What to do if you find writing website stuff, adverts and “About-Me” HARD!

Written by  //  February 24, 2014  //  Daily Juice  //  8 Comments

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The Swipe File! This is SUCH a FAB tool if you find the right words don’t come easy to you.

I started doing it yonks ago before I realised a ‘Swipe File’ was a thing! I had a box of newspaper clippings (I did say it was a long time ago!) which I would read and re-read to help me find my voice. What was in there? Maggie Alderson, Nigella Lawson, Sarah Wilson to name a few. I don’t think I sound at all like them, but their writing certainly helped me.

Anyway after doing this Swipe File thing in secrecy for ages I discovered that a swipe file is a real technique that’s been used by copywriters for decades! And it’s super-useful so I thought you might want to try it too.

So what’s a Swipe File? Well it’s just a fancy-pants name for a collection of words and phrases that you’ve seen around the place and think might be useful for yourself. Copywriters often keep Swipe Files of advertising phrases, but you can use it for anything!

I think a Swipe File really comes into its own if you’re re-writing your website, putting together adverts/flyers, or writing “About you” stuff. If you’ve done any of this recently you’ll know how HARD it is to find the right words!

The trouble is though you need your Swipe File before you embark on this kinda project. So it’s a good idea to get started now……!

1. Decide what sort of Swipe File you’re going to keep. I use Evernote (I finally moved on from the newspaper clippings!) because it’s so easy to copy words and phrases into it, and I won’t LOSE it. You may prefer a notebook. That’s fine too.

2. Next you need to start finding useful words and phrases. If you’re not used to doing this then it will take a teeny bit of getting used to before it becomes an easy habit! Just practice for the next week or so looking out for words/phrases you like or seem to resonate with you  – think adverts!  -and pop them into your Swipe File. You’ll quickly build up a collection!

3. If you’re not finding many useful words or phrases, try reading some different blogs, magazines and articles.  A good tip is to look out for the type of stuff that your customers read and enjoy.

4. You don’t need to do a mass-read forever! Once you’ve done Step 3 for a bit you’ll have a good collection, then you can just add stuff to your Swipe File as and when you come across it.

5. When you DO come to do a bit of writing start by flicking through your Swipe File. I find that it helps to get my brain into the right mood! Then if you get stuck you can go back to your Swipe File to use use particular words or phrases.


You might be worried that a Swipe File is copying. If you use it properly, it’s totally not. It’s just a way of getting inspiration, expanding your vocabulary and helping you think about how to phrase things.

A useful tip to  make sure you don’t ‘copy’ is to only “swipe” from people who are in a totally different industry to you. So when I was ‘swiping’ Maggie Alderson, Nigella Lawson and Sarah Wilson, none of them were writing business-y stuff. If I were a food writer I’d not include Nigella in my Swipe File. You get the picture.

Another good idea is to widen your Swipe File to include lots of different writers and sources. That way anything you swipe will just be a mash-up!

If writing’s not your thing (but you need to do it, like most of us) then a Swipe File is super-helpful.  It kinda just helps you find words or phrases that are perfect for YOU to use, but just don’t spring into your mind!

What do you reckon? Fancy trying a Swipe File?!


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8 Comments on "What to do if you find writing website stuff, adverts and “About-Me” HARD!"

  1. Jess February 26, 2014 at 10:24 am · Reply

    Such a great, great, great idea! Wish I had of seen this a few days ago – as we just finished re-writing an editorial that the local paper had done on our farm – it was soooooo hard to do!!

    • Julia Bickerstaff February 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm · Reply

      Fab to get the editorial Jess but it IS so hard to write (or edit) about oneself! x

  2. Cath February 26, 2014 at 10:40 am · Reply

    I started copy and pasting inspirational ‘wording’ a few years ago, particularly when I was setting up my Etsy shop and didn’t have a clue about shop policies, etc. The hardest thing was the ‘about me’ pages, I just seemed so boring! I now read every flyer I receive and other’s blogs and there’s always something new that I had forgotten to mention. As for blog posts, I am up and down. Some days it’s bursting out of me and others, well, let’s just say these are my housework days!

    • Julia Bickerstaff February 26, 2014 at 8:17 pm · Reply

      Those “About-me” pages are SO tricky aren’t they Cath?! I’m a bit like that about blogging too – and I’m definitely better if I do it when I’m in the right mood! Some weeks I have a very clean house…..! x

  3. Shelley Davis March 1, 2014 at 9:38 pm · Reply

    Wow Julia, what a fantastic idea, I wish I’d known about it years ago but better late than never. I’m finding it very difficult to find my voice so will very gladly give this a go. Thanks! I’m from the blog with pip group by the way.

    • Julia Bickerstaff March 1, 2014 at 10:01 pm · Reply

      Hi Shelley! Thanks for popping by! I found it SO hard to find my voice. I wrote a book a few years back (“How to Bake a Business”) and it nearly never happened ‘cos I couldn’t find my voice. Then one day it all kinda clicked over a recipe in “How to be a Domestic Goddess”! After that I started “swiping” and, oh goodness, it worked like magic!. x

  4. Hope September 12, 2014 at 11:14 pm · Reply

    Oh gosh this is so interesting. I’ve been doing this too with a private pinterest board and never knew it was an actual thing!

    • Julia Bickerstaff September 13, 2014 at 6:43 am · Reply

      That’s funny Hope – I did it before I knew it was a thing TOO!

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