Today’s post is a first for The Copywriter’s Soapbox: a guest post by Princess Jones of P.S. Jones Communication. What I love about Princess is that she tells it like it is–even when it’s something we don’t want to (but desperately need to) hear. Read on and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Copy is like the outfit your marketing materials wear. You don’t want anything that doesn’t flatter your brand and project the image you want associated with it. You know how every year half the people who watch the Oscars are only watching so they can talk about what people are wearing? Well the pressure those celebrities feel when picking out their dresses is nothing compared to the pressure of creating the perfect copy for your brand. Those celebrities only wear those dresses for one night, but branding can last a lifetime. Whether it’s Joan Rivers or your target audience, there are certain things you never want anyone to say about your copy. Here are four of them:
It’s Riddled With Typos
No one takes you seriously if your copy is full typos and grammatical errors. It makes it look rushed, cheap and unprofessional. Mistakes happen to us all. I write for a living and often edit my clients’ work, and even I have problems self-editing my writing. However, whatever you have to do to make your work error-free, do it. The only other option is to have readers focusing on your comma splices instead of your method.
How to Tell: Make the editing process a priority. Schedule it into the timeline. Read the copy aloud in a different setting than you wrote it. And whether you wrote it yourself or you hired someone else to do it, let a fresh pair of eyes look at it. Ask a partner, a colleague or just about anyone who can read to look it over. You get bonus points if you can get someone representative the target audience to give you her thoughts.
It’s Predictable or Generic
“Blah, blah, blah, blah.”If your copy reads like that, it’s probably because it looks just like everyone else’s. Time worn cliches and buzz words don’t do anything for your message. I’m not saying you have to reinvent the wheel every time you send out a new brochure, but you should try to at least put on a new set of tires.
How to Tell: Ask yourself whether what you’ve written could be about any other company or product than the one in question. If you could swap out the brand name with anyone else’s, it’s not good enough to represent any brand.
The Wrong Perspective
Regardless of who your audience is, they care more about themselves than you. That’s not narcissism or selfishness. That’s called being a human being. So when someone reads your copy, she doesn’t want to hear about what the product does or who the company is. Instead, she wants to hear about what those things can do for her problem. Make it all about the reader and why she should care.
How to Tell: Go through the copy and count how many times you said something about what the company or product does versus what the customer gains. If it’s not decidedly more about the customer than the company, go back and make it so.
Everybody loves clever copy. When done right, clever copy makes an impression by surprising us or making us laugh. When done badly, clever copy leaves the audience wondering what is the point of the whole thing. The first job of your copy is to inform the reader and the second is to persuade them to take the next step. Confusing copy accomplishes neither of these things. If it’s a choice between clever and clear, choose clear every time.
How to Tell: Look at your finished copy and ask yourself a few questions: Does it incorporate the key concepts that define the brand? Can you actually pinpoint the words that ask the reader to do what you want her to do? If not, it’s back to the drawing board for you.
What would you hate to hear about your copy? How do you decide it needs more work?
Princess Jones is the owner of P.S. Jones Communications, providing copywriting, consulting and speaking services to small businesses and solopreneurs. She writes about freelance writing on Diary of a Mad Freelancer and entrepreneurship on She’s Self-Employed. To connect with Princess, visit her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.