Baring all: should you get personal in your business content

When it comes to business content it’s good to be human but are you in danger of over-sharing?

‘The doctors told me he might never talk’

This was my friend talking about her son. He’d been given a diagnosis of Autism at a fairly young age and according to the doc, the outlook wasn’t great.

But hey, what do doctors know?

Over 10 years on, her boy has graduated college and is currently setting up his own business, in partnership with his mum. It turns out that for everything Autism has taken from him, it’s given something else back in spades — an incredible work ethic, attention to detail, boundless creativity. And he’s channeling it all into making custom wooden furniture.

‘You should blog about it’, I told her; share his struggles and how you’re managing to overcome them to create what will (I’m convinced!) be a thriving enterprise in the very near future.

‘Hmm, I could…but isn’t it a bit exploitative?’

Are we at risk of over-sharing?

As ever, I don’t think there’s a straightforward yes or no to either of those questions.

In some ways, as business owners, we’re undoubtedly becoming a flock of over-sharers. Every hardship we’ve faced, every medical diagnosis, every trauma becomes fodder for our marketing. In an attempt to prove how ‘human’ our brand is, and how relatable, we share our sob stories with our audience and the world.

‘See?’, we shout, ‘We’re not a soulless brand, we’re real people. We’ve struggled, just like you. Now, please buy our stuff!’

You begin to wonder if any of it is genuine and how much of it is fabricated to fit in with the current trend for ‘awareness days’ and vulnerability in business content.

It’s all just a bit icky. And as consumers, we’re all far too cynical to fall for it anyway.

Does that mean you shouldn’t share? Not necessarily. It’s just before you do, I want you to ask yourself one question:

Why am I sharing this?

I had to ask myself that recently. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have an anxiety disorder (#endthestigma and all that jazz) but did I really want to bring it into my blog content? Would people think that I was jumping on the Mental Health Awareness Week bandwagon? Was I exploiting my diagnosis in exchange for an easy (and obvious) blog topic, with a squillion hashtags to go with it?

So I hesitated.

For about a minute before I realised that the answer to the ‘why am I sharing this’ question had nothing to do with being able to tick another week’s blog post off the to-do list — I wanted to get that content out there to help. Because running a business when you have a mental illness is really feckin’ hard and I’ve found quite a few solutions that I’ve found helpful. I wanted to write the article that I’d been searching for years ago and hadn’t quite found.

Read my anxiety blog here: Caring for your mental health when you work from home.

Will writing about my anxiety make me more relatable, more human or more likable? To the right people, maybe. Will it make them more likely to hire me over another writer? Who knows? But will I sleep better at night knowing that even one person has tried some of my tips and found a bit of relief from their own struggles with mental health? Damn right I will!

So my advice to my friend, wondering if it would be exploitative to share her son’s story as part of her marketing strategy? I asked her to stop thinking like a business owner, or a marketer, and to think like a consumer, a reader — and a mum.

is it ok to be vulnerable in your business content

You don’t have to hide your vulnerability…but you should have a good reason for sharing.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Sure, thousands of people will be able to relate to her family’s story, to the struggles they had trying to secure an ASD diagnosis in the first place, what it meant for her son’s education, his social life, and his future. It’ll likely be a story that people will want to share far and wide — great news for a fledgling business. And yes, there are a ton of people who would happily shop their brand because of that.

But then who the hell wants to base their sales on a feeling of ‘well, they only bought my stuff because they felt sorry for me’? No business owner wants the power of a ‘sob story’ to eclipse the quality of their products or services!

No, the only reason you should be sharing your vulnerable moments boils down to the only reason you should post any type of content:

You want to help.

should you get vulnerable in your business content

The key to choosing a content topic: is it helpful?
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

As much as writing about their business journey could do wonders for their SEO, their likeability and all of the other usual benefits that come with business blogging, the real benefit lies in the hope that it’ll provide the readers.

