I’m always telling you to really read the copy that comes at you every day. And then, I’m also telling you to analyze it. Well, today we’re going to talk about three points you might be missing in that analysis; three tell-tale marks of lazy writing. Intrigued? Read on…
Today’s question comes from Jayson F. who asks, “I kept seeing a bunch of emails and ads that said things like, “Fall for Our Savings” or “Fall for New Styles” during autumn. What’s the deal with that?”
Well, the deal with that is that what you’re looking at is lazy copywriting. Lazy copywriting is when the copywriter doesn’t take the time to be original, to carefully look through their copy and when they don’t take the time to analyze the competition. And, sadly, this happens all too often.
Let’s make sure you don’t make the same mistakes, shall we? Here are the three most egregious marks of lazy copywriting.
1. Overused puns.
Today’s question provided a perfect example: Fall for Our Savings. “See, the season is fall and we’re also implying that you’ll fall in love with our prices because they’re so good!” Yeeeeeah, we get it.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of a clever pun. But the problem with this one and others of its ilk is that, not only is it not particularly clever, it’s also not original. Every single autumn, dozens and dozens of companies send out the an email with roughly this same subject line. Fall for our savings. New styles you’ll fall for. Autumn savings to fall for. See? Lazy.
Now, believe me, I probably did write a line like that at some point early in my career. I can almost guarantee it. It’s very common for newer copywriters to go for the easy choices, the copy equivalent of low-hanging fruit. But you are better than that, right? After all, copy that isn’t original is generally not effective either. And if there’s one thing your copy absolutely has to be, it’s effective. Stretch yourself and challenge yourself to be original.
2. Duplicate words and/or unnecessary words.
Duplicate words come into play when you see a headline that says something like “Save Big on Top Travel Deals” with a subhead that says “Deals like these won’t last long!”
Quite simply, using the same word in close proximity is just a waste of an opportunity. Every word should convey something important and duplicating a word misses an opportunity to convey something new. Read through your work carefully to make sure you’re not using the same words close by each other. If you are, you need to first evaluate whether the message of both lines is worth conveying. (Sometimes duplicate words can point to duplicate messages.) If they are, find a new word to add even more information and value to one of the lines.
Unnecessary words are a personal pet peeve. Here’s an example that makes me want to write a letter to the CEO every time I get a pair of shoes: The outer box that a certain online shoe store ships its shoes in says, “Highly Addictive Contents Inside.” If they’re contents, of course they’re inside! The word “inside” is entirely unnecessary and makes the message sound stupid.
Ugh. Just like with duplicate words, unnecessary words waste precious space and opportunity.
3. Ignoring the competition.
This one is a little harder to spot than the other two, but just as important. Ignoring what the competition is writing is a big mistake and can, again, lead to a huge missed opportunity.
As you know, on Cyber Monday, retailers spend the entire day emailing about the discounts they offer. Well, one retailer (who shall remain nameless) sent out an email with the subject line: “Wanna score big?” That, in itself, is not the problem, though: The problem is that the email was centered around the fact that the deals you find online for this store are different from what you find in person, so you should shop both places.
And the reason that’s such a big problem is that people opened that email expecting to see a discount, as suggested by the subject line and by what they were seeing the store’s competition do, didn’t see any discount and then, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, deleted it.
What a missed opportunity! Since their message was different than their competitions, they could have used this to their advantage in their subject lines. When everyone else was using percentages, they could have differentiated themselves with a curiosity subject line like, “The big secret to saving TWO ways” or something along those lines.
Their competition was sending discounts and deals. They ignored that when they should have been capitalizing on it to set themselves and their message apart.
Ignore your competition at your own risk. Often you can use what they’re doing to your advantage.
Your turn! Where have you seen examples of lazy copywriting? Let us know in the comments below!