Friday 22 June 2012

Ten deadly copywriting sins: part two

According to the Christian faith – and the acclaimed David Fincher thriller, Se7en – there are seven deadly sins. But when it comes to copywriting, there are even more to look out for. In part one, we highlighted five copywriting sins to avoid, including jargon, buzzwords and sitting on the fence. Now, in part two, we uncover five more.

6. Robocop(y)
This is the opposite of the previous point. We’re talking about copy devoid of personality, seemingly produced by a robot. And not a cool 80’s action movie robot either. The faceless corporation churn out passive missives while resolutely sticking to the third person. Nameless Company, it seems, are going through the motions. Dictated from an ivory tower, far from their customers, it’s corporate-speak by numbers.

Of course, if you’re a large organisation producing reams of communications, inevitably, not all of it’s going to dazzle. You just need to be sure that when you really do need to make an impression, you can. Include a bit of humility. Or perhaps some stories, case studies or testimonials – anything that reminds the reader that you too have a beating heart.

7. Insincerity
All the best copy includes some emotional content. It appeals to the emotions of the reader and, in turn, reveals some of those of the writer. Most importantly, sincere copy rings true. Insincere copy, on the other hand, sounds hollow and misleading. To avoid this, you need conviction in what you’re trying to say, why you’re saying it, and who you’re saying it to. As real life Mad Man, David Ogilvy, once said: ‘the consumer isn’t a moron, she’s your wife’. This is where a detailed brief and content plan comes in handy. They'll help you think.

     8. Trying to be everything to everyone
     By trying to excite everybody, you inevitably end up exciting no-one. Attempting to appeal to too many groups often results in repetitive copy, cluttered with caveats. As per the previous point, effective writing is always focused.

     9. Me, me, me
     No-one is as interested in your company, product or service as you are. Not your friends, your spouse and certainly not the consumer. They care about the results you can deliver them, not the struggle in making these results happen. Therefore, making your company the star of your communications is truly a deadly sin. Your customer needs to take centre stage. Less 'we' and 'I' – more 'you' and 'your'.
     10. Obligatory email niceties
     OK. This isn’t strictly copywriting, but can we please keep unnecessary pleasantries out of emails? I’m generally talking of the younger generation here. You know, the ones who can’t start an email without a token: ‘Hope you’re well’ or, worse still, ‘How are you? What do we want from this!? ‘I’ve been up and down since Carol left me but I’m hanging on in there. Anyway, here’s the latest modifications’. I don't care about Carol or her fitness instructor. I like my emails like I like my copy: concise and to the point!

So there you have it. Ten copywriting sins you simply have to avoid. But remember, these are just the horrors. I’ve no doubt a new selection will emerge soon…

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