Copy Wronging

Marketing copywriters are like novelists: they don’t like critics.

Bad copywritingDuring a recent client copywriting process, I tighten reins on a copywriter who had soared off the cliffs of bombastic prose, painting the client as a little too good to be true. This otherwise bright and competent copywriter, evidently distracted thinking about his unfinished novel, had peppered his newly wrought copy with words that created a sense of disbelief.

Such words are easy to spot … just look at the “about us” page of any funded start-up. When you see “market leading”, “disruptive” and “compelling”, then they likely are none of the above and you immediately sense it.

Words can trigger emotions, and good copywriters – armed with a competent branding guide – will select the right words to evoke the right emotion. Word churners (a polite word for “hack”) often pick easy and dramatic sounding words in an attempt to make their clients sound more important than reality dictates.

Reader reaction to these types of words – typically absolutes and excitement words – is negative because they have learned negative responses to them. Having seen enough pitches to have ingested all these overly familiar words before (only, best, essential, critical …) and having been disappointed by the gap between words and delivered product value, buyers react negatively to them. If an unknown software company claims to be “market leading”, one automatically assumes they are not.

This is the nature of absolute and excitement words – they generate a state of acquired disbelief in the customer, distracting the customer from absorbing your honest value propositions. The opposite extreme are bland words that don’t tell a compelling story. These bookends create a space for your thesaurus – a span where words create an emotion yet don’t over-promise or deceive. Surprisingly, few copywriters lean on their lexicons to explore words that are a precise fit (writers, after all, pride themselves on expansive and artful vocabularies).

In copywriting, strive for the believable in the first draft, then explore your onomasticon for words that precisely fit yet amplify interest. Finally, cross reference your copy with any of the web’s buzzword lists and hype measurement tools just to be sure you are not disseminating old mistakes.


Speak up! What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.