1. Writing in a rush or when you’re tired
You’ve sent out those last few invoices, answered enquiries from customers, completed that pesky tax form and now… oh, yes, that copy you need to do for the website, or your next marketing email. It's the last thing on the list and now it’s 10pm and you kind of want to watch another episode of that boxset, but darn it needs doing. "I want to relax too, so maybe I could just have it on in the background?," you wonder. Uh-uh, my friend. Hold it right there. I cannot tell you how much difference there is between copy written when you’re fresh and perky and relaxed, and copy that’s rushed or done with half an eye on the TV. But in a nutshell, it’s the difference between sharp, focussed and to-the-point copy and inconsistent, inaccurate, repetitive and rambling copy. Write in a rush and it shows.
2. Not getting feedback
You might be writing about your business, but the truth is, you’re writing for your audience. So you need to know from the horse’s mouth if your words are working or whether they’re just tumbleweed on a page. That’s why feedback from customers and potential customers – or people like them - is so important. Don’t forget, feedback can be something as simple as your website or newsletter analytics. If people leave a page within seconds, there’s clearly nothing there to interest or motivate them to stay—or perhaps there’s too much content or irrelevant info that’s turning visitors off? If your email open rate is flagging, it’s time to look again at those subject headers, or try some split-testing.
3. ‘Ivory tower syndrome’
Let’s get this straight: the copy you write for your business is not actually for you. It’s for your customers. So what do they want? What are they interested in? What do they need to know? All too often, we fall into the trap of viewing the world from our own particular standpoint, rather than taking a step back and considering what it might be like to be on the outside, looking in. The result of this particular sin? Copy that talks more about the business and products than it does about the customer. And it turns customers OFF. People want to connect, so give them something they can relate to. Take time to find out what’s on their minds and put this at the forefront of your mind as you write.
4. Cut-and-paste crimes
You’d be surprised how much web copy is unashamedly cut and pasted from an old website or corporate presentation. Or maybe you wouldn't. But it's easy to rumble cut-and-paste criminals. You'll usually spot it by the sudden change in tone of voice (like a more formal, technical tone that’s not in keeping with other website pages), or the fact that it’s a tiny bit off message (because after all, it may have been written for a totally different purpose). And then there’s the giveaway—a good old variation in font. Look, I’m all for repurposing content, but a cut-and-paste job just doesn’t… cut it.
5. Editing evasion
Your first draft should be full of ideas, messy, long, experimental and more. It is not your final draft. Ohhhh no. Thing is, when that first draft turns out OK and you’re in a hurry, it’s tempting to hit ‘publish’ and get on with the rest of your to-do list. But take it from me, to miss out on editing is to miss the point. That’s because some of your best writing will be done in the editing stage. It’s a chance to view your copy with a sense of perspective (try to leave it a few days between drafting and editing) and a critical eye. And that allows you to turn good copy into great copy. Crisper, sharper, better.
6. Delivery fail
When you write something that you’re expecting someone to read, you’re entering into a kind of agreement. It says “this website here will tell you what you need to know” or “yessir, I can explain what my product is all about in this brief presentation” or “hell yes that was a punchy blog post headline, and here’s the story”. So when copy doesn’t live up to its purpose, it results in a frustrated audience at best—or at worst, an apathetic one that’s ceased to care. That’s why your website page named ‘Services’ must talk about exactly that, and not the process you go through to deliver those services (B2Bs beware! This happens a lot). A press release should be delivering something newsworthy. A team page should tell you who’s who, not fudge around how great your people are, without saying anything specific. After all, if your copy fails to deliver on its promise, what does that say about your business’ ability to deliver?
7. MIA = missing an action
Everything you write for your business will have a purpose and more often than not, there’ll be some kind of action you’d like people to take as a result of reading your content. Maybe you want them to call you. Maybe you want them to engage and tell you what they think. Maybe you want them to go right ahead and buy now. Get your copy right, and they will. And that’s why our final deadly sin is all about failing to create calls to action. I’m talking about call to action sentences, buttons, forms and popups, links to relevant pages, visible contact details… all of the things that help your copy to succeed in its mission. It’s often a last step in the writing process, but in the rush to get your copy finished and out of the door, ignore it at your peril.