My friend always had hope for her boy and my god did she spend his childhood fighting to ensure that he would have a much brighter future than his doctor had predicted. But it was a hope fuelled by nothing more than maternal love. If she had been able to read stories about other kids who had overcome the same diagnosis, who had gone on to further education, who had become a talented craftsperson, who had had the balls to start their own business…can you imagine what a difference that would have made to the whole family in the days when unfounded hope was the only thing they had? The peace it would’ve brought them all? The stress it would have helped to relieve?

Yes, there’s an undeniable ick factor involved in the culture of vulnerability seeping into business content at the moment. But there doesn’t need to be. If you’re on the fence about sharing your own personal story, consider why you want to share in the first place. If you’re determined to write the article that you wished you could’ve read when you were really struggling, the chances are you’re thinking along the right lines.

(My friend’s business is very much in the fledgling stages right now but I’ll post a link to her website as soon as it’s available. I can’t wait to share their gorgeous creations with you guys!)

 

 

Business blog burn out: 7 ways to kick writer’s block to the kerb.

how to overcome writer's block

Your content calendar is full…now what?
Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

You’re a freakin’ content marketing superstar — you have that list of topics for your business blog locked and loaded and you’ve even drawn up a fancy pants content calendar. You know exactly what you’re going to write about, when you’ll hit publish and where you’ll promote it.

You’ve carved out a bit of time in your diary, your laptop is open and your coffee cup is steaming.

You’re ready to go.

No, wait! Better just go and grab a biscuit first. Maybe two biscuits. Oh, and the dog needs a wee belly rub. Might just have a quick skim through the old Twitter feed before starting…

If this is starting to sound a bit too familiar, you’re either a lazy git…or you’re suffering writer’s block. And I don’t think for a minute that you’re a lazy git! Writing is hard work. Writing well feels like pushing a 10-ton boulder, uphill, in a blizzard.

Hell, I write for a living and my biscuit tin is empty and my office dog is sick of all the attention.

So how do you break through the frustration of the blank page? The trauma of that flashing cursor?

Before you chuck your laptop out of the window in a pure rage or binge on digestives, I have a few tried and tested tricks that might just work for you.

All we have to do is figure out what’s causing your writer’s block in the first place…

The problem: you haven’t done enough research.

How to overcome writer's block

Want to overcome writer’s block? Start with research…
Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

If I’m struggling with writer’s block, this is the first question I ask myself: have I done enough research? Do I really know what I’m talking about here? Have I looked at this topic from more than just one angle? Have I explored it all in depth?

If you’re just starting out with your business blog, this might be less relevant. Most folks, sensibly, start off writing about topics that they know inside out — there’s so much to say the words flow freely, with minimal effort.

The problems begin when you start having to dig a bit deeper to come up with new and exciting topics to cover. You find yourself in less familiar territory and the words are harder to come by.

The best way through this one is to get online and start researching.

Google your topic (you should be doing this anyway to get an idea of which keywords you need to use in your posts) and have a look at what other people are saying about it. You may find some bloggers completely disagree with your point of view which would allow you to frame your post as a counter-argument. Some of them will have covered aspects that hadn’t occurred to you — putting your own spin on these is a good starting point.

Or try Quora or subject-relevant Facebook groups/online forums to find out what your typical clients are talking about in relation to your topic.

Take notes on everything that’s even halfway relevant and then use that to start writing. Once you have a paragraph or two in the bag, you’ll find the rest of it starts to flow more easily.

The problem: you’re hung up on the intro.

After the headline, the introduction is arguably the most important part of your blog post. Get that wrong and no one will bother reading the rest of the blog. You might as well down tools and get comfy with the biscuit tin and the dog.

That’s a lot of pressure for anyone so it’s no wonder that so many folks get hung up on nailing the perfect intro.

But here’s the thing: if you’re already feeling the pressure to get this crucial piece of your blog post puzzle right, the last thing you need is the added pressure of a blank page.

