If you are going to start copywriting as a career or side business, you will want to avoid these common copywriting mistakes.
Copywriting is a common way to make money in the new digital economy. Marketers need copywriters to help them craft everything from ads to blog posts. Content marketing is a fast-growing industry that requires skilled writers to move forward.
Yet there are some common copywriting mistakes that new writers often make. If you are just getting started writing copy for potential customers, you are going to want to avoid these.
By learning these common copywriting mistakes, and how to avoid them, you can wow your potential customers and build a solid copywriting business.
How to Avoid 20 Common Copywriting Mistakes
If you have a strong grasp of English grammar and the ability to communicate well through words, you can create a lucrative career out of copywriting. Yet most new copywriters are guilty of some common mistakes.
One way you can establish yourself as a skilled writer is to learn to spot and avoid these mistakes. Here are the 20 most common copywriting mistakes. Avoid them if you want to learn how to become a copywriter.
1. Writing to Yourself, Not Your Target Audience
Many new writers write in a way that makes sense to themselves as a reader. Forbes warns that this is one of the biggest mistakes in copywriting because it fails to take in the needs of your target market.
For your copywriting to be effective, it needs to be a compelling copy, but it needs to be compelling to your audience. To rectify this mistake, take some time to get to know your audience and what drives them, then write to those needs.
A writer who is guilty of this mistake may say:
- I feel it is always best to choose a color that coordinates well with your flooring.
To reach a target audience, you could say:
- To make your home feel pulled together, choose a color that coordinates well with your flooring.
In the second example, the copy is about the reader, not the writer, and that makes it more compelling, even while it says the same thing.
2. Writing Too Formally
Writing for the web should not be overly formal, and this is a common problem with new writers, particularly if they are fresh out of school and used to writing papers. Web copywriting is conversational, and good copy will read almost like you are speaking to the reader.
This problem is tricky to overcome because business owners want their copy to sound professional. You must learn to strike a balance between casual writing that flows well and writing that is too casual and seems unprofessional.
Inserting some conversational phrases into the copy can help. For example, if you say:
- The real problem for today's consumers is too many ads that promise what they cannot deliver.
It sounds fairly formal. By simply inserting, “you see” and changing cannot to can't, you make it more conversational, as in:
- You see, the real problem for today's consumers is too many ads that promise what they can't deliver.
3. Capturing the Wrong Tone
The tone of a piece of writing is its emotion. Each company you write for will have a specific tone they are going for that aligns with their sales messages. You must be able to capture that tone and stay consistent in your writing.
Why is tone so important? It sets the stage for the relationship with the target market. If you jump around between different tones, your reader will hit the “unsubscribe” button very quickly, and your copy will fall flat.
Examples of tone are difficult to share since it varies so much from one project to the next, but the best way to avoid this mistake is to study the previous copy for a particular client. Use this as a starting point for the tone you use for your new copy.
4. Making Assumptions About Your Audience
When writing sales copy for a company, don't make assumptions about the reader. While you will need to consider the buyer persona your client provides, remember that some readers won't fit it.
Finding the balance between reaching that buyer persona and not making assumptions is difficult. One way to do so is to use words like “maybe” or “if” in your writing.
For example, if you are marketing for a product designed to help soothe fussy babies, you could say:
- When your baby is crying and you don't know what to do, try our product.
However, this assumes the baby is crying and the new parents don't know what to do. Instead, you could change it slightly to say:
- If your baby is crying and you don't know what to do, try our product.
5. Using Too Much Jargon
As you get to know your topic and the company you are writing for, you may start to absorb some industry jargon. Acronyms and abbreviations will seem commonplace to you, and they will make their way into your writing. However, if too much jargon makes it into a piece of copy, you are going to lose your reader's attention.
This mistake is challenging because you do need to sound knowledgeable about your topic and use the right terms to get search engine attention, but you also need to effectively reach your audience. So how can you strike this balance?
A professional copywriter will learn how to define jargon as they write. A good rule of thumb is no more than one technical term for every ten words of copy. For example, you could say:
- With my SEO expertise, you can optimize your website.
While this might make sense to someone who is an SEO marketer, it may fall flat with other readers. Instead, you could say:
- With my SEO expertise, you can get more search traffic on your website.
You still use one jargon word, SEO, but you have captured what the reader wants, more search traffic, in the rest of the sentence.
