my humor from, where I learn how to speak my copy and come up with copyediting tips. Like I said, the world is a free master class. You just have to look for opportunities to learn.
Rob: God, I love this. It feels like we’re going to have to put together a copywriting mixtape with all of the examples you’ve mentioned so that we can all get better at all of those things. So, can I ask a little bit more about living with muscular dystrophy and the impact that that’s had on your life? I know that you live a very unconventional life compared to most of us. You spend most of your time in a wheelchair, those kinds of things. How does that impact your life and your copywriting?
Autumn: Oh, gosh. Well, for me, I always end up in some sort of awkward situation. It’s really impacted me that way because, I don’t want to say that I see life in a different way or have a different perspective, but sitting for the last 25 years, it’s really affected the way that I look at the world. I didn’t get to … I don’t want to say I didn’t get to really participate, but I couldn’t do a lot of the activities that other kids did. So, I became a people watcher. Oh, kids are playing basketball. Well, let me watch that. Oh, kids are doing something else. Let me watch that. What can I learn from them? What can I observe from them? And because of that, being this people watcher, I learned how to listen differently and how to interpret the world around me differently, and because of that, I was able to listen to my clients and sort of read between the lines of what they were saying because I could see them differently.
Kira: Wow. And what have you discovered, I mean, from seeing, kind of reading what people aren’t saying? Have there been surprises along the way, just from what people aren’t willing to share, but you’ve been able to observe?
Autumn: Well, the one thing that I really observe is people are afraid to be who they are. They’re afraid to be authentic. As The Grumpy Grammarian, there is a fine line between grumpy and bitchy.
Autumn: There is a fine line, and the key is being lighthearted about it, laughing at my life and my situations. So, I find that people who they just don’t move through the world as their authentic selves, for me, if I don’t make the situation lighthearted, people are going to be turned off. They’ll feel like it’s a bitchy pity party. So, for me, people that they don’t show who they actually are, it can really hold back their business because, again, if they hold back who they are, then who are they as business owners, and what do they stand for?
Rob: Yeah. I want to ask a little bit more about copyediting and how maybe we can do more of it. So, when we work with you, you’ll take the copy for our newsletter, and you’ll give us suggestions that really dial it up another level, maybe ideas for better subheads or for additional copy, or you take stuff out that might be boring and help us look better. I think a lot of copywriters, when they write, they don’t have that experience of writing with a copyeditor. So, they sort of get that first draft, but if they were looking for tips for how to put on copyeditor glasses after they’ve written their first or second draft, and they’re ready to really polish it and dial it up, what kind of tips can you give all of us really to help make the writing better? What are some of the things that you do as you start to copyedit work for other people?
Autumn: Well, let me go into … I do have specific tips I can share, but first, let me just tell you little bit about my process. I think of copyediting like emptying your Halloween candy bag when you get home from trick or treating. So, first, you get home. You’re all excited. You have this huge bag of candy. That’s your shiny piece of copy that you’ve just written. So, first, you dump it on the table. That’s brain-dumping your thoughts on paper. Second, you check it for damaged candy and throw away those pieces. That’s editing for clarity.
Rob: Out goes candy corn. That stuff’s gone. Yeah.
Kira: Wait. What? Why would you get rid of the candy corn?
Rob: That’s so disgusting. That stuff’s nasty. Keep the Snickers bars, the Mars bars. Yeah.
Kira: Wait, and devour the Reese’s cups, just devour them. They’re just gone. Okay. We’re with you.
Autumn: See, and that’s the third part. My copyediting process is you take out the pieces you don’t eat. That’s editing to make your writing concise, and the fourth is you trade the candy you don’t like with candy from your siblings or your friends, and you add those pieces that you want back into your pile, and that’s where you add words back to your copy to make your writing compelling so that you are left with only the most clear, concise, and compelling piece of copy, something that your audience will want to read and want more of, just like the favorite Halloween candy.
Kira: This makes me want to eat some candy right now.
Rob: Yeah. Me, too.
Kira: Let’s just pause. I’m going to go get some candy and come back.
Hey. We’re just jumping into the show today to tell you a little bit more about The Copywriter Underground. Rob, what do you like best about this membership?