So forget your damn intro for now. Just concentrate on getting something down on paper. You may find that the perfect intro pops into your head as soon as you start to focus on something else or, more likely, a great idea will grow from the seeds you plant in the body of the post.

In fact, writer’s block or not, that’s a decent strategy to work with. I often have to rewrite a post introduction during the editing phase after the blog post has taken me in a direction I hadn’t originally intended!

The problem: you’re stuck in a rut.

Some people thrive on routine and consistency. They have a favourite time of the day for writing, a favourite notebook and pen, a favourite seat in their favourite coffee shop…

But if you find yourself sitting staring into space, facing a creative block, it might be time to switch things up a bit.
how to overcome writer's block

Sure he’s comfy, but is he inspired? Photo by Karin Hiselius on Unsplash

First things first, change your medium. I generally write all of my first drafts in a Word doc rather than using a notebook. But, when writer’s block hits, I find that changing to a good, old-fashioned notebook and pen is the way through.

It could be that your usual location is beginning to stifle your creativity. Grab your laptop and head out to your garden or the local park. Find a different café or even try writing from your bed.

And try a different time of day. If you’re usually at your most creative first thing in the morning, try writing in the evening for a change. Your brain is a contrary beast; sometimes surprising it with a new routine is enough to jolt it back into the creative zone.

The problem: you’ve over-planned.

You’re the king or queen of note-taking. You like to plan the structure of each post meticulously. It’s a strategy that usually serves you well.

Until it doesn’t.

The problem might just be that you’ve bored yourself silly with all of that careful planning.

Somewhere along the way you’ve lost the fun (and remember, writing your business blog should be fun or you’d be better off finding another content medium or outsourcing your writing).

how to overcome writer's block

If writing leaves you feeling like this, you need to find your joy! Photo by Michelle Phillips on Unsplash

So ditch your plan — for now — and just write.

Write something unconnected to the post you’re struggling with: a poem, a dirty joke, the first chapter of that novel you’re secretly planning, a page in your journal. Just write something, anything, and have fun while you’re doing it.

Then, when you’re still in the flow, come back to that pesky post — and rock it!

The problem: you want it to be perfect.

Ha! Don’t we all. Listen, it’s time to shelve that notion for good. Your first draft is NEVER going to be perfect. That’s why we call it a first draft.

And if you’re all up in your own head about whether you should be using ‘who’ or ‘whom’ or whether you have a cheeky little dangling participle to deal with, you’re never going to get anywhere.

As long as you’ve scheduled in some editing time before you need to hit publish, you don’t need to worry about perfection. You don’t even need to worry about ‘good’. Just get something down and worry about style, grammar and spelling later.

The problem: you have stage fright.

how to overcome writer's block - focus on just one reader

Forget the audience – it’s just you, your laptop…and Sue.
Photo by Julien Reveillon on Unsplash

Putting yourself out there in your business content is hard. What if everyone hates it? What if you accidentally offend a bunch of people? What if your post goes viral for all the wrong reasons?

Stage fright can be a huge cause of writer’s block — you start thinking of the thousands of people who might potentially end up reading your words and anxiety makes you clam up entirely. Lots of people find the same thing happens when they try to come up with social media posts for their business page too.

The solution? Forget the audience and focus on just one person.

You probably already have at least a rough client avatar in mind; that (real or imaginary) person that represents your ideal client. You might even have a name for her. If not, let’s call her Sue.

Picture Sue.

Sue’s lovely. She’s going to be an incredible client; she’s going to gladly accept your quote, ask for a reasonable turnaround time, give you all of the information you need to do your job well, pay on time and then give you a cracking testimonial afterwards. She’d never ever slag off your blog post, point out your dodgy grammar or be offended by something that wasn’t in the slightest bit offensive. You love Sue. We all love Sue!

