Article written by Mr Rob Hardy 

Whilst I often write about tips and techniques to improve your copywriting, I thought it might be useful here to discuss the ‘unlucky 13’ common copywriting mistakes which you would be well advised to avoid:

Meaningless adjectives

For example, rather than a ‘great’ offer, try being more specific: ‘a strictly limited offer’. Adjectives should be used sparingly to add specific information rather than purely for emphasis.

Adverbs when you are aiming to build momentum

Avoid adverbs i.e. ‘ly’ words used to modify verbs, such as ‘speedily’. They can slow your writing down, detracting from the optimum ‘subject/ verb/ object’ construction (eg: ‘Our new loyalty programme (subject) is designed to reward (verb) you and your family (object).

Big blocks of text

This can intimidate the reader and cause them to lose interest – particularly where there is no obvious pay-off for continuing to read.

Long important-sounding words

These can make you appear pompous and arrogant. The best copywriters often aim their text at someone with a reading age of around 14 in order to optimise comprehension. Short words are more pleasant to read, and easier for the eye to immediately pick up their meaning. Resist the temptation to make yourself sound grand when writing, instead just focus on building a natural-sounding conversation.

Sales clichés and business buzz-words

These are used purely in an attempt to impress. Tired, over-used expressions tend to alienate the prospect – they are not specific enough to their particular needs, and as above, can make the writer appear overly pompous. Just ask yourself: would I use these words if I were speaking to my prospective customer face-to-face?

Introducing supporting information too abruptly

Proof-points should follow the natural flow of the communication piece, otherwise you break the rhythm and make it difficult for the reader to follow your argument.

Irrelevant supporting information

Only introduce supporting information that is relevant to your specific target audience at the particular point in time when they receive your communication. Otherwise you risk diluting your proposition and needlessly drawing out your communication piece.

Boasting

Whilst you should certainly convey a sense of enthusiasm for your product, you must do this credibly, for example, by injecting a subtle element of charm. Are boastful ‘catch-all’ adjectives such as fantastic/ unique/ exciting/ amazing/ incredible/revolutionary really appropriate and in proportion to the benefit you are offering? Even if such adjectives feel appropriate to you, they can give your reader the impression that you are just trying to make the proposition appear better than it really is. Rather than just stating how great you are, outline to your audience exactly what it is that makes you great.

An overly dramatic or emotional approach

Whilst it is often good to inject drama and emotion into the tone of your writing, don’t overdo it, or you will lose credibility. Always sense-check your tone of voice once you have written your first draft – is it appropriate to the brand, the product category, the proposition and to your target audience? Is it credible and interesting? Does it sound like a real conversation?

Speaking to ‘the masses’

Try to make your communication as personal as you can to a particular individual (in terms of both tone and content), based on the unique insight you have gathered on your target audience. As the legendary ad-man Howard Luck Gossage put it: “I don’t know how to speak to everybody, only to somebody.”

Over-emphasising the urgency to respond in your call to action

If you have not provided a very compelling reason as to why time is limited. You need to have already clearly conveyed the reasons why an urgent response is going to benefit your prospect. By simply demanding that your audience responds urgently (“Book your stay today!”), without giving them a very credible reason to do so, you are eroding any conviction you may have built up so far.

Don’t waffle

Check that the communication piece says what it needs to – but no more. Each word must justify its place.

Don’t end too quickly

Conversely though, if your aim is to persuade your prospective customer to respond, don’t end too quickly without having said everything you need to in order to convince them that it is in their best interest to respond quickly.

These are the most common copywriting mistakes I see – although I’m sure you can think of others. By ensuring you avoid them, you’ll significantly increase the odds that your marketing copy will resonate with your target audience.

Author: Rob Hardy is a marketing communications consultant, has a Marketing Communications Expert blog and is the author of ‘Successful Marketing Communications’


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