Waving goodbye to the uninvited guests of copy
When I first started thinking about this blog, I was planning a pithy opener about how much of a pain in the arse it is when a guest turns up uninvited at your house. (I’m an introvert. I barely like it when people I have invited turn up.)
But as we know, the world’s turned upside down in the last few weeks. At present, a guest turning up uninvited at my house would either be:
a) In violation of the government mandated lockdown, or:
b) A kindly volunteer leaving sustenance on my doorstep as I wallow in self-isolation.
So in light of that, I’ll leave my sarcasm aside and cut straight to the point.
I’m a B2B copywriter. And, just as in life pre-global pandemic, I often find myself facing a few ‘uninvited guests’ in my copy, adding little value and turning what might be a great piece of content into a snooze-fest.
Here are my personal ‘top five repeat offenders’. Which uninvited copy guests can you add to the list?
The fluffy sentence opener
‘As the world of X has already seen…’
‘Of course, the reality is…’
I don’t know why I’m so attached to starting with a little bit of fluff.
Do I just want to give the main chunk of my sentence some extra emotional support? Am I not ballsy enough to dive straight on in with the good stuff?
Whatever it is, it needs to stop. I’ve started casting an eagle-eye over the first few lines of each paragraph, just to be sure.
30 words when 15 will do
Two’s company, three’s a crowd (also: a breach of current government guidelines) and 30… well, 30 is a lot. Especially when it comes to words in a sentence. So why do I persist with cramming so many in?
I want impact! Drama! The sparse, Hemingwayesque beauty of a concise sentence! Not a five-clause construction with more plot twists than season one of Love is Blind.
Confession time: I probably do it to hit word count. My introductions and early paragraphs are often particularly verbose as I strive to chip away at the accusing glare of a blank white page.
These days, I’m trying to make a new habit. When I hit capacity on an 800-word blog, I go back through and try to cut at least a hundred of the buggers.
Then, I try and fill up that space with something that’s actually relevant and interesting to my target reader. Fancy that.
We don’t need another post about B2B clichés: the fine folk at Radix have already got that covered off. So I won’t harp on here. But safe to say: we all do it, even though we know they’re rubbish.
(In my defence, I started life as a copywriter writing blogs about buy-to-let mortgages, which genuinely is ‘an increasingly complex regulatory landscape’. Sue me.)
References to the space/time continuum
B2B copywriters like me love to play with space and time.
But sadly, not in a cool, ‘hurtling through the galaxy in a Tardis’ kinda way.
Mainly by repeating ‘In the current x landscape’ and ‘In the future x landscape’ over and over again, on the V1 of every single piece of copy I’ve ever written since time immemorial.
I don’t know why I (and so many of my fellow copywriters) are so attached to this trope. But we should probably try and mix it up a bit.
Ah, ‘increasingly’. I love you. I hate you. In the immortal words of Heath Ledger: I wish I knew how to quit you. (So does Emily, OG’s resident content producer, who helps me out no end by proofing my copy and slashing my ‘increasinglys’ as she goes).
In the world of B2B copy, ‘increasingly’ is just… always there, waiting for me to fall back on. And you can even combine it with my other favourite, the B2B cliché! After all, a lot of things are increasingly complex, increasingly fragmented, increasingly regulated…
(Increasingly lonely, increasingly sore-of-the-back, increasingly raiding the increasingly empty fridge… No? Anyone else? Just me?)
So there you have it: my top five uninvited copy guests – all of which I’m striving to cut out of my life for good.
If you’ve got an unwelcome visitor that crops up in your copy, time and time again, let me know in the comments – let’s face it, we’re all desperate for the social interaction.
Fancy a chat about how we can write beautiful, concise, ‘increasingly’-free copy together? Rumour has it, our Head of Copy Jamie Fewery is working from home and free to talk. You can email him here.