Copywriting: Drafting Rules for Professionals

As a professional contractor who wears many hats, you owe it to yourself and your clients to be as organized as possible. In a previous article, I discussed the importance of delivering an organized draft that your co-creators can easily work from. Following are some suggestions for freelance copywriters who wish to streamline their copy submission process and ensure a crisp, clean draft every time.

General Copy Drafting Rules

1. Do not deviate from the standard fonts, Arial or Times New Roman, 10 or 12 point.

2. Submit all copy with ONE SPACE after a period, NOT TWO.

3. Save all copy drafts as a Word document.

4. Make sure that SMART QUOTES and all "autoformatting" is shut off before typing your copy into a fresh Word document. That means NO auto indents, NO auto bullets, NO fraction symbols, etc.

5. Use BOLD, ITALIC or UNDERLINE where necessary. You may also html tag these as so < b > bold < /b > if the client has requested it.

6. Every draft should be spellchecked by computer and by eyeball.

Setting Up Your Copy Draft

Develop a Standard Copy Draft Template. Use this template to set up each initial copy draft you create. Be sure to include the following:

A Header that lists:

1. The client's name or company name
2. The author (your name)
3. Today's date
4. Project description
5. Draft Number

A Footer that includes the page number.

(To add page numbers, go the top menu and click INSERT and then PAGE NUMBERS.)

When creating a new document, follow the drafting process as outlined below.

1. Open up the Copy Draft Template on your desktop
2. Immediately do a Save-As and rename the document as follows:


In this naming conventention, the three Xs represent the first three letters of the client's company name. The label "descrip" should be replaced by a qualifier. "DraftX" will be the draft number.

Sample filename for "Rocky's Hot Wings" menu copy, draft number two:


In creating additional revised drafts of this copy, use an identical file naming format, replacing only the X value at the end of the filename.

Note: If for some reason you don't have access to your Standard Copy Draft Template, you can create your own document from scratch provided the following is included:

Before you being typing, "prep your document" by doing the following:

1. Turn off the SMART QUOTES feature.

The reason for this is because HTML and PDFs do not interpret curly quotes and curly single quotes or apostrophes correctly. This will CORRUPT your text with weird-looking symbols throughout.

Despite what your college professor may have told you, MAKE SURE YOU USE STRAIGHT QUOTES (") AND FOOT MARKS(') in all of your copy drafts for any client jobs.

2. Turn off all AUTO FORMATTING.

Auto formatting is of absolutely no use to someone who plans to format text into their own style sheets or graphic design. It is more trouble than it's worth so DO NOT hand in formatted text of any kind.

Do not tab, bullet, auto-number, auto-correct, auto-cap, make fractions out of or otherwise format your text.

Label Your Sections

While not every project will require you to divide it into sections, items such as e-book copy, catalog copy and web copy will. If you're working on something that will be presented visually in pieces, label each section of your copy with an appropriate descriptor. Use a BOLD font or some other qualifier to indicate section descriptions.

Note: your section descriptors should not be confused with your headlines. Do something "different" to the section descriptors and apply that treatment uniformly throughout the piece. For example, if your headlines are bolded already, you may want to ALL-CAP your section headers to eliminate confusion.

For example, if you're writing web copy, you might title your descriptors as so:


You can also label your headlines and subheadlines so that whoever is picking up your copy can be sure of how to lay it all out. For example:


Headline: Web Copywriting Basics
Subhead: Master the Tricks the Pros Use

Formatting "Lists"

Some projects such as taglines, banner ad ideas and headline brainstorms will require that you submit them in list format.

Type your lists at 12 point and don't skip a line between each listing. The customer will likely be paying by the page, so he'll want his money's worth of creative input.

Editing An Existing Draft

You may be required to edit a draft occasionally that someone else will make changes to. If this is the case, use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. As you edit, your "suggested" revisions will show up in the document as crossouts, replaced text and word additions in a different color than the original text.

You may also be required to make the final revisions on a document that has already been edited with the Track Changes feature. If this is the case, open the document on your desktop, do a Save As, and rename the document to the next consecutive draft number.

You will have to go up to the Track Changes menu again and uncheck the boxes so that you'll be able to make your revisions without "crossouts" and colored edits showing up.

After you've shut off this feature, implement the requested changes as per normal draft creation. Don't forget to SAVE every few minutes!

Preparing a Document for Email Transmission

Note: Before you send your copy draft document, be sure that it's saved as a Word document on your desktop and not in your Temp folder. If you leave it in the Temp folder and then make draft revisions, you can count on losing track of where those revisions are later. They may even be deleted accidentally!

After saving your document to the desktop, attach it to an email message with appropriate intro text.

Your email subjectline should be titled to reflect the client name, project description and draft number.

Sample Email Subjectline:

Rocky's Hot Wings Menu Copy Draft 1

When you make future revisions and subsequent drafts of this client's copy, retain the identical email subjectline and delete the "RE:" from the subjectline, as this will mess up the sorting of your emails in your inbox as well as tick off the person who is on the receiving end of the work.

Your next draft of this same file should be named:

Rocky's Hot Wings Menu Copy Draft 2

At some point you may want to ask questions, qualify what you wrote, make a suggestion or otherwise comment along with copy you submit. The ideal place to do this is in the email itself, as a brief memo. Be sure to include your contact information such as email address and phone number at the bottom of the email for quick reference.

Storing Your Files

For your own peace of mind, it's wise to store existing drafts in their own properly labeled folders on your Desktop or wherever you prefer to keep your work files. You never know when a client will want to go back to "square one" and if you know where square one is located you can save yourself a lot of anguish.

If you have any questions about setting up, submitting or sending copy drafts, please contact Dina Giolitto, Copywriting Consultant, at

Dina Giolitto is the author of ARTICLE POWER: Create Dynamite Web Articles and Watch Your Sales Explode... a 49-page manual covering every aspect of article marketing on the web. Learn about article marketing, copywriting and more at

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