5 CRINGEY COPYWRITING MISTAKES THAT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL
"Write the way your customers speak."
"Keep your writing at or below a 7th grade reading level."
We've all heard these same snippets of advice when it comes to writing copy. Generally, it's good advice.
But somewhere along the line writers have taken this style to a lazy extreme.
Basic writing concepts get tossed aside in favor of a lax writing style thought to be more appealing.
Lazy writing isn't appealing.
It makes you look dumb.
There. I said it. And I'll say it again.
LAZY WRITING MAKES YOU LOOK DUMB!
When is the last time you bought from someone who sounded like they had no idea what they were talking about?
Do you search for people who have no expertise to guide you?
Have you ever read an email or social media post and wondered if the author had ever heard of a dictionary?
Even the smartest copywriters make these mistakes from time to time. Mistakes we all know better than to make.
Which mistakes am I referring to?
HERE ARE THE ( 5 ) DUMBEST MISTAKES THAT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL WHEN WRITING COPY:
1. Spelling Errors That Change the Whole Meaning of the Word
I could dedicate an entire blog post to this (and most likely will). We have apps such as Grammarly, the Hemingway Editor, and Grammar Slammer. You can use these for FREE! So why are there so many mistakes???
Let me list some examples:
They're, their, and there
Loose/loosing vs lose/losing
Too, to, and two
Affect instead of Effect
Alot (this isn't even a word), A lot, and allot
Your instead of You're
No vs Know
It's careless when you misspell a word and don't catch it. But when you do it and it changes the entire meaning of the word, it makes you look bad. The message it delivers is one that says you either don't know what you're talking about, or you don't care. Intentional or not, no one wants to put their trust (or money) in the hands of someone making those mistakes.
2. Using Texting "Shortcuts" and Emojis Instead In Place of Words
We have become a world of prolific texters. Some of us spend more time texting and messaging than we do having verbal conversations. Whether lack of time, or lack of attention, a quick message is what most of us prefer when it comes to communicating. Texting is our shortcut when we have to connect.
But even texting has shortcuts!
How often have you seen a text or instant message like this:
"Wld u plz pick ⬆️ sum 🍔's 4 me? 👁️ will 💖 u 4ever. CU L8ter. 💖 u2."
Sadly, this hieroglyphic monstrosity isn't limited to my moody teenager's conversations. Nor is it limited to private, casual conversations between friends.
I have seen business people promoting their products and services like that.
I see it the majority of times on social media posts, but it has even made its way into emails.
Ask yourself this question: would this make you want to do business with that person?
The purpose of business copy is to get people to get them to buy, subscribe, or do some sort of action that benefits your growth. One of the key ways to make that happen is to be clear with your message. You shouldn't force the reader to hire a codebreaker to figure out what you're trying to say.
When you don't spell out full words or use full sentences you risk confusing your reader. When you use emojis as words instead of accents, you make the reader guess the meaning.
What happens if they guess wrong? What if they interpret your message to mean something completely different?
You end up losing customers and alienating people who might have spent their money on your product or service.
Emojis can be used sparingly in your copy to highlight your message, but should never be used in place of words.
That other jibberish shouldn't be used in copy ever unless it's part of your business or product name.
3. Improper Apostrophes Pt. 1 (Possessives and Contractions)
This is an area that confuses a lot of people. It's a pretty common writing mistake.
A contraction is a shortened word that omits letters from two words to form one word with an apostrophe. Examples of contractions are "it's (it is), "can't" (cannot), and "who's" (who is).
A possessive shows ownership. Examples of a possessive pronoun is "hers", "Bob's", "theirs".
The main culprits that get mixed up in writing are "it's/its" and "who's/whose."
Examples of how to use both:
"I have a dog. Its fur is soft." (The fur belongs to the dog, so it is a possessive with no apostrophe)
My dog has a rhinestone collar. It's sparkly. (We're describing something here, so we used the contraction of "it is". The apostrophe always gets used in this case)
Who's at the door? (Who is...contraction...apostrophe used)
Whose jacket is on the couch? (Whose...showing possession...no apostrophe)
When you're putting your sentence together, think about if the word can be broken down into two words. If it can, use the apostrophe. If you're talking about something that belongs to another, it's a possessive and you won't use the apostrophe.
4. Improper Apostrophes Pt. 2 (Plurals)
Another mistake using apostrophes is when you're talking about plurals. You know, more than one person or thing.
Let's go back to the dog example.
If you had more than one dog, it would be dogs- no apostrophe there, see?
If you use the word dog's, your showing possession again. It belongs to the dog if you use an apostrophe and an s.
You wouldn't write "I have 5 cat's." That makes no sense. You have 5 of something that belongs to the cat? What 5 things do you have?
The proper way to show more than one cat would be to write "I have 5 cats."
Using an apostrophe when writing about more than one item sends a message that you possess (apostrophe) several bad habits (plural...no apostrophe).
5. Pointless Words
What is a pointless word? It's used as filler. It's vague. It tells you no specific information. It's redundant when describing something else.
You could write that you've done extensive research on the mating call of Bigfoot.
Or you could write you've done 17 years of field research on Bigfoot mating calls.
The word extensive doesn't give any real information. Extensive to what? Someone know has never done any research? It's a relative term. There's nothing specific to lend any credibility.
The second sentence gives you a specific point of data to reference.
Another type of pointless word is the adjective that describes something that needs no description.
Take the word unique. You wouldn't say "the most unique." Unique means one of a kind. The sentence wouldn't make sense if you said it's "the most one of a kind." There's only one, if it's unique. It already is the most.
So what is a simple way to make sure you never (or at least rarely) make the 5 mistakes above when writing copy? When in doubt, say it out loud. If you talk it through, chances are you'll be able to hear how silly it sounds and you'll correct your mistakes. When you correct those simple mistakes, your copy will sound "smarter."
Your business (and you) aren't dummies. Don't let your copy send out a message that says otherwise.