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Swiping Files Won't Land You in Jail, I promise!

Let’s admit it.

It’s hard to be a creative genius, ALL THE TIME. Many days, it’s tough to come up with new ideas to create content or promotional material.

How about you?

Do you need inspiration to get you started, to nurture your creative juices?

A terrific tool to help stir up those ideas is something called a Swipe File. Swipe Files are a handy way to collect great ideas and concepts, so that you can be inspired to create your own great content.

What Exactly is a Swipe File?

Swipe files are said to have originated in the advertising world of old. Publishers and copywriters saved a collection of ‘proven’ writing examples, things like headlines and slogans from ad campaigns that were successful. The contents of those swipe files became a reference tool to inspire ideas for new campaigns.

Nowadays with online marketing, there are many things that attract your attention, and more importantly, might be useful to apply to your own marketing.

The concept of ‘swiping’ does not mean you copy other people’s writing verbatim. That would be illegal. But you can model the layout, how they're structured, and a word here or there.

The idea is to study them to see why they work, what attracted YOU. Review your saved goodies to understand how to apply different techniques to your text, video, and audio content. For example, use a proven headline or subject line as a template for your own writing and just tweak it to your topic.

Your swipe file will provide inspiration and get you creating faster. It’ll help improve your writing skills so you can become more appealing, persuasive, and engaging.

To avoid plagiarism and going to jail, try studying content from another niche. You may be surprised at the ideas you can percolate by looking at something completely different from what you normally do. For example, if you’re a life coach, find a couple of chefs and see how they're delivering content. If you’re a financial planner, find a dog training school and foster ideas that are outside your usual stream of thought.

There are no right or wrong ways to create a swipe file. The intent is just to save interesting things that may inspire your content creation in the future.

How Do You Start a Swipe File?

When you see something that grabs you, study it. Is it the blog title or how it’s laid out? Maybe an email with an enticing subject line, interesting opening line, or noteworthy graphics. What attracts you or resonates with you?

Start keeping a list of

  • email subject lines (what made you click to open)

  • headlines – blogs, videos, interviews, speeches, (what made you curious enough to consume)

  • message formats, how things are laid out

  • word choice or phrases you like (that fit your brand voice and style)

  • advertising text

  • photos and graphics and charts

  • websites (what sites do you like for looks, navigation, service ideas, etc.)

Try to organize them based on topic if you can. If not, sort by headline, autoresponder, email subjects, newsletter or content ideas, etc.

Where Do You Keep Swipe Files?

  • Email - For email subject lines, I created a separate Label in my Gmail for subject lines and autoresponder examples. If you use Outlook or a Mac, try creating a new folder in your email tool and plop them in there.

  • Evernote – This is my go-to app to save just about everything, and it syncs across my devices (desktop, tablet, and phone). You can create separate Notebooks for certain topics (e.g. favourite subject lines), and you can also tag things that you save so it’s easier to find your inspiration. (e.g. subject lines, blog idea, ad concepts, etc.)

  • Trello is another good tool to save ideas across your devices. I use this one to keep ideas for my client projects. You create ‘Boards’ for a general topic and then add ‘cards’ to the board with your text ideas, or URLs, or attachments. It’s pretty friendly to use, too.

  • Documents - You can keep things super simple by using a word-processing document or a spreadsheet. (e.g. MS Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs)

What Do You Do With Your Swipe Files?

After a while you have to stop just saving material, you have to analyse it. Figure out why a piece of content is effective.

  • Is it persuasive, inspiring, or engaging?

  • What’s the purpose of the content? Is it to solve a problem, inspire action, or position a concept?

  • Do you like the word choices?

  • Is it formal or informal?

  • Are there emotional or sensory words that make you see, smell, or taste what’s in a message?

If you’re in business you have to be a writer and a content creator if you want to stand out and attract ideal clients. ~Bonnie Chomica

Studying tips and formats will help, but only writing and creating more will help you become better at it. A swipe file can help you learn what works and be a helpful tool to prepare you to create your own material. What you use from it can help you develop your writing ‘voice’ over time.

Don’t hold back on creating content until you get it ‘right’.

Just write. Just record. Just play!

Each time you write an email or blog post, record a video or audio, try something different - a new technique, a new approach, some different words. Use your swipe files to get ideas.

As long as you have your audience in mind, and how your message can serve them, your writing will evolve naturally to be more impactful.

Start Swiping Today

If you don’t already have one, start a Swipe File today. Nothing fancy required, just a place to keep things you like.

Start with your Inbox. Is there a subject line or two that stand out today? Create a place to save them and then try to do that once a day, or even once a week. You will be surprised at how fast you build up these inspiring reminders. And the best thing is that they will be waiting for you when you need that stimulus to create your own content.

P.S. For more subject line inspiration, I invite you to check out this upcoming masterclass – Subject Line Hacks for Higher Open Rates. >>More class info and registration here.

71 views2 comments


Susan Friedmann
Susan Friedmann
Mar 23, 2022

Thanks Bonnie! Really great article with practical ideas of how to categorize swipe files.

Replying to

Thanks Susan. Glad you found it useful. Swipe Files can really be a time saver and creativity booster.

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