Bad copywriting resembles that Christmas fruitcake you receive every year from Aunt Lou: It just sits there on your website, doing nothing but taking up space and scaring people with its mediocrity. When SMBs hire a copywriter to create compelling content, they expect to receive content that seizes the attention of Internet-jaded consumers without mercy, a verbal advertisement as vivid and riveting as a fireworks display. Who wants Aunt Lou’s fruitcake when you can have a Reese’s peanut butter cup instead?
If It Sounds Like Fruitcake Tastes—Throw It Away!
You won’t have to worry about recognizing bad copywriting if you hire a copywriter who is experienced with crafting this specialized kind of writing. Copywriting that is just sitting there on your website and collecting E-dust will undoubtedly harbor one or more of the following blunders:
1. Copywriting that reads like a high school English teacher’s worst nightmare—punctuation and spelling errors, the use of obscure words that no one but Einstein has ever heard of (indicative of the dreaded “thesaurus syndrome”) and an overkill of passive verbs.
2. Copywriting littered with adverbs signifies it was written by a lazy writer who did not want to take the time to reword sentences using active verbs.
3. Copywriting that is so fluffy it could float off into cyberspace at any second. Content that contains “fluff” is even more useless than fruitcake—at least you can eat fruitcake. Examples of fluff include meaningless sentences drawn out with nonessential words and redundancy. If you can reduce a whole paragraph into one sentence, that paragraph is, essentially, “fluff.”
4. Sentences beginning with “There are.” Again, a warning sign indicating a lazy or inexperienced copywriter.
5. Copywriting that does not address an intended audience. If your company sells business attire, the website content needs to empathize with an audience comprised of executive types, not auto mechanics.
6. Copywriting full of slang, swear words or mysterious Internet acronyms known only by Millenials. Language that attracts all readers is informal and understandable yet appears professional and legitimate.
7. Copywriting that reads like a pharmaceutical lab report (clinical, devoid of feeling) is an instant turn-off. Depending on what it is selling, good copywriting should incorporate a hint of emotional appeal to promote identification among consumers. Savvy copywriters know how keep it subtle but intriguing in regards to demonstrative writing. Bad copywriters will embarrass your website with content resembling the histrionics of an overwrought silent film actor.
8. You can almost hear bad copywriting choking on cliches. Here are some examples of phrases that should be “tarred and feathered.”
9. No buzzwords please! Effective copywriting is fresh, unpretentious and timeless. Not sure what a buzzword is? Learn to recognize these obnoxious words and phrases.
10. Comical creative writing, or CCW for short, glows like toxic, radioactive waste in a piece of copywriting. And with that, I will leave you with this classic piece of CCW:
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” —Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Kimberly M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.