Copywriting: how to improve and where to start

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Fábio Ochôa

Fuerza occasionally invites professionals from various fields to discuss the impact of technology on their fields. These are people we admire and follow. And today, with the floor, a great partner, friend, and collaborator.

It’s been a while since we established this space here as a place for reflection, debate, and sharing. Our company circulates around the world creating websites, apps, and games. However, since coding is in the category of “indecipherable mysteries of humanity” for me, right there, next to the construction of the pyramids of Egypt and the formula for Cheetos (clearly something that is bad for you but still manages to be good for the Devil), I thought it would be best to use this space to talk about the part that falls within my purview: that is, text.

Or, how to improve a text.

After all, if there’s one thing social media has taught us, it’s that no matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on, your religion, sexual orientation, or the agenda you follow, at some point you WILL write a long text.

And depending on the quality of that long text, it might even take you to another place.

Mine took me to Porto Alegre.


Start and finish your text well, and all the problems along the way will be forgiven. It’s as simple as that.


Well, being obvious and redundant, the beginning is literally the first thing your reader will read and, by extension, what will decide whether they stay on board or not.

The basic tips:

Be concise.

Be incisive.

Don’t be formal.

Don’t be insecure.

Be impactful.

And the more out of the ordinary, the better.

Our brain is trained to capture the most impressions at first glance. It’s actually a basic survival mechanism, one we haven’t been able to erase in 6,000 years of civilization.

Back when we roamed the savannas, this ability to draw quick conclusions – and reactions – was a survival condition, it was the difference between eating or not eating that mushroom that could kill you, between avoiding or not the approaching storm, or whether that mysterious noise in the bushes was a lurking tiger or a harmless animal.

The brain is also an energetically expensive organ. Very. It consumes a lot of energy, about 20% of everything we consume*. No other organ comes close, the heart, for example, does its job with half of that. That’s why it saves energy by taking shortcuts. We get an initial impression and make a series of conclusions from the first moment.

Unfortunately, it is also the basis of a problem that has plagued us since forever: prejudice. Something that precedes the concept, to make a judgment about something before actually knowing it. It comes painted a different color? It must be a threat. Do they wear a different type of clothing? They must be from a rival tribe.

This economy of thought – and by extension, of energy cost – permeates the simplest decisions in our daily lives. Was it difficult to get into the app? It’s not worth using. All usability must be equally complicated.

Was the first sentence of the text boring or complicated?

The whole rest of the text must be.

The more common and formal the beginning of a text is, the more we lose the reader’s attention, even if they stay on board. The brain understands that it has seen/read it before, it falls into a sphere of recognition, into a zone of, let’s say, domesticity.

The more strange and intriguing the beginning, the more it forces attention, precisely because we don’t know where it’s going to end up.

So, the text starts like this:

Text: how to improve and where to start

Around here. Obviously.

But it could be like this:

Text: how to improve and where to start

To begin with, stop screwing up.

Or like this:

Text: how to improve and where to start

Reading, practicing, studying, and above all, stop screwing up.

Or like this:

Text: how to improve and where to start

With these sneaky tips, of course.

Or like this:

Text: how to improve and where to start

Well, if you’re here, you’ve already started.

About attention: there’s an essay by playwright David Mamet about art putting us in a state of hunting. I quite like this idea.

According to Mamet, we consume art to “hunt in safe conditions”. We want the excitement that a hunt brings, the emotional alteration – whatever kind it may be – but without the real risks of the hunt.

Because hunting reminds us that we are alive.

With each scene that follows in a movie, or moment in a play, page of a comic book, or book, or paragraph of a text, you don’t know what’s coming next. That’s the suspense that keeps us hooked and focused on the work.

The more common and familiar the paragraph that follows, the more this attention is dispersed. The goal is always to keep the reader alert. Familiarity kills attention.


At the end of reading, we enter another stage, the brain begins the process of archiving and selecting what it has seen.

In a very simple way, it either keeps or goes to the memory trash can.

An equally impactful ending or final sentence helps a lot in this archiving process. It’s a punch to the reader, right before the curtain closes. They get punched and then it’s over. And in the seconds after reading that last line, the text remains alive in their head, processing that final impact.

Two exemplary endings in this regard, the closing line of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Where the animals on the farm decide to spy on the dinner between the pigs that led the revolution and their human rivals. They all dine together, to the point where we can no longer tell who is who, pigs and humans are the same.


“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Throughout the entire book, we see the transformation – metaphorical – of the pigs into the humans they deposed. Orwell’s lesson is clear: power corrupts and levels despots and revolutionaries. By closing this way, the question lingers in our minds as we process everything we’ve just seen.

Another phenomenal ending is from the unfairly forgotten film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed – surprisingly well, too – by George Clooney. Confessions… is based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, the creator of the “gong shows,” which we know here as Gong Show, where ordinary people embarrass themselves on television trying to win some prize. Instead of choosing talented people, Barris deliberately chose the most strange and off-key types, betting on ridicule and bad taste.

The point is that Barry’s autobiography is at the very least controversial. In a quite crazy way, he flat out states that his work as a TV producer was just a cover and his true breadwinner was as a CIA secret agent and assassin. A crazy business. But Clooney and Kaufman take off from this weirdness, without judging what is true and what – obviously – is not.

Barry is considered one of those responsible for turning television into something low, betting on humiliation. And the film’s final monologue closes this manner in a completely synthetic and impactful way.

In the monologue, Barry, in the voice of actor Sam Rockwell, states that he wants to return to TV. He has a new idea, a show called “The Old Show”, where he will invite elderly people, ask them what they wanted to be in life, their youth dreams and hopes, and will ask how many achieved what they wanted. How many at least came close to it.

Whoever doesn’t shoot themselves in the head, is the winner.

He wins a refrigerator.

Following the rules I established here, I should wrap with a short and impactful sentence to help engrave the text, but it’s difficult because everything seems ordinary after such an ending.

Damn it, Clooney, you really messed with me…

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