6. Writing About Features, Not Benefits
In marketing messaging, your goal is to help the reader make a purchase or take action for your company. While describing all the features of a product or service may seem like a good idea, it actually falls flat.
Readers do need to know about a product's features, but they also need to know how those features benefit them. This is known as feature-benefit writing, and it's a key component of successful sales writing.
For example, if you are writing about features only, you might say:
- The couch is made from a soft, neutral-colored leather.
If you change that to feature-benefit writing, you would say:
- The couch's soft, neutral-colored leather gives you an easy-to-clean surface that matches any room in your home.
7. Using Clichéd Words or Phrases
Almost every professional writer has a few words or phrases they use too often. If you are not careful to avoid this mistake, your writing can get boring.
To avoid this mistake, read through your works and see if you notice any phrases used repeatedly. Grab a thesaurus to change your writing and make it more engaging.
For example, if you find yourself using the conjunction because too frequently in your writing you could make a switch. Instead of writing:
- This couch is ideal for homes with kids because it is so easy to clean.
You could write:
- Families with kids love this couch due to its wipe-clean surface.
8. Trying too Hard to Sell
Yes, most online marketing writing is sales copy, but web pages with too heavy of a focus on sales are going to fall flat. Your readers know that your client is trying to make money and sell products or services. They don't need you to push that on them.
To rectify this, try to tell a story about a product in your writing, rather than simply trying to sell it. Make your language appealing so that the reader wants what your client has, without directly telling them to buy.
One way to do this is to use testimonials in your writing. Let satisfied customers tell readers why they want your client's products, and you will find your copy more effective.
That said, remember to include a strong call to action at the end of your content.
9. Writing Weak Headlines and Subheadings
When writing for the web, you are going to write with a lot of headlines and subheads. In fact, many client templates will show you exactly how much copy you can have in between each heading. Since you will write many of them, you must make them count.
Headlines and subheads need to be specific, contain optimized wording, and provide the reader with a basic outline of the content. Use complete statements, and write, so they show a benefit. Readers are going to scan these headings and decide if they want to further read the page, so they must create attention.
Here is an example of a weak headline:
- The Importance of Writing Strong Headlines
While this is clear in what it is saying, it is boring and does not grab attention. You could say the same thing in a better way like this:
- 5 Actionable Steps to Write Effective Headlines
This shows the reader what you are going to teach in the article or paragraphs that follow.
10. Making Claims Without Evidence
If you are writing an article that makes claims about a product or scientific research, back it up. Scientific studies, customer testimonies, and relevant statistics can prove your claim.
Don't just tell your readers that your vitamin is better than the competition. Tell them how much more soluble minerals it contains or what scientific study backs up your claim.
To fix this error, go through your copy and re-write it if you find that it's full of claims without any real evidence.
11. Creating Lengthy Sentences
Wordiness hurts your clarity, especially with web-based writing. Sentences with too many adverbs or flowery phrases will fall short.
Remember, website copywriting is not the place to show off an extensive vocabulary. Skilled writers can write concisely, and that's what you want to convey.
So, instead of saying:
- When you sign up for our exceptional, helpful service, you can be confident that we will deliver high-quality help that gives you peace of mind every step of the way.
You could say:
- When you become a customer, you can be confident in the quality of the service we provide.
In copywriting for the web, less is more. Read our guide to improving your readability score.
12. Making Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Every writer will make occasional grammar and spelling mistakes, but you do need to be cautious that your writing is clean. Use a tool like Grammarly to check for errors you might have not seen.
Read our Grammarly review.
Never submit a project without proofreading it first. A landing page or home page with a glaring typo will make your client look unprofessional, and you won't get repeat business.
Here is an example of just how easy it is to make a grammar mistake without realizing it:
- Your going to want to get in on this deal.
In this sentence, “your” is incorrect because you mean “you are,” so you should use the contraction, as in:
- You're going to want to get in on this deal.
13. Submitting a Weak Call to Action
In marking copy, the call to action, or CTA, is one of the most important parts of the piece. It tells the reader what action to take after reading the copy.
Yet many writers aren't sure how to make an effective CTA. It needs to create a sense of urgency and clearly tell the reader what to do.
Here is an example of a weak CTA:
- Sign up for our newsletter today.
