Better Than Plagiarism

How I Use This Clever Copywriting Trick To Write Better Emails

If you struggle to write emails that sound the way you want them to… I’ve got a simple trick for you to try. 

This trick has been used by many of the copywriting greats like Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy, but I learned this trick from my mentor and copywriting coach, Derek Johanson, who has made an entire business using this “trick” as the basis for learning copywriting.

First you need to find an email you like (or more than one) from a company you admire and you know is successful. Start with an email you realized worked on you, meaning you felt compelled to open and read it all the way through. Bonus if you pick an email that compelled you to click the call to action. 

Eventually you’re going to want to pick an email from the same industry that you are in, or at least an email that speaks to the same audience as your customer base. However to start, just look through your own personal gmail inbox promotions tab and see if there are any emails you saved because you wanted to come back to them. Print those emails out, or save them in a folder for later. Next, start paying attention to any new emails that grab you and save them in the same way. 

Now here’s the trick. Get a pen or pencil and some paper, set a timer (I prefer fifteen minute blocks, but you can go as long as a half an hour at a time) and start hand copying your favorite email in your own handwriting. Hand copy the subject line, the preview text if it has it, and the entire body of the email. You don’t need to worry about any footer text in the email, just the body of the email and any captions or headlines included in the main section of the email.  If your timer goes off before you’ve finished copying the email, take a short break and then reset your timer and keep copying until you’ve finished writing out the whole email.

If you’ve chosen an e-commerce email or a cold email from an agency or SaaS company, it shouldn’t take you too long to finish hand copying the entire email. If you choose a more word heavy email, possibly from a coach or guru, or even a personal email from a friend or a teacher, you don’t need to kill yourself copying the entire email all at once. Start with the sections that stand out to you the most and stop writing when you’ve had enough.

Now, you’re going to do the same practice again the next day. If you have another favorite email lined up, hand copy that one. If not, re-copy the same email from the previous day. It also helps if you go out and get yourself (if you’re not already) on the email list of your competitors and companies that are adjacent to yours and start picking out more good emails to save for your new hand copying practice.

Now… I’m not an expert on hand copying psychology, so I can only tell you what works from my own experience. But for me, after as little as five days of hand copying sales messages, the good stuff started to sink in. I not only understood what was happening in the sales messages, I could start to feel them. After two weeks of hand copying I began to see all sales messages (even the ads on tv) with new eyes and I could easily tell what was working, and what I think should be changed and made better.

Of course that doesn’t mean after a day or a week of hand copying, you will be at the height of your marketing potential. It just means you’ll be changed in how you experience good marketing, and your email writing will be better off for it. If you want to really become a dedicated student and practitioner of copywriting, I recommend getting on the CopyHour email list and look into buying Derek’s course. 

But if all you need to do is fix the way your emails sound and slowly turn them from bland sales pitches to high converting email marketing gold, you can use this trick before you sit down to create a new email for your business. Regularly hand copying effective sales messages will subtly transform your copy without too much stress or agony on your part. 

I also recommend using this trick if you need to change the “voice” of your email copy. The idea is the same, except instead of simply looking for effective emails, you need to look for emails, or any writing actually, that uses the voice you are trying to capture. If you make a practice out of hand copying content that uses a different voice from your own, you will see a change in your own writing slowly but surely.

If you’re thinking that hand copying sounds agonizing and time consuming, I can tell you it is not as difficult as it sounds, and the payoff is totally worth any temporary discomfort. When I started hand copying under Derek’s Johanson’s direction he said that the hardest part is the first ten minutes. I’ve pretty much found that to be true. Usually when I glance up at the timer it’s already been about eighteen minutes, and it’s not because my hand hurts, it’s because I’m getting towards the end of my hand copying “assignment” and I’m wondering how much time I have left before I can move on to other things. 

The time commitment is a half hour or less. But since this trick will cut down on the time you spend agonizing over what to write and how your writing sounds, the time investment is most likely a net gain. Add to that the gains of transforming your emails into copy that captivates and converts as well as the best email marketers in the world… And I think you’ve got an argument for blatant plagiarism that you can bring back to your elementary school teacher and tell her you’ve got something even better.

Hi! I’m Annie Aaroe, a b2b marketing strategist. To find out more about story-driven, conversion copy and strategy that’s tailored for tech and SaaS brands, visit my website,, or shoot me an email at

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