10 Copywriting Mistakes That Dilute & Weaken Your Messaging

You only get one shot at first impression.

This is no more true than in copywriting, where you only have seconds to make your point and persuade your reader to take action.

No one will come back later to be convinced a second time.

And they don’t reach out to ask you to explain what you really mean, either.

Putting a copy of your weak sauce out into the world is a waste of the time and energy you put into creating it.

Even worse, it can backfire and instill a negative image of your brand in the reader.

We don’t want that.

So use this column as a checklist while you review your next landing page, email newsletter, or other copy.

Avoid these common copywriting mistakes to power your messages and inspire conversions.

1. Make word soup

Jargon, buzzwords, jargon, and industry jargon are painful for anyone but you to read.

consider it 21% of adults in the United States are functionally illiterate; That is, their reading skills are considered insufficient to complete daily living and employment tasks such as reading posters, menus, and websites.

(don’t be arrogant, Canada.)

Even those with high literacy skills get annoyed by unnecessarily complex language.

If you had to get out the dictionary or consult an industry wiki to see what you’re talking about, we’re probably done there.

Wherever your audience is, you can inadvertently alienate a large segment of potential customers by being too obliging.

WebFX has a free Flesch-Kincaid readability testing tool that you can use to make sure you’re not writing over your audience’s heads.

2. Writing from the wrong point of view

I liken this copywriting mistake to being that guy at the party no one wants to get sucked into sharing because he speaks for himself Every time.

Great copywriting involves two very important things:

  • What does the author want to say.
  • What the reader wants to hear.

You desperately need to know your product or service inside and out.

But you’re totally missing the mark if what the company has to say about it isn’t watered down with a healthy dose of what the reader wants to know.

Pourri, the makers of Poo-Pourri, not only create hilarious commercials, but also write excellent copy.

They could have simply said, “Enjoy this fresh, clean citrus scent,” and that would have been an accurate description of what’s on offer here.

But no, they went so cleverly and made me imagine myself sipping a delicious brew in the sunshine, surrounded by fresh laundry (that someone else magically comes to fold and put away for me).

Screenshot from Pourri.comApril 2022.

Great copywriting brings the user point of view that leads to this kind of emotional reaction.

3. Share a list of laundry benefits

Yes, it is essential that you explain the benefits of your product or service.

But you miss the mark if you recite them without regard for what each one means to the reader.

It has eight adjustable blades!

who cares? How is eight blades better than six?

Isn’t eight blades a bit excessive?

Give context to the ultimate benefits with copy that speaks directly to the user’s needs.

Its eight adjustable blades chop and mince quickly, saving you valuable prep time.

Cool, I love saving time and I hate chopping. Take my money.

4. Re-describe the product

This works the same way as above.

Don’t just tell me what the advantage is. Tell me why this is important to me.

Assuming it’s well written, the product description does a good job of outlining the product’s materials, colors, size, and other specifications.

So don’t waste a valuable copy telling me all that again.

I already know that your course covers these 12 different topics.

Copywriting for a landing page, e-commerce store, etc. needs to go further and help me understand the difference knowledge would make in my life.

5. The use of emotional stimuli for evil

I’ve never been a fan of using negative emotional feedback as a sales tool.

Sure, it can be very effective to take advantage of a person’s fear of losing their home to sell a payday loan, or to make them feel uncertain about their body image to pass on a beauty product.

But while fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) can drive a product, it’s not the foundation for an ongoing healthy relationship with customers.

The descriptions of women’s swimwear are appropriate for the FUD style of copywriting. You can focus on features that will hide my muscle mass, hide my tummy tuck, and camouflage my imperfections.

This style of copywriting does not sell.

But you know what’s more compelling and makes me love the brand?

Copy like this:

Summersalt copywriting exampleScreenshot from summersaltApril 2022.

Instead of making the reader feel terrible about his own body, Summersalt focuses on the fun adventures I’m about to have in this swimsuit.

Seriously…take my money.

6. Use of the passive voice versus the active voice

This is a personal pet peeve.

