Archive | Writing Without Waffle

Words a copywriter would never use

WordsThere are certain words a copywriter would never use.

‘Solutions’ is one of them.

One reason is because ‘solution’ returns 642,000,000 results when searched on Google. Wow. If there are that many solutions available, yours is highly unlikely to stand out.

I realise that people use the word to suggest they solve problems. But it doesn’t work. It’s clunky and pointless.

To demonstrate what nonsense it is, here’s what @DaveTrott tweeted yesterday:

Just had a nutrition solution, so I might go outside for some garden solution, or down the pub for some leisure solution, then the telly for some entertainment solution, and off to bed for some relaxation solution. Then tomorrow morning up and catch the travel solution to work.

A copywriter would never write: ‘An internet marketing firm specialising in e-commerce solutions’.

We’d write: ‘An internet marketing firm specialising in e-commerce’.

Or, even better, something that is more customer-focused: ‘We help improve the performance of your e-commerce website’.

The only time a copywriter would use ‘solution’ is when writing about chemistry e.g. ‘A solution of ammonia in water’.

Continue Reading →


Why your website is like a restaurant

RestaurantWhen you click a link on a website and a dropdown or popup list appears, it’s called a menu.

That’s not the only reason why I say your website is like a restaurant.

I was recently asked to comment on a client’s leaflet, which listed all 11 services they offer.

Quite sensible, you might think.

Trouble is, the people that want service 1 are probably not interested in services 2 to 11, and vice versa.

With most people being too busy to think, there is no point in distracting and confusing them with irrelevant information.

Continue Reading →


Copywriting has an image problem

TypewriterAs you may know, ‘copy’ is any text that is uploaded to the internet or printed on paper.

Copy: Middle English (denoting a transcript or copy of a document): from Old French copie (noun), copier (verb), from Latin copia ‘abundance’ (in medieval Latin ‘transcript’, from such phrases as copiam describendi facere ‘give permission to transcribe’).

The problem with the word ‘copywriting’ is that many people don’t know they need it.

Some people think they can do it themselves. But just because someone knows how to throw a sentence together doesn’t mean they can write copy.

Copywriting is not just about writing words that flow in a grammatically correct way. It’s the art of writing words that persuade the reader to take an action, change their attitude or spend their money. It’s a craft and a skill that overlaps with marketing, psychology and sometimes SEO.

Admittedly, it’s always been the case that people think they can write their own copy. But now there’s added confusion.

Continue Reading →


Copy disasters of the month

Banana skinPeople often send me copy mistakes they find, and I can’t help proofreading as I go about my day. Here are some disasters I’ve seen in the past month, with added commentary.

Opening an online chat with Apple Support:

Hey there, Jackie! I am Senior Advisor, Brandon! First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to work with us on your issue. How are you doing?”

Brandon may be trying to be friendly but this is not helpful. All I want to do is find a solution to my problem. Not engage in inane chit-chat with too many exclamation marks.

But it got worse. Here’s how the chat ended:

“Since it worked prior to changing what was changed, then something may need to be changed again.”

Er, yes. Although that’s not exactly the answer I was hoping for.  

Continue Reading →


How to make your copywriter smile

SmileIt will come as no surprise to learn that we copywriters are a tiny bit obsessed with words. Not only the ones we write, but also the ones we read.

This enquiry popped into my inbox recently recently, and it made me smile.

“This website is so secret I’m actually writing this blindfolded in a cave from an unknown location.”

I can’t wait to dig out my trusty old Secret Squirrel typewriter and get started on that project.

In a recent LinkedIn conversation, I enjoyed this exchange with a stranger who wanted to connect with me:

Continue Reading →


Psychological tricks worth buying into

HotelHave you ever noticed messages like these when you book hotels, flights and insurance?

  • 35 people have already booked this
  • 17 people are looking at this
  • Hurry, only 10 seats left

University College London (UCL) has recently published some research showing that these phrases significantly increase profits for travel websites.

They work due to the principle of perceived scarcity.

What’s more, UCL found that reviews are even more effective than a price cut.

Due to the power of social proof (peer pressure), this means the most convincing copy of all is written by your customers.

Continue Reading →


Icebreakers, energisers and gamification

GamesAs a copywriter, I know that sometimes the best way to get your message across is verbally, rather than via the written word.

But that doesn’t mean a list of bullet points in PowerPoint.

Years ago, when I worked at Freemans home shopping, I was asked to design some slides for an IT presentation.

“I want you to put a lingerie image in the middle of the slideshow,” my client said, “so it will wake the audience up.”

I refused, saying: “Why don’t you just rewrite it so it’s not boring?”

Continue Reading →


Can you copyright a colour?

ColourJust for a change, let’s explore copyright rather than copywriting.

Last night, I met the owner of a small business who’d been sued by Getty Images for thousands of pounds.

She had recently taken over the business from the previous owner. He’d innocently grabbed a picture from Google images and used it on the company website.

She managed to win the argument by immediately taking down the photo and proving it wasn’t her that had used it. Unusually, Getty backed down.

Many people think it’s OK to search the internet and help themselves to whatever images they find there. They are wrong.

Continue Reading →