How to Write Copy Like the OG Copywriters

BusinessMarketing & Advertising

  • Author Ellisen Wang
  • Published April 13, 2020
  • Word count 779

In my opinion, if you want to become good at anything, the best way to start learning is to study the pioneers. In this case, if you want to learn how to be a good copywriter, study the work of copywriters before the age of the Internet.

Back in those days, copywriters wrote direct response ads for different types of mediums like newspapers, magazines, physical mail, TV, and radio. And who were these OG copywriters, you ask?

To name a few of them:

David Ogilvy

Gary Halbert

Eugene Schwartz

Joseph Sugarman

Why did I mention these names in particular? Because these guys all have one thing in common. They all wrote very successful print ads. Ads that appeared in newspapers and your mailbox.

One of the best ways to start improving your copywriting skills is to copy, by hand, the print ads that were written by the copywriters I mentioned above.

At this point, you might be wondering, "Why copy print ads specifically? Can I also copy emails or online sales letters?"

Here’s why I suggest copying print ads.

Putting ads in newspapers costs money, and the cost can easily go up to four or five figures depending on how long your ad is or the publication. Because of that, before copywriters submit their ads to the publications, they have to make sure the copy is perfect. They have to make sure the ideas flow logically, there are no typos, and that no word is wasted.

So let’s get started. Here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Go to (It’s like Google but better because they don’t track you).

  2. Type in any of the four copywriters and then print ads right after. So for example, "David Ogilvy print ads."

  3. Find a print ad and start copying it by hand.

Yep, you read that correctly. Copy the ads BY HAND. Now you might start complaining and say, "I don’t have time for that and I don’t want my hands to be sore. Why can’t I just type it?" Because handcopying will help you better notice how the ad is written.

I’ll give you a personal example.

I decided to take an ad written by Gary Halbert called "How to Make Money with Your Credit Cards," and I copied it on my $1 yellow Staples notepad.

After one hour of copying the whole thing and enduring hand cramps, I was finally done and it was well worth it! There were a couple of key things I noticed.

  1. The whole ad continuously invokes curiosity. There were so many sentences in this ad that teased me on how I can make money with my credit card, but it never actually told how. And that curiosity pushed me to want to buy the book the ad promoted.

  2. The whole ad is written in plain English. There wasn’t a single moment where I had to stop reading the ad and pull out a dictionary because there was a sophisticated word that I didn’t know the meaning of. In most cases, you never want to use complex vocabulary or do anything that’ll interrupt the reader’s momentum or you’ll lose the effectiveness of your ad.

  3. Halbert thought ahead and cleared up potential customer objections. While I was reading through this ad, one of the thoughts that came to my mind was, "Is this even legal?" Sure enough, paragraph five answered my question by saying, "…each of these money-making techniques is perfectly safe. They’re also 100 per cent legal…" Because you won’t be able to do this in person, it’s extremely important for you to do this in your ads. Your readers will feel like you truly understand them and that’ll increase their confidence in buying your product.

  4. Sentences and paragraphs are kept short. Remember when you were told that a paragraph must be at least five sentences? Well, you can flush that idea down the toilet because you won’t be needing it anymore. As for the sentences, they’re kept short to increase the reader’s curiosity and make them read more, but they have different lengths to prevent the ad from sounding monotonous.

Now if you really don’t want to make your hand go through intense soreness, or you don’t have the time to sit down and copy an ad by hand, here’s an alternative.

Look up swiped co and study the ads there. And what’s great about this website compared to other swipe file websites is that each ad includes annotations explaining why the ads are written the way they’re written.

When you combine your improved copywriting skills with the high converting sales email framework that I teach in my free e-book, "5 Steps to Create Money Generating Emails," your email marketing effectiveness will increase tenfold!

Get yourself a copy of the book by clicking on the link below.

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