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Sometimes, copywriters and content writers write in clichés.

They say things like, "Company X offers an integrated end-to-end solution."

To a reader, the line has barely any meaning, and certainly no impact. Why not? Because it is too familiar. Because he or she has read the same phrase too many times before, in too many other places.

In other words, when a phrase or sentence has a very familiar ring to it... it has very little impact in the new copy you are writing.

But this isn't just about clichés...

Hopefully, most of us avoid using clichés in our copy. But there is a second shade of the same problem.

Even when we avoid clichés, we often use phrases that still sound familiar. We slip into using tried and trusted ways of saying things.

For instance, here are the closing lines from an email I received recently from Network Solutions:

"Once again, thank you for choosing Network Solutions. We are committed to providing you with the solutions, services, and support to help you succeed online."

There are no clichés there. Bu there is still a problem.

The problem is in the message. The message is too familiar, too tired. We have all read a hundred letters and emails that say largely the same thing.

The "thank you and we'll always be here for you" message is an easy and lazy way to close a letter or email.

There are three problems with familiar messages...

First, when you begin or finish an email with a sentence or paragraph that readers feel they have read a hundred times before, you are undermining any sense that this is a letter from YOU.

How can this be a personal letter to the reader when they recognize so much of the message, tone, and language from elsewhere?

Too many emails sound like they were compiled from the equivalent of a paint-by-numbers kit. Writers just vary the details of the opening, body, and closing paragraph.

Second, the use of familiar phrases and messages undermines your company's brand. "Hey, these guys sound just like everyone else." You can't afford to sound like everyone else. You need to find a unique voice for your company.

Third, and this ties back to the other two, when you fall back on a familiar message, pace, length, and tone in your emails... you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Unique language, used to express a new message, will make all the difference in engaging a reader's attention and interest. Familiar messages just put people to sleep.

Be specific and relevant

If you have something to say, skip the fluffy opening and closing and make every line of your email specific to the topic at hand. And write every sentence in a way that is new. Avoid comfortable phrases and ordinary ways to start and end emails.

Here is an example of what I think is a strong opening to an email:

"Dear Nick, A regular customer of ours contacted us regarding a recent doctor's visit. Her Bone Mineral Density (BMD) levels suggested that she was suffering from severe osteoporosis."

Not one word is wasted. It is specific and relevant from the first few words onward. There is no fluff, and no familiar phrases are used to pad the content.

Concluding thoughts

When we are in a hurry, or under pressure, it's all too easy to write a quick "form letter" or email. We have written them dozens of times before, and we fall into repetitive ways of handling the opening and closing. We even have favorite tricks and phrases to connect one paragraph or thought to the next.

The trouble is, these kinds of emails also sound very familiar to your readers. And when that happens, you lose their attention.

Try to write each new email in a different way. Make each one unique. Be specific. Be useful. And avoid saying things in the same way you have said them before.

Continue reading "Copy and Content: Avoiding What's Familiar" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Nick Usborne

Nick Usborne has been working as a copywriter and trainer for over 35 years. He is the author of Net Words, as well as several courses for online writers and freelancers. Nick is also an advocate for Conversational Copywriting.

LinkedIn: Nick Usborne

Twitter: @nickusborne