Last night I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time as I flew into Santa Barbara for MarketingProfs' Finders Keepers two-day intensive marketing workshop....

An hour after landing, I was drinking wine with workshop participants before resting up for the seminars ahead. I took the opportunity to ask if there were any special copy-related topics they wanted me to cover.
"Yeah," said one marketer. "How do I know when my copy sucks?"
Here's a start: Consider a sign I saw at a fast-food counter at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport yesterday: "We're sorry. This concept is currently unavailable. Please consider one of our other available concepts."
"Concept"? I was looking for a pulled-pork sandwich, not a philosophical abstraction.
So -- Copy Sucks Detector Number 1: Ridiculous, pretentious language that has absolutely no meaning for your customers. If you mean "restaurant," say "restaurant."
Other signs of the vampire's bite?
* Lots of superlatives such as "excellence," "cutting-edge" and "innovative."
* Lack of a clear "what's in it for the customer" message.
* Shortage of tangible, meaty specifics.
* Presence of self-congratulatory chest beating, i.e., "We're the world leader in . . . "
* Reliance on jargon and business babble.
* "Me too" positioning that's similar to your competitors' messaging.
The list could go on and on. Feel free to hang the garlic and add your own bites.

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image of Jonathan Kranz

Jonathan Kranz is the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and a copywriting veteran now in his 21st year of independent practice. A popular and provocative speaker, Jonathan offers in-house marketing writing training sessions to help organizations create more content, more effectively.

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Twitter: @jonkranz