Now, I want you to write your blog post just for Sue. She may share it to all of her own followers (Sue’s nice that way) but forget about that. For now, Sue is the only one who matters. What does Sue need to know? How can the information in your blog post help her?

See, stage fright gone. And you didn’t even need to picture Sue in her undies.

The problem: you’re burnt out.

Blogging burnout, you're just plain tired.

Blogging burnout: you’re just plain tired.
Photo by howling red on Unsplash

Maybe the problem is that you’ve just plain had enough? You love sharing info about your industry but you feel you’re stuck on a content creation wheel and you’d far rather be spending your time doing other things. You’re sick of covering the same sort of topics and finding new ways to say the same damn thing.

If that’s the case for you, don’t sweat it. There are a few ways around this.

First, stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

Put your planned content strategy on hold and consider repurposing your previous content.

Have a look through your old blog posts and see if any of them could use an update. For example, if you once blogged about the things you learned in your first year of business, it might be worth adding some fresh insight to that original post now that you’re a few years further down the line. Refreshing older content in this way can give you a wee holiday from writing, which might be just what you need to overcome your writer’s block.

If you need a longer break from writing, consider outsourcing your writing work to a freelance writer. We’ve usually more than happy to take your planned posts and write them up for you, and because we’re coming to it fresh, we can help you spot any gaps in your content strategy or find new angles that you might have missed.

A lot of content writers want you to lock in for a certain period of time (say, a minimum of a 3-month contract), but there are plenty of us (myself included!) who’ll be happy to take on the odd post on an ad hoc basis, just to see you through your writer’s block.

You may well find that after a short break, you can’t wait to sit down with your laptop and coffee, ready to recapture the joy of writing…

Whether you have months’ worth of content planned out, or you’re scratching your head trying to come up with topics, I’m here to help you out — get in touch to find out how.

 

The little-known tool that will help you improve your writing, today.

The Flesch-Kincaid scale. Hands up, my writerly friends, if you’ve never heard of it. And don’t sweat it if you haven’t; I hadn’t either until a few months ago when it was discussed in one of the many copywriting groups I stalk on Facebook.

I’ve since spoken to a couple of fellow content creators who hadn’t heard of it either so, generous soul that I am, I’m going to give you a quick overview so you can start using it to improve your writing, today.

So, what is the Flesch-Kincaid scale?

It’s essentially a readability calculator, based on some complicated mathematical shenanigans that go way over my head. All I need to know, and all you need to know, is that it can grade your writing, letting you know whether you’ve hit the right level of readability for your intended audience.

Where do I find the F-K scale?

If you’re creating a word document, it’s easy to set up the F-K grading. Open your Spelling and Grammar checker, click on ‘options’ and enable the ‘show readability statistics’ option. Now, after you’ve worked your way through your spelling and grammar check, you’ll be presented with your document’s readability stats. At the top, you’ll see your word count and the number of paragraphs and sentences in your document. Right at the bottom of the box, you’ll find your Flesch-Kincaid grade level.

How does it grade your writing?

As I say, there are all sorts of equations going on in the background as your grading level is calculated, but here are some of the main things to think about:

The number of sentences in your paragraphs.

For an improved readability score you want to avoid filling your writing with excessively long paragraphs. Never-ending chunks of text are hard to read and do tend to put people off. Generally speaking, it’s best to stick to two or three sentences per paragraph.

The number of words in your sentences.

Rambling sentences can work but more often than not, the longer the sentence, the higher the risk that you’ll lose clarity. For a clearer message, try to keep your sentences a bit shorter — around 20 words per sentence tends to be about right. That said, if you don’t want your readers to fall asleep halfway through your post, it’s a good idea to vary the lengths of your sentences.

The number of passive sentences.

I’m going to save a big discussion of passive and active voices for another day but here’s a quick example:

“I read the book” is the active voice.

“The book was read by me” is the passive voice.

There are times when the passive voice is the right way to go but generally, you want to avoid having too many passive sentences in your writing.

