There's Power in Numbers:
Strengthening Your Copy Through Peer Review

When you're working alone at home, it can be difficult to honestly evaluate the progress you're making on your project. Is it on target? Is it close? Or does it miss by a mile?

It'll be much easier to make sure your copy is strong if you do what three AWAI alumni did. They formed a writers' group and use a technique they learned at last year's FastTrack to Success bootcamp to figure out what works and what doesn't work in their copy.

The three alumni are David Chapman, Michele Angello, and Janice Samuelson. Two years ago, they didn't know each other. But now they meet twice a week at a local restaurant to review each other's copy. They call their group "The Copy Circle."

The Copy Circle is the brainchild of David Chapman, who began copywriting full-time this June. "I met Michele two years ago at bootcamp," he explains. "I went again last September and met Janice. Since we all live in the same area, I suggested we get together to critique each other's work using Michael Masterson's peer review process that Janice and I had just learned. It worked wonders at bootcamp, and I knew it would strengthen our writing back home."

Three ground rules guide the entire process: (1) There are no criticisms and/or explanations by either the reviewer or the writer. (2) Copy is read and evaluated on a number of pre-determined criteria and scored from 1 to 4. (3) All suggestions by the reviewers are given in the form of "copy."

For instance, when evaluating a headline each person in the group scores it based on these questions: "Does the headline grab attention?" and "Does it make you want to read further?"

If any element scores below an average of 3.2 from the group, participants are asked to give quick, specific suggestions – in the form of copy – on how to strengthen it. For example, just saying the headline is too vague is not acceptable. But saying, "What if we change the headline to '5 Ways to …'" is. The rest of the group then evaluates whether the suggested change makes the copy worse, better, or the same.

(AWAI students know, of course, that the best way to improve any headline is to put it through the 4 U's. Is it useful, urgent, ultra-specific, and unique?)

This process helps you improve your copy by (1) identifying why it doesn't work, and (2) coming up with specific, positive suggestions to bolster it.

You can get the same benefits by forming your own peer review copy circle. The best place to start is at our annual FastTrack to Success bootcamp this October – just like Janice, David, and Michele did. You'll not only meet many fellow copywriters, you'll also be able to directly experience the power of peer review when guided through it by one of our master copywriters. (And the friendships you'll make can be the basis of your own copy circle.)

If you can't make it to bootcamp, try posting a message on our forum asking any fellow students interesting in forming a copy circle to contact you. While it's nice to review copy face-to-face like David, Janice, and Michelle do, it can be done over the phone as well. (I wouldn't recommend doing it electronically, though. The immediate feedback and interaction among the participants is critical.)

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 17, 2004

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