The CORRECT Way To Use A Swipe File

For a copywriter, swipe files can be pure gold.

They can reduce the amount of time you need to think about projects, give you new insights and ideas, help you become a better copywriter by copying them via hand or typing it out and studying it, and can give you a behind-the-scenes look at how that copy was produced if you know how to do it right.

But today I want to talk to you about using a swipe file ethically and legally.

I don’t know if you know this, but you can actually be sued for plagiarism if you swipe something that’s TOO similar. So let me show you how NOT to get sued!

Study The Structure

There is a structure to every piece of copy and as a professional copywriter you should be able to spot it. For example, are they using the AIDA formula? Are they using the “tell them what you’re about to tell them, tell them, then told them what you told them” formula? Or something different?

You can also look at things like how they set up the subheads or how the design is laid out and simply modify what they have and MODEL it (don’t copy) to your own sales copy.

Study The Emotions

When you’re studying swipe files before doing a project, the best thing to look for is what emotions they’re hitting on. For example, if you’re selling a weight loss product you’re most likely going to be hitting on the “vanity” emotion constantly.

That’s a given…but what other emotions are they evoking that seemed to have turned out great for that copywriter?

Are their any fears or frustrations they’ve themed that copy on which produced high converting copy?

Here’s an example of this:

The other day I got a promotion and the headline read “Who Wants To Live To Be 100?”

Now I kept that file and the next time one comes in from that company I’ll look to see if it hits upon that same type of emotion – fear of dying young or the promise of growing old while still in great health (depending on your own perspective of the subject)

Study Each Section

There are 4 main sections in copy.

The headline

The lead copy

The body copy

The closing/offer

You can break these down even further, but these are the 4 main parts. What I like to do is separate each of these sections and study them each individually.

Then create a separate folder with something like “awesome closings” at the top so you know you have a file of closing copy that you like.

If you model just one part of the sales letter, but from a few different sales letters – that will greatly reduce your risk of looking like you “stole” the copy.

What You Need To Notice…

Now I want you to notice something.

Did you see that I’m NOT telling you to model the exact phrases they’re using in the copy?

Instead of copying the exact words off that swipe file, just model the ideas, emotions and thought-process of the person who wrote that copy.

(And I know it was into grey territory with the separating sections idea, but you still wouldn’t be swiping the exact words)

I personally don’t think modeling off other people’s copy is a HUGE disaster because the majority of people are flattered to see their copy being swiped…but you still need to look out for yourself for those “just in case” times.

Just remember, instead of swiping the actual copy, swipe the ideas, emotions and thought processes and you’ll not only write better copy on that job, you’ll write it better forever!

2 Responses to The CORRECT Way To Use A Swipe File

  1. Meg August 24, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    Thanks Jeremy. I’m working on a piece right now and I have something in mind my from my swipe file that fits perfectly. I’m trying really hard to make it my own while also keeping the effective elements. This post is very helpful in that regard!

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