(As ever, Grammar Girl is the go-to site for these linguistic debates and here’s her take on the passive voice: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice)

What grade should you aim for?

If I had a pound for every time I answered a content-related question with this response…

It depends on your audience.

I primarily write for Joe Average — my clients employ me to write clear, concise content, which will appeal to a wide range of people with different backgrounds and education. Even those who read at a high level prefer an easier read when they’re consuming blog posts in their lunch hour or surfing websites to find a new accountant or designer.

With that in mind, I aim for a grading level of anywhere between 7.0 and 8.5. Anything lower is too minimal and could sound patronising or over-simplified. Anything above an 8.5 is straying into the territory of academic, medical or legal writing, which, most of the time, simply wouldn’t suit my intended audience.

There you have it, a quick rundown of the Flesch-Kincaid grading scale. Fellow writers, I’d love to know whether you’re already using this tool or whether you think you’ll try it after reading this. Leave me a comment to let me know how you get on.

(In case anyone is wondering, I scored a 7.7 for this post!)

Read some more super simple tips for improving your content here

How to simplify your marketing copy volume 2

There’s a red pen in here somewhere…

 

 

Hopefully after last week’s post, you’ve had a look through your writing and taken a big, red pen to any superfluous words.

This time, I’m not highlighting errors as such, but easy ways to simplify the language you use in your marketing copy.

Many of us have a tendency to make everything  more long winded than it needs to be – I confess I’ve fallen into that trap myself many times in the past!

We think it makes us sound more intelligent, or our writing more impressive. It doesn’t. If anything, it can make us sound pretentious and it lessens the impact of the message we’re trying to convey. And that’s when our readers (or rather, our customers) switch off.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

‘Investigators arrived at the conclusion…’ instead of ‘Investigators concluded…’

Option 1 adds to your word count and makes you sound more wordy, more intelligent, right?

Wrong.

Your high school English teacher didn’t fall for that tactic and your customers won’t either.

Here are a few examples of how to keep things simple for greater impact.

‘at the present time’ replace with ‘now’

‘a large percentage of‘ replace with ‘many

‘by virtue of the fact that‘ replace with ‘because’

‘in spite of the fact that’ replace with ‘despite’

owing to the fact that’ replace with ‘because’

‘in the event that’ replace with ‘if’

‘prior to’ replace with ‘before’

You get the idea.

Always remember, if the word doesn’t add anything to the meaning of your sentence, give it the chop.

And if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, or you just don’t know where to start, give me a shout. I live for this stuff!

 

How to simplify your marketing copy volume 1

I wonder sometimes if my clients are taken aback when they receive their first draft of concise copy.  When you’re paying for something, you want as much for your money as you can get, right?

Not necessarily.

When it comes to copy, less really is more. Regular readers will have sussed that this is my golden rule.

In the interest of keeping things brief, I’d like to share this quick tip.

Checking for superfluous words is almost as important as your spelling and grammar checks.

Many of you probably don’t even notice these redundant and annoying little words creeping their way across articles, web copy and brochures but trust me,  they are there. And they need to be dealt with! They add unnecessary bulk to otherwise snappy and elegant prose and I have to admit, they always make me picture the writer as a bored undergrad. Anyone else remember being stuck at your desk,  unable to go to the pub until you’d reached the minimum word count on your essay?

Well, we’re not students any more, and the aim of the game is to get your message across in as few words as possible!

So what kind of thing am I talking about?

Here are some offenders I’ve noticed recently.

‘At the moment we are currently trying to tackle the problem

I nearly drove into a ditch the other day when I heard someone on the radio utter this. BBC Radio 2 no less!

What’s the problem? ‘Currently’ means ‘at the moment’ – there is simply no need for both of these expressions. To be all technical about it, it just sounds daft.

‘They returned back to the restaurant’.

