Copywriting mistakes you need to avoid
Copywriting can be daunting when you don’t have much experience or training. There are so many mistakes that are easy to make, especially when you’re unsure what you’re looking for!
We understand that you don’t always have the budget to hire a copywriter to do this for you. That’s why we want to let you in on a few common mistakes that we see all the time.
If you ever find that you’re really stuck, though, remember that we’re more than happy to help! We offer full copywriting services, as well as proof-reading, at affordable rates. After all, you never know when you’re going to need a helping hand.
Frequently changing tense
One of the most common mistakes we see is tense changing frequently throughout a piece of writing. This can reduce the readability and lead to confusion for the reader. Here’s an example of what we mean:
“Acme Corporation provide a wide variety of widgets and widget-solutions. We pride ourselves on build-quality and robust design, whilst maintaining low prices for our customers. This has allowed Acme Corporation to be the leading provider of widgets in the UK for over 30 years!”
See anything wrong with this paragraph? The tense switches twice in 3 sentences! Firstly, it switches from third person, ‘Acme Corporation’, to first person, ‘I, we, us’, and then back to third person again. This makes the paragraph feel inconsistent and unsatisfying to read.
Obviously, this is an extreme example but we do see tense-switching similar to this on a regular basis. In general, you should remain consistent with your tenses. For example, if you’re writing a brochure for your company that’s going to be given out to conference-attendees, third person may be a better fit. However, if you’re writing about your company on your website, it probably isn’t necessary to say your company name in every paragraph of text!
Often, third person can sound like someone else is speaking about your company. It can feel detached and cold, especially when it’s being written on your website or blog.
Think about where you’re writing, who your audience are, and how you want to sound. Most importantly, though, decide on your tense and stick to it!
We spoke about an inconsistency in the section above, but it’s worth speaking about them in general. Frequently, inconsistencies occur around phrases and words specific to your company. Here’s an example to give you an idea of what we mean:
“ACME Corp appointed CEO Joe Bloggs in 2001. He’s spent the last 18 years focusing on creating a culture of great customer service and a happy workplace. Acme Corporation wouldn’t be the same without him, and we wish him another eighteen years of happiness and success.”
Did you notice the inconsistencies we sprinkled into this paragraph? The name of the company is inconsistent, starting out as ‘ACME Corp’ and ending as ‘Acme Corporation’. Surprisingly, this is a common mistake that we see our clients make, especially when there are 2 or 3 people within the company responsible for writing their copy. It’s even more common in companies with short, 3 or 4 letter names.
Another inconsistency that’s a bit more difficult to spot in that paragraph is the use of numbers. We start off by writing ’18 years’ and finish, in the last sentence, by writing ‘eighteen years’. This is a small mistake but you should decide before you start writing whether you’re going to use letters or numbers. There will be exceptions to this, though. For example, it’s probably not advisable to write ‘100,000’ in letters!
The key lesson to take away from this is to remain as consistent as possible throughout your writing. This allows the text to flow and improves readability for your audience. It can be very noticeable and jarring when inconsistencies occur, so avoid them as much as possible!
Making assumptions about your audience
This is really simple: don’t always assume that your audience knows what you’re talking about. We see this all the time. Someone is writing about their company and they get caught up in writing in a style that only people within their company would understand.
This happens whenever someone is writing about something they know very well. Jargon is flying everywhere, internal company speech and language is being smothered over the writing like tomato sauce on a hotdog, and no-one really understands what you’re trying to say.
Take a step back and think about your customer. In almost all cases, they don’t know as much about your company, product, or service as you do. You need to write for that customer. Simplify your writing, cut out the jargon, shorten the sentences, and make it as easy to read as possible.
Are you still worried that it might be too complex? Give it to someone who doesn’t know anything about the subject matter. If they don’t understand it, go back and rewrite it.
At this point, we can almost hear you screaming at your computer screen, ‘My customers are experts and will know what I’m talking about!’ You may be right. There are always exceptions. If you know your customers that well, and you’re using industry-recognised terms, then go ahead! The point is to know your audience, know what they want to hear, and not make assumptions about their knowledge or expertise.
Writing copy that’s bloated
We’re always telling our clients that, if they’re writing their own copy, they need to be concise. It’s okay to have short sentences. It doesn’t break up your flow, it gives your reader time to digest information. Here’s an example of what we’re talking about:
“Acme Corporation is the world’s leading supplier of widgets, with over 500,000 widgets produced every day, all across the world, at over 35 factories on 3 continents. The widgets that we produce are extremely durable, due to being produced from the finest materials, and very affordable, whilst also maintaining a staggeringly high level of quality and production value.”
This paragraph is bloated and difficult to read. The sentences are too long and the over-saturation of clauses makes it confusing. How can we improve it?
Firstly, reduce the size of the sentences. Let’s use the first sentence as an example:
“Acme Corporation is the world’s leading supplier of widgets. We produce over 500,000 widgets every day. With over 35 factories on 3 continents, we can service the entire world with ease.”
The information becomes digestible and easy to understand. You’re giving the reader small pieces of information that pack far more of a punch because they’re being squeezed into huge, bloated sentences.
Once you’ve reduced the sentence size, it’s time to work on the filler. Filler takes the form of words and phrases that don’t add much to what you’re saying. Words like ‘really’ and ‘very’ are prime examples of this. Adverbs are often used as filler too. In our example, it’s words like ‘staggeringly’ and ‘extremely’. More often than not, you can take these words out and the sentence will sound more powerful and punchy.
Be concise and get your point across in as few words as possible.
Lacking direction or a goal
Copy that lacks a direction or a goal will achieve nothing. Before you start writing or even planning, you need to decide what that goal will be. Is it to inform customers about your new subscription service and its benefits? Is it to get website visitors to sign up to your weekly newsletter? Whatever the purpose, define it. Once you’ve done that, you can start planning how best to achieve that goal in that piece of copy.
Without a goal, writing can feel listless and rambling. With multiple goals, it can create confusion and irritation among your readers.