The Importance of “Deep Reading”

Alexander Green

According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That's 28 hours a week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year. In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

Nielsen also points out that 48% of males between the ages of 18 and 34 are regular video gamers. And they play an average of 2 hours and 43 minutes a day.

This is a shame.

It is through books, chiefly, that we engage with superior minds. People who read regularly think better, speak better, and express themselves more clearly. They understand more and tend to be more interesting. They are also more likely to be promoted. No single factor correlates more closely with business success than a broad vocabulary.

As it turns out, how you dress for work is far less important than how you dress your thoughts. Wise men have always known this.

More than two thousand years ago, Socrates said, "Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writing so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for."

Copywriters, however, need to do a particular type of reading — deep reading. They need to familiarize themselves with the best writing in their particular field, both from a copywriting and an editorial standpoint.

If you are writing in the health field, for instance, you want to peruse the best-selling copy in the industry. But you also want to learn as much as you can about nutrition, diet, supplements, new medicines, new therapies, and the latest scientific studies.

When you sit down to write, you'll be surprised how vital this information becomes.

As you do your deep reading, you should always collect and save the best of what you discover. Create electronic files to store your Internet readings and actual files for newspaper and magazine articles and printed reports. When you get down to writing copy, you will draw on them often.

If you are writing in the investment field, you will need to spend plenty of time with publications like The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Forbes, BusinessWeek, Fortune, and Smart Money. You need to know what the best financial analysts are saying and your potential audience is reading. You need to understand a wide variety of financial terms and jargon, not necessarily so you can use them yourself — the more unadorned your language, the better in the craft of copywriting — but because you need to know and appreciate what is being said and why.

I can't overemphasize the importance of reading broadly and deeply.

Very few writers have amazing ideas that simply leap from their heads. More often, events in the news trigger ideas based on past reading. And even then, you will still need to dig in and do still more research, something that is becoming increasingly easy thanks to the Internet and all the free resources available on it.

I estimate that a good copywriter needs to spend 15%-20% of his day simply reading in his field. You need to learn to recognize compelling ideas, relevant material, strong evidence, and credible quotes. These are the nuts and bolts you will use to write first-rate copy.

I've never known a successful copywriter who doesn't read deeply, intensively, and extensively. I can assure you it has been a big part of my own experience in the industry.

When a budding copywriter asked me a few years ago what was the single greatest key to my success, I didn't hesitate. "You may be smarter than me," I said. "You may be more knowledgeable and more experienced. You may be a better writer. But you know what? I bet I can out-read you."

Deep reading is what makes the difference.

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Published: June 14, 2016

14 Responses to “The Importance of “Deep Reading””

  1. You make some very good points, thank you. It's my passion for environmental issues that drives me to write copy for the nonprofit sector.
    What I've learned (& incorporated into several protest letters PER WEEK to lawmakers and other authorities) over the years will definitely flow into my copywriting endeavors as well.
    Activism (online & off) is thriving, thanks to the knowledge it conveys to concerned citizens who want to make a difference. Effective copy makes that happen & I want to be a part of it!

    Beth Jones

  2. Reading is the seeds of increasing the knowledge,if you read more, the more you gained.
    It is difficult to any person to make a quick search meeting all the humans one by one ,seeking knowledge from them.
    So the best way and easiest one is to read their written knowledge to reach them everywhere.
    I enjoy reading different books in arts,politics, religion and economic.

    Guest (Magey thow )

  3. Alexander, you reminded me as I launch my new writing career of what is important. As you said so well, if you want to be good at something (writing), study the best work of your peers and especially those that came before you.

    This can be an overwhelming idea for an aspiring writer because there is so much out there – what to read? I've read that one of the biggest trends influencing the writing field (and the internet) now is the shift in importance from quantity to quality, i.e., offer only excellent work. What a welcome idea!

    Thanks again for an inspiring article!

    Guest (Tom French)

  4. Reading and writing go in the same sentence because that belong together. These are abilities which require the left and right hemispheres of the brain to fully perform. Reading and writing are fraternal twins of both cognizance and creativity.

    Guest (Word of Mouth)

  5. Hello Alexander, Thank you for your excellent tip.
    I work full time 10 hours a day/ 6 days a week.
    But I still find 2 hours between my clients to read.I read the AWAI articles every day, taking notes, learning from the Big Masters.
    I sincerely hope very soon I can find a job as a Freelance Copywriter, working on my own hours.
    Thank you.God Bless.


  6. I love this article. I love reading. I am addicted to it now for 52 years and that means i now am very excited to accelerate my copy writing career starting off.. Wow. Thanks so much Alexander ..Loving it


  7. You wanted to know what we were reading to help us improve, well I have recently started The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, and will update more as I travel through my adventure of learning the business.

    Wayne from Ga

  8. Hi Will, I love the term Wild comes from a teacher named Donalyn Miller in her books, Reading in the Wild, and The Book Whisperer. I'm a Wild Reader, always have been. I teach my middle school students to be Wild Readers. We live, breathe and eat words together. Right now, I'm reading a YA novel by John Green called An Abundance of Katherines. I always have a novel going, for evening relaxation. I'm reading a lot of copywriting material from the Advanced Training program right now.

    Joyce H

  9. I just finished reading "Scientific Advertising' again by Claude Hopkins.

    Marcellus Greene

  10. I am a dietician I love reading a lot anything related to nutrition and health. I have been writing articles about nutrition and eating well for 6 years. I follow some of the tips you mentioned in your article. Thanks for your inspiring ideas I hope To write a book related to nutrition and wellness.

    Guest (Wafa)

  11. Great article. Having taken the Internet Research Specialist course here at AWAI I can see great value in this.

    Thomas Arillotta

  12. Reading and writing go hand in hand. I tell my ESL students to read everything they can get their hands on, menu's; fliers; web blogs (although many of these have poor grammar and spelling) and other sources of written material. It all soaks in and comes out when they need to write. Now that I'm moving into different forms of writing, as a business, I'm reading voraciously in my new topic, BlockChain and CryptoCurrencies. I've already found 17 sources of good written material. I'm on my way.

    Will Craig

  13. Never enough G.K. Chesterton. My heart aches because I am not at the American Chesterton Society Conference right now. why does it take make months at at a time to keep up with email? computer screens strain my eyes, and I am buried alive in G.K Cheeterton books, as well as many other great Catholic theologians, apologists and Saints.😇

    Guest (Christy Read)

  14. Forgive me if this shows up twice. G.K. Chesterton is my go to deep read. I am obviously Kate on replying to the computer screens strain my eyes, and I am buried alive in books by G.K. well as a few other great Catholic theologians,apologists and Saints...and few simple well writing lay Christ loving people.

    Guest (Christy Read)

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