Once you learn to recognize the passive voice, I promise it will drive you bananas, too.

Active Voice is direct, actionable, lively, and clear.

The passive voice … is not.

In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence acts through the verb.

This is an example:

Active Voice: Professionals appreciate Basecamp’s simplicity.

Passive Voice: Basecamp’s simplicity is appreciated by professionals.

Did you understand that? Prefer another one:

Active Voice: You can find a new partner today.

Passive Voice: A new partner can be found today.

grammatical premium It’s great for capturing passive audio and is available as a browser plug-in.

Hemingway app Free if you don’t mind dropping your copy into a browser-based tool.

7. Overthinking or underthinking SEO

Focusing too much on optimizing your copy for search can make it choppy, confusing, and unnatural to read.

However, not thinking about how people will find your content at all can be just as damaging.

If the copy you write is destined to be published anywhere, you want people to be able to discover it via search. It can only benefit you to improve your existing on-page SEO best practices and incorporate them into your work.

But don’t go overboard.

Google is smarter than it ever was. You don’t have to use all the words in your keyword list in the right places just to rank.

Focus on the quality of your writing and being relevant instead.

Casper does a fairly good job of its product pages.

An example of writing Casper scriptsScreenshot from KasperApril 2022

This copywriter has worked a lot of related keywords — down, pillow, cool, night, down, machine washable, softness.

These are all closely related concepts that tell Google what this page is about.

However, they are woven into a convincing copy rather than serving as a stumbling block in logical sentences.

Be thoughtful about how you use keywords. Be like Casper.

8. Going absolutely crazy with thickeners

Capacitors are used to strengthen and emphasize adverbs.

It is a great tool when used in moderation.

However, overuse of capacitors can make your writing very difficult to read and highly hyperbolic in nature.

See what I did there? Seems a bit hard to say it will be Extremely It’s hard to read. Is it really redundant? extreme?

“Very” is an intensifier that tends to creep into transcription a lot. Other common offenders include:

  • Is that true.
  • Completely.
  • in full.
  • Absolutely.
  • Exceptionally.
  • noticeable.
  • Excellent.
  • And therefore.

Monitor your capacitors and challenge your use of each one.

9. Use jargon, slang and other obscure languages

Marketer and Minnesotan Angie Schtmüller Once he challenged me to use the word “cattywampus” in writing a marathon story. I vowed, and I had to understand that word.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a clue what American slang meant if it appeared in a piece of content.

I don’t expect many Americans to follow if I suddenly drop a token or a piece of bread or the dog’s dinner here either.

Slang are colloquial and vernacular phrases that add color and personality to a piece of writing. This is great if you are writing a novel or short story about people in a particular area.

Not much into writing commercials.

Idioms are similarly confusing statements that, if taken literally, suggest to the reader that some strange things are going on:

  • It’s raining heavily.
  • Don’t wait until the chicken has teeth to start.
  • It’s time to bite the bullet.
  • Don’t bend out of shape.
  • It’s not mustard after lunch yet.
  • Some brands have a lot of noise and no nuts.

These are common in smaller pockets of the world.

But for the vast majority of readers, they lead to confusion.

10. Forget about the CTA

Don’t leave me hanging… Tell me where we’re going next!

Each piece of copy needs at least one call to action to give the reader the easiest possible path to the next required step.

Not always making the sale either. You might try to get them to download a lead generator, sign up for an email list, or read other, more focused content.

Some pages contain multiple calls to action. Wherever you identify the logical next step for your audience, give them a choice.

Not everything has to be “buy now” and “click here” either. Get creative with your CTAs.

I like what Baileys is doing here:

Baileys copywriting exampleScreenshot from Baileys CanadaApril 2022

Yes please.

And that’s it! No annoying secrets here – just good habits to develop as you make them a part of your editing routine to eliminate these common copywriting mistakes.

Your readers and conversion rates will thank you.

More resources:

  • 13 essential online writing tools to help improve your content
  • 17 SEO content writing tips to help your rankings
  • 8 Free Courses for Writers and Content Marketers

Featured image: Shutterstock / Nata Shilo com

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