I’m naturally biased. I think every piece of customer-facing copy should be at least run by a professional copywriter before it goes out into the world.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Maybe you need to pounce on an opportunity and time is of the essence. Or maybe you don’t have the budget to run every Facebook post through your agency. Either way at some point in time, there’s a good chance someone in your company whose job title is not copywriter is going to be asked to write something.
So how can Janet in accounting come up with a decent PowerPoint presentation or tweet when called to go above and beyond her job description? Here’s a few of the most common issues I notice when editing for inexperienced writers:
Exclamation Marks are Vile, Evil Little Things
The more you use exclamation marks, the less meaning they carry. You can’t manufacture excitement just by the punctuation you use, and nobody likes being shouted at – even in written form. I had a college professor who gave this great line of advice: You’re allowed three exclamation marks throughout your life. Use them wisely.
Know the Rules, but Don’t Be Afraid to Break Them
Nothing will make your copy look unprofessional more than a spelling, grammar or punctuation mistake. But sometimes breaking the rules can add emphasis. A well-placed sentence fragment, for example, can really drive a point home. Keep in mind that writing conversationally is far more important than adhering to the rules you (should have) learned in school.
Want to Stand Out? Avoid Industry Speak
Save the industry speak for white papers and patent applications. Sure, you want to write like you’re an authority on the subject at hand, but you don’t want someone’s eyes to glaze over in boredom. Talk to your customers like you would if you were chatting with them at an industry happy hour.
Avoid Generalizations Like the Plague That They Are
Speaking of words to avoid, there are a number of over-used phrases that less experienced writers tend to use as a crutch. Terms like:
- Highly knowledgeable
The problem with these generalized terms is the lack substance. In essence, your copy just becomes filler. Your customers can see right through them – especially because your competitors are probably using the exact same phrasing. You may in fact have a premium product, but I’m just not buying it on face value. Tell me why it’s “premium.”