5 Lessons in Copywriting I Learned From Craigslist

Ever found yourself scrolling through Craiglist, not intending to buy anything, but leaving with your wallet that much lgihter? That's strong copy at its job—and everyone can learn from it.


These days it seems like you can find everything on Craigslist—a new apartment, an old couch, even a professional bridesmaid. But did you know you can also find some great copywriting lessons? Craigslist, an online classified website, is a treasure trove of persuasive copywriting examples. If you’ve spent any time on the site, you know a successful Craigslist ad can make even the most useless junk seem like a must-have.

Allow us to give you a lesson in copywriting, courtesy of Craigslist ad posters everywhere.

Emphasize benefits vs. features

Amusing craigslist ad about a sofa
Source: https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/rfd/4291319155.html

The owner of the couch isn’t merely extolling features like supportive backrests and removable cushions. He is translating them to how they’ll help you with life, encouraging recuperation…and olfactory pleasures. Also, the reference to ‘Floor is Lava’ is unbelievably clever. If the floor were lava, wouldn’t you want to survive it on a surface just like this, with a pug-strewn David Hasselhoff by your side?

Simplify your content

Craigslist post requesting someone deliver orange juice
Source: https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/gbo/984476074.html

With copywriting, less is more. I want some orange juice…I’m too lazy to get it myself. In a few short sentences, we know exactly what this author is looking for and why. It’s important to make your message clear and concise. Break longer sentences into two or three smaller ones. Be clear how the person can take advantage of your scintillating offer by providing the necessary details. You want reading your copy to be easy, even as you are making a case as compelling as this.

Try a unique hook

Craigslist ad for the world's most uncomfortable chair
Source: https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/bil/4390439039.html

This is the most uncomfortable​ chair ever made. If that doesn’t compel you to read on, I don’t know what will. Your hook or angle should position the product within the market and drum up interest for the right buyer. This ad is a perfect example of a unique hook. This chair isn’t for everyone but “if you are an alien with a flat or squareish, in the lumbar region, it would work quite well.” Additionally, by being upfront about the product’s weaknesses, the ad generates a positive reputation for the seller (which may result in increased customer loyalty).  

Write with personality

Unusual Craigslist ad for a giant ugg boot
Source: https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/phi/5869996799.html

Every brand has its own unique personality and successful copywriting should reflect  that. What does that mean exactly? Well, a good copywriter wouldn’t write the same way for a financial advisor as they would a hip restaurant. The personality of your copywriting (voice, style, word choice) should be used in a way that differentiates your product. This ad for a giant Ugg boot is loaded with personality. From “pumpkin spice induced diabeetus” to “basic cat house” to “a guy named Chad who cheats on you all the time,” readers have a clear sense of this writer and her product’s brand.

Tell a story

Amusing Craigslist Ad about

Storytelling is an amazing tool for copywriters. Good stories can create memories, incite sympathy, and call people to action. Strong copywriting should be about more than just describing a product, it should leave an impression. As for this ad—it only took 52 words to completely draw me in. I’m now the proud owner of eleven reptiles named Amanda. All thanks to the emotional power of storytelling.

So the next time you’re perusing Craigslist, don’t just laugh at the quirky listings. Pay attention to how some ads use copywriting best practices to really draw you in. Whether you’re selling a ratty old couch or you just want some orange juice, never underestimate the power of effective copywriting.

At MarketSmiths, we won’t write your Craigslist ads for you, but we can provide you with quality copywriting for your website, blog, and more. Get in touch to find out more.

Tori Ahl

Tori Ahl

A firm believer that content is king, Tori has devoted her career (and free time!) to the creation of powerful writing. While studying film at the University of Southern California, Tori developed a passion for effective storytelling--a passion that informs all of her work. Whether she’s writing a comedy sketch at UCB or copy for a client, Tori aims to harness the power of words in order to tell a good story.

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