This was spotted on a kiddie activity book at Pizza Hut.  ‘To return’ means ‘to go back’ – the ‘back’ here is redundant. It needs to go!

‘The companies merged together’

This one’s obvious right? ‘To merge’ is to come ‘together’, once again we have a word that adds nothing to the meaning or style of the sentence other than length and as we know, brevity is the Holy Grail here.

So when you’re finalising any piece of marketing driven writing, liberate the pruning shears and get to work. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how smooth your prose can become if you do some swift dead-heading before you hit publish.

For more pruning tips, keep an eye out for vol 2.

Want to know how to write an article that people want to share?

 

What makes a great article?

It’s not just an article that people want to read; it’s an article that people want their friends to read; a post that they’ll share on Facebook, Twitter and all the rest.

Anyone (well, almost anyone!) can string a few sentences together but to actually engage your audience is a little more complicated. The following tips will help you get started, whether you are submitting test pieces to magazines you’d love to write for, have a journalistic deadline looming or simply want to get your new blog off to a great start.

1.Choose your subject wisely – get chatting.

It should be a given but many writers seem to ignore this vital piece of the puzzle. If you have free reign over the subject matter you’re lucky. Write about what interests you – your enthusiasm will shine through and you’ll find yourself happily typing away rather than looking for any distraction to drag you away from your desk.

If you are writing for a particular publication, you may be somewhat restricted on what you can write about. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a little creative though.

My top tip here is to visit a few online chat rooms or forums relating to your topic.

I know, I know, I should be telling you to avoid chatting online; just get your bum in gear and start writing! However, chat rooms can provide a wealth of ideas. What are people currently talking about in your chosen sphere of interest? What are the hot topics? Are there any new controversies or is there a particular line of questioning that keeps cropping up?

For example, when I was blogging about birds, I discovered that people were frequently talking about how to avoid birds flying into their windows. It became clear that advice on how to prevent this was something that would interest a lot of folks. When I was writing about veganism, one subject that kept appearing in groups and chat rooms was the question of vegan role models so I did a bit of digging around and dedicated an article to that topic. Because I had tapped into a current trend, my article was shared widely and prompted many more discussions.

That said, if people are talking about it, it’s likely that you’re not the only writer lurking who has grabbed onto the same subject matter. It’s important to put your own spin on things. No one will read your article if there are already 20 identical pieces floating about. Find an angle that hasn’t been covered and make it personal to you.

2.What’s in a name? Choose your title wisely.

You have probably about 5 seconds (if that!) to convince someone to click on your link. So give your article a damn good title. Questions are always good; you’ve got your reader formulating their own answer to the question before they’ve even read your piece. And they want to know if your answer matches theirs!

A controversial title can work in your favour too but only if it’s actually relevant to the body of the text.

3.Be flexible.

As you delve further into your subject matter, be prepared for your opinion to change. Before you even put pen to paper you probably had a good idea where you were headed with your article. You may even have had a conclusion formulated in your mind. If that’s where you end up, then fine. But sometimes the best articles are the ones where your readers join you on your journey and you end up somewhere completely unexpected by the time you finish typing. As long as the journey is cohesive and easy enough for your reader to follow, this is not a problem. And be sure to write down any unexpected thoughts that pop into your mind as you work your way to your conclusion – these could well be fodder for related articles further down the line.

 

4.You’re boring me now.

Don’t go on for too long or you’ve completely lost your audience. Keep it to the point and no longer than strictly necessary.

 

On that note…

 

 

 

Grammar and copywriting: why it’s okay to break the rules.

‘I don’t know the rules of grammar…If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.’

David Ogilvy.

 

I absolutely love this quote because it really made me stop and evaluate the very nature of the copywriting business.

In trying to determine whether I agreed with this Ogilvy statement, I was brought back to the very essence of good copywriting: knowing your audience.