While this does tell the reader what to do, it does not give them a compelling reason to take the action. Instead, you could write:
- Sign up for our newsletter today and receive a 30% off coupon for your next order. Don't wait, this offer is good for today only.
14. Ignoring the Page Design
User experience is the key to effective online marketing, and that means your writing needs to work with the page's design. Whenever possible, get a picture from your client of the page's layout, so you can fit your copy to the chunks of space designed for it.
However, there may be times when this information isn't available. In this case, use headings, bullet points and short sentences to write with design in mind.
This is a mistake that is difficult to show examples of, but in your copy, keep the look of the page in mind to avoid this problem.
15. Copying the Works of Others
Plagiarism is always a problem, especially in online copywriting. It's simply too tempting to open a website and take someone else's ideas. While you should do your research, make your copy your own.
Avoiding plagiarism is vital because copying someone else's work is illegal. Not only that, but it makes your client look bad when their copy is identical or similar to another client.
To avoid this mistake, craft your own work with your own ideas and your client's unique tone. If you pull research from another source, cite it to show that it is not your original idea.
16. Writing That's Too Generic
This is a common mistake with brand-new copywriters because they don't take the time to dig in and get to know their clients. Generic copywriting is weak. It doesn't convey meaning and value.
Instead, makes sure you know the client you are writing for inside and out. Determine their differentiators, and put this in your writing.
Here is an example of a generic sentence:
- We help you save money with more effective marketing.
- Instead, tell how and why you help the reader save by saying:
- We help you optimize your budget through effective SEO, proven lead generation and effective marketing copy.
17. Offering No Credibility
Anyone can create an online copy. Internet visitors know this. They want to see that you are an expert.
In addition to backing up your claims with proof, like testimonials or scientific research, write with an air of authority. Showcase the client's credentials when appropriate. Show why the reader should trust what you say.
Here is an example of generic writing that's not credible:
- We will help you lose weight.
Instead, show a before and after picture and say:
- Check out these stories from our clients, and then click here to learn how you can have similar results.
18. Using Bland, Pointless Words
Some words in the English language are little more than filler. When possible, avoid using these:
- In order to
If you absolutely need one of these words, consider an alternative that is stronger.
For example, instead of saying:
- Just like we said, it is very important to know your audience.
You could say:
- As we mentioned, knowing your audience is important.
The second example says the same thing but in far fewer words.
19. Having No Problem to Solve
In most online writing, the goal is to get the reader to take an action. To do that, you must have a problem that you can solve.
You can't assume your audience will know what that problem is. In your copy, you must clearly outline the problem you hope to help them solve over the course of your writing or with the product you offer.
Here is a CTA that ignores the problem:
- Purchase your marketing guide today.
Here it is with the problem added in:
- Grab our marketing guide to help you write clean, effective marketing copy.
20. Using Too Many Modifiers
Adjectives and adverbs have their place, but they are easily over-used. If you use an adjective or adverb in your sentence, make sure it is necessary to drive the content.
If you rely too heavily on modifiers, your copy becomes wordy. You can lose the details of what you're saying to all the extra words.
Here's an example of a sentence with too many modifiers:
- Add this comfortable, beautiful leather couch to your living room to give yourself a comfortable place to sit with a unique, but neutral look that matches your living room style.
This sentence has six modifiers. You can say the same thing with fewer words in this way:
- This attractive leather couch is a neutral color to match most living room styles.
A Final Word on Common Copywriting Mistakes
Copywriting is a lucrative option to make some extra money or to create an entire income. Yet many new copywriters fall victim to common mistakes.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, learn to avoid these mistakes in your writing. It will make your writing stronger and increase your chances of landing a good gig.
As you build your copywriting career, take the time to study these common mistakes. Learn to avoid them, and your writing will excel.
Resources For Copywriters
Writing effective copy takes time, practice, and study. If you need help, check out our guides:
FAQs on Common Copywriting Mistakes
What are some common copywriting mistakes?
Some common copywriting mistakes include:
1. Grammar and spelling errors
2. Using too many adverbs and adjectives
3. Writing to the wrong audience
4. Wordy, weak writing
How can I avoid common copywriting mistakes?
Proofreading your copy well and hiring a professional editing service can help you avoid copywriting mistakes. Getting extra practice writing can also help you avoid these common errors.
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