The Psychology Behind Proofreading and Copywriting

Are you using the right strategy in your copywriting and proofreading? Whilst proofreading and copywriting are different roles, they benefit from using the right psychology. There are currently over 4,000 freelance copywriters in the US alone, so competition is stiff. Giving your copy an edge can make it more effective and highlight you as a standout copywriter. 

Read on to find out how to use psychology to improve your copy.

What’s the difference between a copywriter and a proofreader?

The most significant difference between a copywriter and a proofreader is that a copywriter creates, and a proofreader refines. Most copywriters act as writers and proofreaders, but the roles require different skills. Copywriters use creativity and ingenuity to write content used to market a product. Whether it’s a product description, a blog promoting the virtues of said product, or a social media campaign, copywriters take the credit.

Copywriting is about identifying the needs of the client and their target market. The content copywriters create shows how their client’s products can ease their target market’s lives. It pushes customers to take action, like buying a product, subscribing to a newsletter, etc.

Proofreading covers the stage between creation and publication. A proofreader is typically the last person to evaluate a text before publication. They polish the writer’s work, checking for typos, grammatical errors, factual inaccuracies, and tonal suitability. Proofreaders ensure the copywriter has used words correctly - something that’s easy to miss in the haze of writing.

Copywriter and proofreader are complementary roles, which is why so many freelancers do both. Several psychological factors make copywriting and proofreading more effective and fluid. 

Why is psychology important in proofreading and copywriting?

Effective use of psychology in copywriting can sway readers to take action without feeling coerced. The decision becomes more of an emotional process than a callous manipulation. Copywriting is about engaging the reader. Copywriting that uses psychology well is more subtle and effective for the client and the customer.

Here are several ways to use psychology to boost your copywriting.


We know that the human brain responds positively to rhyming. In advertising, this response increases engagement and makes the brand presenting the rhyme appear more trustworthy and believable.

McGlone and Tofighbakhsh conducted a study showing that using rhymes affects the reader’s perceptions of accuracy. Copywriting with rhyming text can make a business appear more truthful and accurate. A great example of this is the famous Heinz ad featured below.

The rhyming slogan ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ makes the brand more memorable. Consumers looking for beans on the supermarket shelf will remember the tagline more readily than any other advert for baked beans - mainly since Heinz also produced a series of tins with the new slogan instead of the traditional ‘Baked Beans’ name. Using the Heinz slogan in printed ads and on the bean tins leads us to our next point.


One reason rhyming is effective is that it involves repeating the same sound. Repetition improves the recall of information. Using taglines and slogans throughout your copy makes it easier to remember and effectively conveys your core point to the reader.

For brands with a lot of prestige, like Coke, KFC, or Apple, repeating the brand logo throughout their ad campaigns is usually enough to convince consumers to choose them over their competition. Smaller businesses, however, have to be more creative with their use of repetition.

Repeating yourself is usually a sign of redundant, poor copywriting. When balanced correctly, however, it allows consumers to remember who you are and what you offer. Using taglines consistently across platforms keeps you on consumers’ minds while boosting brand integrity.

Reverse Psychology / But You Are Free (BYAF)

One of the oldest tricks in the book, just about everybody knows about reverse psychology. This is also called the ‘but you are free’ effect in advertising. By offering your readers a choice between action and delaying, they are more compelled to act.

Guéguen and Pascual initially conducted a study in 2000 that asked subjects for money. By just asking for money, only 10% of subjects donated. Once they asked for money with the addition of ‘but you are free to accept or to refuse’, the percentage that contributed money soared to 47.5%. 

Utilising the BYAF Effect in your copywriting doesn’t have to be as literal as saying, ‘but you are free to accept or to refuse’. Here are a few alternatives that are just as effective at allowing readers to make their own choice.

  • We would love to hear your thoughts but don’t feel obliged to share

  • This strategy appears most substantial to us, but you can think about it before deciding

  • You can come back to this whenever you’re ready

  • It’s up to you to determine what action to take


In the same way you apply primer to a wall before painting, priming prepares customers for the content they’re about to perceive. An example of this is adding bullet points or listing in the introduction what points the article/email/etc. is going to cover.

If you have a blog titled ‘7 Essentials for a Successful Bathroom Remodel’ and tell your readers immediately that you will talk about specific tools and paint brands that will help them renovate their bathrooms, you’ve primed them for that content. 

The benefit of priming is that readers know what to expect. The previously mentioned blog title could be about hiring the right builders or designers rather than a DIY angle. By priming your readers, you’ve made it easier to hone in on the target audience, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Open Loop

The open loop creates tension for the reader that they can only resolve by continuing to read. You can implement an open loop by dropping some information without a resolution, promising to deliver it later. This method developed from a study led by Bluma Zeigarnik.

Zeigarnik observed that subjects’ memories of unfinished and interrupted tasks were more substantial than those of completed tasks. Now known as the Zeigarnik Effect, this phenomenon occurs repeatedly - our thoughts linger on unfinished things more than completed things.

In copywriting, slotting interesting information or floating a question by the reader in your introduction can set off the loop. Tell them you will resolve it later in the piece; they are primed and motivated to stick with you.


A pratfall is a mid-century term for falling over in a comedic way. Today, we might call it a blunder. In copywriting and proofreading, pratfalls offer the opportunity to improve your client’s relationship with their customer base.

The Pratfall Effect is a tool that can make the most of a mistake. The individual or company is more likeable by addressing the error and apologising. Giving your readers a chance to humanise and corporation makes them seem more approachable and trustworthy.

Consumers aren’t idiots. They know that businesses have to sell products and make money. This can cause some consumers to be callous and wary of corporations that seem soulless. Using the Pratfall Effect shows you’re fallible and endears you to customers - just don’t make a habit out of it.

Psychology is an unending study of the human mind and how it interprets the world. Copywriters and proofreaders who maximise psychological insights will see returns in the quality of their work. Make your writing more effective and memorable with these psychology hacks.


Here are some frequently asked questions surrounding psychology, proofreading, and copywriting.

What qualities does a person need to be a good proofreader?

An essential quality of a good proofreader is attention to detail. Detail-oriented proofreading requires excellent grammar, spelling, punctuation, and a formidable vocabulary. It’s also vital for copywriters to be open to a wide range of personalised writing styles, so they don’t reduce all copy to the same style.

What are the most important things in copywriting?

Being clear and concise in your writing is crucial to effective copywriting. Being able to interpret detailed and broad information and create clear copy that is easy to understand is a powerful copywriting tool. Strong writing and comprehension skills are a must for quality copywriters. You also ensure you know how to find credible sources for your research.

Why do copywriters fail?

One of the most significant setbacks for copywriters is their own hesitation. If you’re interested in a copywriting career, but you don’t know how to get started, or you don’t know how to grow your copywriting business to that next step, The Author’s Pad is an invaluable resource. 

Try out our exercises to develop your copywriting and proofreading skills, learn how to create portfolios, contact clients, and expand your writing horizons. Nourish your copywriting career with The Author’s Pad.

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