Five Writing Traps To Avoid
As someone who has, in one way or another, made a living as a writer, I admit to being something of a critic when it comes to content and copywriting. But you don’t have to be a professional scribe to understand how important writing has become to our businesses. And we’re not referring to catchy advertising slogans here. We’re talking about the everyday writing that comes from your company, from your website copy to your press releases to your email subject lines to your collateral.
Writing for Enterpreneur, author Susan Gunelius, CEO of marketing/branding firm KeySplash Creative, points to five writing habits that can sabotage your effort to get your message heard and understood.
“Words carry a lot of weight, and you need to use them wisely,” Gunelius says. “There are a number of theories you can learn and tools you can use to write better marketing messages.”
Gunelius points to five bad habits that can sabotage your copy. The following is an abridged version of her useful list.
1. You used too many words.
Research has found that people have an attention span of just eight seconds. Millennials have a five-second attention span for ads! Bottom line, every word that isn’t necessary needs to be deleted from your copy. Words like “really,” “that” and “very” should be deleted without mercy. Keep your copy succinct, and it will almost always be more powerful.
2. You used jargon.
Big words and jargon are rarely appropriate in ads and marketing materials unless you’re in a highly technical or regulated industry. One of the most important factors in writing great marketing messages is understanding your audience and writing copy that speaks to them. Unless jargon and big words have special places in your audience’s hearts, replace them with simpler words.
3. You used the wrong pronouns.
Great marketing messages speak about the audience, not just about the company behind the products or services being offered. Therefore, your copy should use second person pronouns (you, your, yours) far more often than first person pronouns (I, me, mine, we, us, our, ours). If your messages only talk about you, they’ll fail.
4. You used passive verbs.
When you invest in an ad or marketing piece, you typically want it to drive some kind of action from an audience. It includes a call to action that should motivate people to actually take that action. However, making a simple mistake like using passive voice rather than active voice in your sentence structure could negatively affect the results. In a passive voice sentence, the subject of the sentence receives the action of the verb (e.g., the ball was kicked by John), but in an active voice sentence, the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb (e.g., John kicked the ball). Do you want people to take action or just think about taking that action? To elicit an active response from the audience, use the active voice in your copy.
5. You didn’t use emotional words.
Copy that evokes emotional responses in consumers is almost always more effective than copy that does not. Why? Because most purchase decisions are ruled at least in part by emotions. Emotional triggers include fear, guilt, comfort, competition, trust and more.