The red/yellow/green copy critique: improve your copy in 15 minutes

Red Yellow Green Copy Critique Technique

Writing copy can be hard and frustrating. Like anything else, getting good takes practice. But here’s a simple exercise you can do in 15 minutes that will have a dramatic impact on your copywriting. I call it the “red-yellow-green” copy critique, and it’s really simple and easy.

  1. Decide which copy  you want to work on. It could be your home page, some other pages on your site, an email sequence, a proposal template, a lead magnet, a presentation, or whatever.
  2. Find a buddy who you trust to give you honest answers, who will also want some copy reviewed. Ask your buddy to review your copy according to the simple technique I’m going to show you below. This will take your buddy 5 minutes or less. Offer to do the same for your buddy.
  3. Exchange copy. You can do this right in email, or create a Google Doc, which might be an easier way to keep track of things.
  4. Imagine you are a potential client for your buddy and review the copy. This is really, really simple and doesn’t require advanced marketing or literature degrees.
    1. Highlight text that speaks about you (the potential prospect) or to you in green.
    2. Highlight text that speaks about your buddy in red.
    3. Highlight text that you don’t understand (perhaps there’s a lot of technical jargon) in yellow.
  5.  Notify your buddy that you’re done (and get the notification when your buddy is done.

If your copy looks like this (actual example)…

Red Yellow Green Copy Critique Technique

… there’s too much about you, and not enough about your prospect, and too much that’s confusing.

This red-yellow-green copy critique solves the biggest problem most people have with copywriting– writing about the wrong person!

You need to have a little bit of red in there, showing how and why you are an important part of the prospect’s story, but it should be mostly about the prospect.

How can you get less red and yellow and more green?

First, ask yourself if you really need the copy at all? Can you just get rid of it? Does it add to the story? You can off make copy much more compelling just by making it shorter.

Can you take the confusing parts (in yellow) and write them in the prospect’s language? (Note that if your buyers– not your users, but your buyers– are highly technical, you need to make sure your critique buddy has that background.)

For the parts in red, here are some ideas:

  • Change “our awesome feature/service X” to “our customers are now able to do Y”.
  • Change “we go beyond expectations for great service” (everyone seems to say that– how do you even know what their expectations are?) to a client testimonial (with name and picture).
  • Change “in today’s fast-changing world” to why whatever change you’re talking about is important to customers.

If you feel like you’re not an ace copywriter, try this simple 15 minute red/yellow/green technique so you’re focused on the right protagonist for your copy.


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