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Copy Work: Get Better At Copywriting By Handwriting Famous Pieces Of Work!

What is Copy Work?

"Copy Work" is when you hand copy famous ads in order to "learn" how that person wrote it.For example, the first copywriter I ever learned about was Gary Halbert. He had a very specific style (that while semi-scammy) was extremely engaging to read.I would hand-write out famous ads of his, like this Coat of Arms sales letter that made him a millionaire at age 32:

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By simply handwriting out the exact ad he made, I was able to "get in his head" and learn indirectly from Gary Halbert on my own time. I started noticing small details like:

  • How he indents his paragraphs.
  • How he uses extremely simple words.
  • How he asks for the sale "without" really asking.
  • How he uses punctuation.
  • How he starts his letters with an address and phone number.
  • How he finishes his sales letters with a P.S.
  • How long it takes to simply write out one letter.
  • ....and much much more....
     

Copy Work Exercises You Can Do:
Want to learn to write like a famous copywriter? We've included 30+ ads you can copy by hand in this post:

 

#1.) The man in the Hathaway shirt

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Why this is great: Easy to read layout. Talks about the style, and the details of the fabric. Has good CTA at the end.

#2.) Hathaway’s Aertex Club - a damnably smart leisure shirt

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Why this is great: Easy to read, familiar layout, familiar character (the Hathaway shirt man). It also pulls the reader in with “987,693 tiny windows”.

#3.) “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

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Why this is great: Clever headline matched with an authority-building subheadline. The body copy lays out 13 clear reasons why it’s a great car.

#4.) Lemon

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Why this is great: Great layout and image. The headline plays on a negative word, which grabs your attention. The body copy extends the “lemon” idea by showing you how VW actually does not let lemons leave their factories.

#5.) New Bodies for Old!

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Why this is great: “Proof” photo paired with eye contact and finger pointing. The subheadlines do a great job building desire.

#6.) Honestly now, did you spend your youth dreaming about someday owning a Nissan or a Mitsubishi?

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Why this is great: Clever headline plays on the thought in most of our heads. Body copy connects the dream with reality because now it’s “very affordable for you to drive one”.

#7.) Tred 2 makes the difference

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Why this is great: Eye-catching before-and-after image. The body copy outlines a great offer: instead of buying new shoes, send yours in and get them fixed for just $13.95.

#8.) They’re not cheap.

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Why this is great: Great image and eye-catching color. The formatting is really easy to read from top to bottom.
 

#9.) There isn’t much room on a sledge. Wally Herbert’s Rolex had to earn its place.

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Why this is great: It makes the watch part of the adventure story while highlighting quality and playing to manliness.

#10.) What could have started in the park just ended with that little itch.

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Why this is great: It sets up a potentially romantic story…gone wrong. Great storytelling that positions the shampoo as the magic bullet.

#11.) Beautiful Bouncin’ And Behavin’ Hair!

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Why this is great: The images show the “bouncing and behaving” in action - it’s great proof! 

#12.) See how Ray-Ban G-15 Sun Glasses open your eyes to safer driving!

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Why this is great: It shows a familiar before-and-after. Many of us have dealt with glaring sun while we’re driving. The body copy twists the knife on the left and plays up the benefits and features on the right.

#13.) The World’s Only Sun Glasses that Flex to Fit Your Face!

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Why this is great: The images show off the “flex” in several ways, on several people. 

#14.) The Burfron: Burberry Weatherproof for Naval Officers

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Why this is great: It sets up the coat as military-grade quality that solves a specific “fatal” problem - water seeping in. 

#15.) The New Balance 420 Was Designed To Protect Runners 6 Days Out Of 7

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Why this is great: The headline makes you wonder…why only 6 out of 7 days? The body copy explains the technical reason behind the headline, softly sells another shoe, and includes a great diagram “proving” why you should care about arch support.

#16.) Stop Bad Breath With Colgate While You Fight Tooth Decay All Day!

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Why this is great: Great layout and colors that make the toothpaste and headline stand out. The headline pairs two benefits (fight bad breath and tooth decay) and positions Colgate as the best in the industry.

#17.) Delta is an airline run by professionals

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Why this is great: This is a great trust builder. It shows the mechanic at work and lists all his qualifications.

#18.) TWA’s widebody 1011. It’s built for comfort.

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Why this is great: The headline starts with one broad claim (it’s built for comfort) and then the body copy backs it up with several specific examples of comfort and luxury.

#19.) Why Copy On A Floppy?

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Why this is great: The ad sets up the status quo (using floppy disks) vs a new alternative (a bigger/better hard drive), and lists all the reasons why the NCR PC6 is a better choice.

#20.) The guy on the left doesn’t stand a chance.

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Why this is great: The headline pulls your eye back to the image because it’s not immediately obvious that there is a difference. Then, the copy explains that the guy on the left is carrying a normal briefcase with a bunch of papers…and the guy on the right has an entire computer built into his briefcase. 

#21.) Officers and Enlisted Men Prefer Parker Safety-Sealed Fountain Pens

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Why this is great: The ad is built around a couple of attractive features/benefits - ink can’t escape and bleed onto your clothes, and the pens can be refilled with the press of a button. Plus, it’s the official pen of the Army and Navy. 

#22.) General Electric’s new 6-speaker coffee table…for people who like stereo

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Why this is great: It shows off the table in both “modes”. The layout and images are great, and the body copy lists a lot of additional attractive features.

#23.) For Those On The Go…It’s Helmet-Hat By Buco

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Why this is great: The images range from technical drawings to product shots to action shots - it’s a great way to present the helmet. The text is simple and direct.

#24.) There’s Something About A Greyhound That Makes It The Friendly Way To Travel

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Why this is great: Great artwork, interesting layout, and specific benefits about the driver, service, scenery, and savings. 

#25.) “I want the best workout my body ever had…I want Jazzercise!”

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Why this is great: The imagery is impossible to ignore and the text highlights 5 great bullets that are easy to understand and make signing up an easy decision. 

#26.) The Fuji Sports 10.

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Why this is great: Great layout that makes the bike look like it’s physically sitting on the text. 

#27.) “Shave Yourself”

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Why this is great: It sets up the (at the time) new idea of shaving at home as a better idea that’s clean, affordable, and a growing trend. 

#28.) Wrangler thinks Americans spend too much for clothes.

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Why this is great: It lays out a philosophy that you deserve quality for your money. This copy was popular and used with several different sets of images. 

#29.) Jox Introduces a Running Sock With Arch Support Built-In

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Why this is great: Great layout that draws the eye to the new product feature - the built-in arch support. The subheadline builds authority and the body copy adds extra benefits. 

#30.) Special Christmas Offers to Readers of The Ladies’ Home Journal

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Why this is great: This 120+ year old ad should be tough to read, but the layout, text sizing, and images do a great job drawing your eye down the page. All the formatting tricks used here still work today.

#31.) They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano

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Why this is great: The headline is a fantastic storytelling hook, and the rest of the ad goes on to tell the story. It makes you want to relive the situation yourself - winning over a crowd and impressing everyone.

I hope you take some time and do some Copy Work with these ads!
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P.S. If you'd like to get even BETTER at copywriting here's some more resources:
 
- A free swipe file of marketing materials -
- What is copywriting (a visual guide) -
- Copywriting books and courses -
- How to become a copywriter -
- Copywriting Exercises -
- Join Us? -
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