Rob: So, this membership community is full of copywriters that are investing in their businesses and taking what they do seriously. Everything is focused around three ideas: copywriting and getting better at the craft that we all do, marketing and getting in front of the right customers so that you can charge more and earn more, and also, mindset so that you can get out of your head and focus on the things that will help you be successful at what we do. There’s a private Facebook group for the members of the community, and we also send out a monthly newsletter that’s full of advice, again, on those three areas: copywriting, marketing, and mindset, things that you can mark up and tear out, put them in your files, save them for whatever, and it’s not going to get lost in your email inbox. Kira, what do you like about The Copywriter Underground?
Kira: So, I love the monthly hot seat calls where our members have a chance to sit in the hot seat and ask a big question or get ideas or talk through a challenge in their business because we all learn from those situations, and then, I also feel like the templates we include in the membership are valuable because who wants to reinvent the wheel, and Rob and I end up sharing a lot of the templates and resources we use in our own businesses. So, I would definitely want to grab those.
Rob: So, if you are interested in joining a community of copywriters that are investing in their business and in themselves and trying to do more, get more clients, earn more money consistently, go to thecopywriterunderground.com to learn more. Now, back to the program.
Kira: Autumn, can you also share some of the, let’s say, the top three mistakes that you see? And if you want to use us as an example or me as example, great, but what do you see when you are editing copywriters’ copy?
Autumn: Okay. The biggest mistakes I see copywriters, in general, make, first of all, we’ll speak in overall terms. They don’t keep track of their mistakes. I’m a big supporter of people creating their own mistake style guides so that their first pass through their copy, when they do their first edit, is to see if they’ve made any of the same mistakes that they always usually make, and one read copywriters should keep is a mistake style guide, as I call it, is because over time, their writing will become instinctual, and they’ll learn, ‘Don’t make these mistakes.’ So, when they’re writing, eventually, they won’t make those mistakes anymore. The second biggest mistake that I see copywriters make is that they adhere to stodgy, old grammar rules, ‘Don’t split infinitives. Don’t end a sentence in a preposition.’ But literally, these rules have to be broken because otherwise your copywriting will not sound like a conversation, and as I learned as a copywriter, you want your copy to sound like conversation, like you’re talking with your friends. So, you’ve got to break these stodgy, old grammar rules.
The third is that they don’t tell stories in their copy enough. They just … stories connect. I’m a big supporter of telling a story. That’s why my weekly copyedit tips, it’s a story. It’s a photo. It’s the tip, and that tip, I’ve used in that story so they can see it in action. Stories serve a purpose. They connect your readers to your words. The fourth mistake that I see is that copywriters do not get descriptive or specific enough in their copy. They can say, ‘Oh, she was in such pain, she cried,’ and I say, ‘So what? Give me details that make me feel her tears.’ And the fifth mistake is that copywriters don’t use enough rhetorical devices in their copy, and when I say rhetorical devices, I mean figures of speech that transform an ordinary piece of writing into something more memorable, evocative, and enjoyable. When you use the right rhetorical device in the right setting, you can connect with your readers on a whole other level.
Rob: So, do you have a process that you go through, then, when you look at copy? So, let’s say you’re looking at some newsletter copy for us. Do you look at it and kind of go down the list and say, ‘Maybe we should add a story here, or can we add something funny here?’ Or is it more of a natural flow for you?
Autumn: Well, my process has evolved over time, of course, but my usual process, I go in. I print out that document. Reading on a screen does nothing for me. I spot more errors when I have a piece of copy in my hand. So, I print it out. I take one read through it. Any glaring mistakes, I circle or make note of, and after I read it for the first time, I decide, ‘What is the message?’ Does it have one solid message, or is it multiple messages crammed into multiple pages of writing? Because if it’s got more than one message, it’s going to confuse readers. So, after I go through, I make that first task. I spot some glaring errors. I just decide what the message is. Then, I go back through line by line and edit from there, and I try to decide, ‘Are the transitions smooth enough? Does it flow in the right spots? What could make people connect more with this piece of copy? Could that be a story? Could that be used to inject some rhetorical devices here and there? Does it need an entire rewrite?’ So, for me, my process has evolved, but I go through. I strip everything down that I can, and then, I add back to it.
Sometimes, that’s in the form of stories. Sometimes, that’s in the form of changing the meaning of some words because I find a lot of people, they don’t use strong enough words. They kind of beat around the bush, so to speak. So, I have to see if each word needs to pay for itself in that piece of copy. That word has to earn its place. If not, it gets cut, and you can say something different to make your readers connect more.
