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Evade the Copywriting Text Trap

Use these 5 tips to give buzz words the boot and focus on actionable messages.

People are busy--too busy to read or listen to copious amounts of marketing copy. The key to writing effective copy is to get to the point--quickly--using language consumers are likely to respond to. That means every piece of copy used in your advertising and marketing materials should be there for a specific reason. Each word and sentence must work together to create a path for consumers to follow and lead to a way to take action.

Don't risk losing a consumer's attention with copy that drones on with extraneous information. Instead, focus on action-oriented messages that convey the benefits and differentiators of your product, service or brand. Too much text, called the Text Trap, creates visual and audio clutter in consumers' minds, which increases the possibility that they will forget your most important messages.

By writing succinct, actionable copy that speaks to your target audience, you'll boost your marketing response rates, the return on your advertising investments and your profits. Here are five ways to avoid the Text Trap in your copywriting:

  1. Remove filler words.
    Extraneous words should be deleted from your copy. Words like that, really and very don't enhance a message. Instead, filler words slow down the pace at which your busy audience can read or listen to your copy. A slower pace equates to a lower percentage of consumers who will stick around to read or hear your entire message. Keep them interested and make it easy for them to get to the next key message by omitting filler words.
  2. Put your thesaurus down.
    While it might be tempting to fill your copy with gigantic, $10 words, big words impress few people other than your high school English teacher--and probably not even her. It's the messages in your copy that matter, not your ability to use a thesaurus. Big words slow your audience down, meaning fewer people will actually get your message. The tone of your copy should match your audience, and you should write for your audience, not your report card.
  3. Leave buzz words at the office.
    While jargon and buzz words work in some B2B copy and technical marketing pieces, compelling copy doesn't showcase your ability to use the latest buzz words. Your audience is unlikely to respond to marketing messages teeming with words like grassroots, methodology and paradigm. Speak to them in a tone that meets their expectations and remove jargon that does little more than bore your audience.
  4. Focus on actionable messages appropriate for your target audience.
    While it may be tempting to include every message about your business in your marketing copy, don't do it. Each marketing piece has an intended audience and goal. Those two pieces of information should make it easy for you to pick the most compelling messages about your business. Remember, too much information works against you when it comes to copywriting. Consumers are busy. If your copy doesn't speak directly to them within a few seconds, they'll move on to the next advertisement or marketing message with nary a backward glance at your campaign.
  5. Use the Red Pen Rule.
    After writing the copy for your marketing piece or advertisement, take your red pen and delete 30 percent of it. What's left will be far better than what you had before you took your red pen to it. Of course, 30 percent isn't a required amount, but the point of the Red Pen Rule is to delete a significant amount of your copy so only the best, most targeted, most actionable messages remain. These are the messages your audience is most likely to respond to, and these are the messages that will boost the return on your advertising and marketing investments--as well as your profits.

Bottom-line--keep your copy simple. You never want your audience to say, "Hurry up and get to the point." If there's too much information to absorb, consumers will lose interest. Each word in your copy should help create a roadmap to bring consumers to the ultimate goal of making a purchase, calling for information and so on. Don't detour from that roadmap.

Susan Gunelius is CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc., an Orlando, Fla.- based marketing communications company. She has authored several books, including Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, published by Entrepreneur Media. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
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