I can be a bit of a grammar geek. Someone uttering  ‘I seen’ gives me shivers – not in a good way. And I’m sure you’ve all heard me wax lyrical about the misuse of the word ‘literally’.

So here’s the bit where you’ll be surprised. Good grammar isn’t always essential to good copywriting. In fact, sometimes it’s downright damaging! Sometimes you gotta break the rules.

Say what??!!

Yup, I’ve said it and I’ll stand by it. And here’s why.

It’s about the audience! I can’t stress this enough.

Dear Mr Ogilvy is right: you MUST consider who you’re writing for, who you’re selling to. Then write for them. How do they think? How do they speak? What kind of language will they relate to?

For some audiences perfect grammar and beautifully structured syntax will be a huge turn off. Constructions that are technically correct but that aren’t widely used today, will come across as patronising and fussy – and you’ve lost the game.

You mustn’t be pedantic;  copy is no place for that. Unless you’re selling an English course or tweed jackets with leather elbow patches.

Back to Ogilvy now: you’ll note from the above quote that this advertising giant wasn’t exactly uneducated.  He was clearly very well spoken and while he may not have officially learnt the rules of grammar, his writing suggests he had absorbed most of them somewhere along the line.

Does this invalidate his point? Do copywriters even need a good grasp of grammar?

You’re damned right we do!

As I’ve already said, the key to this, is knowing your audience and their expectations. There will be times when grammatically correct prose is exactly what is required. Imagine you’re looking for a lawyer – will you choose the guy whose website is badly written, full of slang and dodgy syntax or will you go for the one whose marketing comes across as intelligent, capable and even erring on the right side of pedantic? You’ll choose the latter every time because those are the qualities you’re looking for in a lawyer.

What’s the bottom line here?

It’s all about communication. Will your audience understand your message and more importantly will they agree with it? Will it persuade them to take action? Will it sell? The language you use will determine this.

So make sure you’re getting the balancing act right when you’re planning your marketing copy. Always keep your target audience at the forefront of your mind and write directly to them. But do brush up on your grammar when you have a spare minute. After all, it’s easier to break the rules if you actually know what they are in the first place!

 

Why great writing does not equal great copy.

 

I got my knickers in a right old twist there.

I was having a look through a completed project a couple of weeks ago and discovered the client had made a couple of changes. Gasp!

One of the sentences had become just a little bit longer. An extra couple of clauses had appeared as if from nowhere. A word or two had been deleted and exchanged for synonyms with a few more syllables. Nothing major but…

It annoyed me and I’ll tell you why.

Yes, I can write the sentence of a hundred clauses and make it sound elegant. Yes, I know big fancy words. But I don’t often use them. For a good reason:

great writing doesn’t always make great copy.

Let me show you what I mean.

Using complex words.

Unless you’re selling a specialist product or you have a very niche market, keep your vocabulary simple. You want to be as inclusive as possible and by using obscure, complicated or ‘academic’ words and phrases, you’re automatically alienating some of your potential audience.

That’s bad copywriting.

 

Ditto complex sentence structure.

The more complicated the sentence, the greater the chance you’ll screw it up. We’ve all done it. However, even if you’re a linguistic genius and every sentence is word perfect, longer STILL isn’t better. Your long, convoluted sentence has just bored your reader and they’ve clicked on to something else.

That’s bad copywriting.

 

Never-ending paragraphs.

All audiences are not created equal. Your magazine reader, who’s just settled down on the train for the daily commute could be considered a captive audience (although, don’t forget your ad is competing with every other ad, article and picture in the magazine) and may be happy to read loads of text. Your internet user is not. She is pushed for time, bombarded with information and just looking for a reason to click ‘close’. Your beautifully written but long paragraphs and text heavy pages have just given her that reason.

That’s bad copywriting.

 

So when you’re writing your own copy, try not to fall into these traps. Remember that it takes more than great grammar and syntax to sell a product. Great writing does not always equal great copy.

Although it is a good place to start…