Kira: Can you share some examples of transitions, building connection, and then rhetorical devices that you use? I know transitions are really important. I think that I struggle with them. Building connection’s important, and then, adding rhetorical devices, they’re all important. So, either advice or how we can improve or just any example.
Autumn: Okay. So, for transitions, for me, the best tip I can give you is to make your transitions smooth would be to use questions because they make your audience and your readers pause and think, and when your readers have to pause and think about a question that you’ve asked, they’re going to be more connected with your words. So, you can say, ‘Do you see the value here? Or do you know what else?’ Let me give you an example from my tips. When I transition, I always use a question. This way, I can relate it right back to copyediting. Do you know what makes your readers feel like they need an intervention? Just questions. You could also say different statements. For example, you could ask them to think about it for a moment and what does that mean to you? So, whatever you’ve said before, just say, ‘Imagine what that would mean to your life. Think about it for a minute.’ Any of those statements or questions, they always pique your readers’ interest and get them to read on because it’s a smooth transition. Ellipses are a great way to transition because that dot, dot, dot pulls your reader so they keep reading. I know a lot of copywriters are anti-ellipses, but I am so … use sparingly and for effect. Always use an ellipse. I love them.
Let’s see. Oh, a couple of my favorite rhetorical devices. So, first of all, I should say that I am not going to give you the proper names of these because nobody wants to memorize jargon. One of my favorite rhetorical devices is when you repeat words, whether that’s the same word at the beginning of each sentence or the same phrase somewhere in each sentence. That is very much one of my favorites. My second favorite, if you’re going to tell a story in your copy, which you always should, is to drop your reader right in the middle of the action. So, instead of giving this huge preamble in order to get to the action, the action is the first sentence they read. It drops them in the middle of it, like they’ve come down off a helicopter and landed on your writing rapids and are about to go for a great ride. It just really, really hooks them, and my third favorite is when you ask a question, and you answer it for your readers, it just kind of makes them go, ‘Wow,’ and it draws them a little bit more than if you wait for them to come up with an answer in their own mind.
Rob: Yeah. As you list out all of the stuff, I’m trying to think, ‘How much of this do we do when we write?’ And there’s definitely things that we could be doing a lot better, I think. So, Autumn, a question about business. How do you find customers today? Where is your best source of people looking for help with copyediting?
Autumn: A lot of that is through referral. I’ve worked with some great people, Kira and yourself included. I’ve also got to work with Laura Belgray and Hillary Weiss, and I get a lot of referrals. I don’t do a lot of cold outreach, mostly because I’m not exactly comfortable with that. I will eventually get more comfortable with it, but for right now, word of mouth and referral is where I get most of my business.
Kira: Right. It’s almost like just doing great work helps to get more great work, and that’s exactly what you’ve done. It’s really easy to talk about how great you are to work with and the great service you provide. And so, how do you work with copywriters or any client now? What are the different packages you offer today?
Autumn: I do flat rate services. I’m not big on hourly rates or word counts, but I do offer a flat fee for a certain word count. That’s one way that I work. Another way that I work is with a rapid response edit, which is just basically live over Skype or Zoom, one-on-one. I do live copyedit right up there on the spot and work closely with my clients in about a span of an hour-and-a-half to make their copy absolutely spotless and more compelling. But I, of course, also work on retainer. That’s not my most favorite way to work because I don’t find a lot of people that need copyediting retainer work. A lot of the people that I work with, they have one-off projects, or they will come back for multiple services, but they’re not an advertising agency. So, I don’t usually … have retainer clients, but they’re not the bread and butter of my business, and the fourth way that I work with people is through Copyedit School where I teach copywriters how to edit their copy, so it’s effortless and addictive to read.
Kira: So, Autumn, do you mind sharing how much you charge for your flat rate package?
Autumn: Sure. Absolutely. My flat rate is 350 words, which is about one page of copy, and for that, I charge $125, and that can be for any type of copy, website pages, landing pages, blog posts, emails, newsletters.
Kira: Okay, cool.
Rob: We should say that that is a bargain. There should be dozens of copywriters snapping you up because that is truly … What you add to a project, that’s just a remarkable price.
