9 Copywriting Faux Pas to Avoid

On the surface, copywriting seems simple enough. But hitting the exact tone, detail and structure to make great copy requires a mastery of communication to appeal to potential customers and clients.

While there’s a lot more to producing great copy, understanding the basics of what not to write is a good place to start. Here are 9 common copywriting faux pas that you should avoid when writing copy.

Bad headlines

Headlines are the most important part of copy. David Ogilvy famously wrote, “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

People are most likely to read only the headline and ignore the rest of the copy. So, it’s important that the headline not only catches attention but gives the audience a reason to read the first line in the body copy.

Not doing research

Research is the most important step to writing a good copy and often the most neglected. Research takes time and effort, two things which are often in short supply in this industry but knowing your prospects inside out can make all the difference. This means understanding buyers’ motivation and all the workings of a product/service.

Only if you have all the information at hand, can you come up with a great idea for a copy that will sell.

Selling the features, but not the benefits

Too often copywriters highlight the features of a product over the benefits. In many cases, the features of one product isn’t all that different from another.

Copywriters have to sell the benefits. As the old copywriting adage goes – What’s in it for me? ‘Me’ being the buyer. People want to know how your product/service is going to add value to their life. Copy that gets into the core emotions of your brand and ultimately benefits your prospects will keep them engaged to your content.

Saying too much

Good copy should be concise, informative and to the point. Only say what’s necessary to get a reader to take action. This means saying things in the least possible words, trimming off unnecessary information and getting straight to the point.

Getting the right balance of what and what not to say can be tricky. With research and experience, a copywriter will learn to gauge the right amount of information needed to make the copy work.

Bypassing or lacking a strong Call-to-Action

You will be surprised how often people dismiss the power of a well-written CTA – Call-to-Action. This is the part of the copy that tells the target audience what step to take once they’re interested in your product/service. Start with a strong action-verb like ‘Get Information’ instead of ‘Information here’. Be concise but show what you are offering in your CTA. Instead of saying ‘Buy now’, you can say ‘Buy now and get 50% off’ which enforces the benefit of the product/service. It’s not really about the action itself but the value obtained from taking that action.

Not putting the best bits first

Always put the most pertinent information about the product/service first – notably, the benefits of a product. Chances are audience will only skim through the text. You’ve got to hook your readers quick before they move on. It’s important that all the necessary information about a product is placed before other details like application procedures and contact information follow.

Not getting the right tone

Good copy should take the right tone of the product/service it is selling. This often depends on the brand image that is being conveyed. Overcomplicated language and industry jargons that can only be understood by a few, does not make for good copy. You want to connect with your audience emotionally and this means making the brand’s voice clear.

Not having a process

Having a process makes writing copy easier. It’s best to start with research by having a deep understanding about the product and prospect. Once you have the information, you can begin the writing process such as bulleting points or synthesising information. The process doesn’t end at writing alone but covers editing to proofreading. Not only will this help a copywriter minimise grammatical errors but knowing what to do immediately after receiving a brief will save precious time.

Putting too much value on creativity

Copywriters are by nature creative people and strive to be original in an industry where ads can sound very much alike. But the biggest mistake an amateur copywriter can do is insisting on an idea just because it sounds original and different.  You can write the most original and creative copy but if it doesn’t appeal to the right people or hit the right points, it isn’t going to work. As David Ogilvy once said “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

Are you a marketer looking to understand the ad industry more? Reach out to us, we don’t mind giving a tip or two


David, O. (1983). Ogilvy on advertising. New York, Crown16.

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