Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Four Things to Leave Out of Your Copy

   Hello again, luvvies. I’m speaking to you from the depths of my hammock, Haagen-Dazs bar in hand, P. G. Wodehouse novel by my side. My phone is nowhere in sight.

Wish you had more time to loll around in peace? Well, here’s some good news: we copywriters can actually add value to our work by leaving stuff out.

Here are four elements that strengthen your writing by their absence. In other words, leave them out (or cut them out), and your copy instantly improves.

  1. Adjectives that claim to emphasize, but actually do just the opposite: very, really, basically…. Sometimes you can replace very (whatever) with a single, more specific word: e.g., very angry —> enraged.
  1. Phrases that qualify your stance: somewhat, to some extent, often… Use these judiciously. You don’t want to mislead, but you do want to make your points with conviction. Copywriting is about engagement and persuasion: you don’t have to anticipate every possible objection to your claims. Own your enthusiasm, and let it work for you.
  1. Redundancy. Look for phrases that say the same thing twice, and trim them down: 
  •  advance warning —> warning.
  • “Gladdice holds meetings one-on-one with her clients for a discussion regarding their needs.”   —> “Gladdice meets with her clients to discuss their needs.” 
  1. Backstory. Your particular project—a white paper, for example—may require you to explain some historical background. But usually it’s best to cut to the chase:
  • “Until recently, social media were a relatively unknown marketing tool. They were used by most people for personal communication. Nowadays, social media are a powerful way to get your business recognized by potential leads.”   —> “Social media are a powerful marketing tool for your business.”   

Get good at leaving stuff out, and you’ll have lots more time to snooze in that hammock. Ah, the bliss of doing less….


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