Kira: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of where I was going. Just from working with you on projects, it’s changed the way I look at my business and the service that I provide for clients because I went from kind of being this solopreneur freelancer to thinking about myself as more of a team and bringing in these experts and the way that I presented myself on sales calls to clients changed dramatically just by working with you on a project so that I could say, ‘Hey, I will bring in an editor, so when you review your copy on this first draft, you’re going to look for voice, brand, message, but don’t look at the spelling mistakes.’ And granted, I tried to clean it up anyway, but it takes the pressure off of you as a copywriter. It also changes the way that prospects and clients look at you as a copywriter because now they’re looking at you like you’ve got professional micro-agency, and you don’t have to show up differently than you actually are. But it does really take the professionalism up to the next level solely by investing and working with an editor. So, I know just from my time working with you, it’s just, it’s changed my mindset and my business dramatically. It’s totally worth it.
Autumn: Oh, well, thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
Kira: So, Autumn, I wanted to also ask you more about Copyedit School. Can you just tell us about how that’s set up? What copywriters really get from that or other business owners get from that program?
Autumn: So, Copyedit School is a four-week course where, like I said, I teach copywriters and business owners how to edit their own copy, so it’s clear, concise, and compelling. There are five components that I teach. Like I said before, editing for clarity because when your copy is clear, it’s understood in a precise way and remembered. Editing so your copy is concise because when it’s concise, it’s easier to read. It’s better thought out and better organized. Editing so that your copy is compelling because when it’s compelling it captures readers’ attention and holds it, causing them to nod their head in agreement and persuade them to take action. The fourth component is editing for mistakes. Again, this is where commonly confused words come in, different things like that that can make you look a little less professional, and the fifth component is editing copy so it flows.
And again, that’s about transitions, stories, everything like that, but through Copyedit School, one of the big things that I do is I have my students send me a piece of copy, a whole sales page or website, whatever they need, and I go through and, for them, I take that piece of copy, and I create a mistake style guide for them. So, I can show them where their copy can be improved for all of the five components that I teach. That way, at the end of this course, they’re leaving with their own mistake style guide that they can use, put right on their desk, use it as a reference, go through every piece of copy that they wrote or that they write after the course, and look through that and instantly improve what they’ve already written.
Rob: And Autumn, you also have a book in addition to your course. Tell us about your book and maybe a little bit about the process of writing it.
Autumn: Oh, gosh, my book. Yeah. That book is … I don’t want to call it my baby, but it is my brainchild. It is everything that I learned from copyediting, put into my copyediting, and hope that the world will use when they copyedit. The book was basically my own mistake style guide, and I went through and added stories, again, because stories are what connects people, and with those stories comes a tip. So, writing that book was more about coming up with stories and attaching tips to them in a way that made sense, so people could remember these tips because when you tell a story, you connect with your reader, and they’re going to remember what you wrote and remember the tip that you tell them. So, I want to think of my book as one part memoir, one part self-help guide because through that book, I teach people how to spot words and phrases and speak them, so they know whether their copy makes sense and whether it connects with the readers.
Kira: Yeah, and it’s such a great book. I think every copywriter should own it and have it on their desk. I have mine somewhere in my office. I just reorganized my office. I actually don’t know where it is right now, but I know I have it. But it’s just I love that your story is such a big part of it, and I think it’s a great example of as copywriters when we publish content, publish a book, create a course, how our story should play a role in it and how important that is and how it feels like when you’re reading through your book. I feel like I’m sitting down with you, and there’s just comfort in that. I think it feels like a very special, loved book. So, where can copywriters listening find that book if they want to order.
Autumn: It is on Amazon. All they have to do is search The Grumpy Grammarian’s Guide to Copyediting, and you will see a caricature of my face with a grump frown on the cover of the book. You can get it as a Kindle or a paperback.
Rob: I echo Kira. I think everybody should have this book on their desk. It’s a great addition to a writing library.
Autumn: Well, thank you so much. Like I said, it was a culmination of everything I learned about copyediting, and I don’t want to tease anything, but there’s probably going to be a part two.
Rob: Excellent. Nice.
Kira: When is part two launching?
Autumn: I have no idea. As I learn more and more, I find myself coming up with different, more interesting tips that I know I’m going to have to share.
Kira: Well, thank you, Autumn, for your time today and for collaborating with both of us and with me and my business and for playing such a big role in The Copywriter Club and the community. You’re inspiring, and you’re so talented. So, thank you for spending some time with us today.
Autumn: Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it, and I had a lot of fun.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available on iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving your review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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