5 Simple Ways to Squash Copy Clichés

31 October, 2012
Always Give 110%Image courtesy of Evoke Apparel

Do you know what the opposite of creative, big selling copy is?

Clichéd, boring copy.

The Web is full of it. You don’t need to Google hard to find “world class technology” that’s only used in Britain. Or “exclusive shops” that anyone can buy from. Or “cost-effective solutions” whose cost-effectiveness is totally unproven.

This hyperbolic drivel goes in one proverbial ear, and straight out the other. It doesn’t sell.

And that’s a great opportunity for you. Because if you can keep your copy fresh and engaging, you can become one of the best writers out there.

None of us is immune to the lure of the cliché. I’ve used them. You’ve used them. And we’ve both gotten away with it.

“I had no other choice” is our excuse. The brief was too vague. The product being sold was unremarkable. The client wanted a page full of platitudes.

You know what? Those are all valid issues. But you need to overcome them. And overcome them you can.

So, here are five ideas for avoiding the tired tropes that are holding your copy back.

1. Prune your vocabulary, so it can grow

Look back through your last 10-20 copywriting projects. Make a list of the adjectives, phrases and images you fall back on again and again. Now blacklist them from your writing for at least the next month.

You’ll be forced to find new words and ideas – ones whose meaning and power you actually need to think about. Your word power will grow. Your copy will be better than before.

2. Throw out your web copy template

It might not be written down, but you’ve got one. It’s in your head. By the time you’ve written your 50th web page, the patterns you follow for structuring content, arguments and ideas are pretty much set in stone.

Don’t let them gather moss. Again, look back at past projects. What structures do you use over and over? What feels fresh, and what smells stale? Be aware that your writing can easily become too mechanical, and your mind will open up to new ideas.

3. Read the greats

Are you the kind of copywriter who looks to other copywriters for inspiration? Well give it a rest. That’s cannibalism. You won’t find freshness or originality there.

Read authors who’ve connected with millions of readers. Isn’t that exactly what you hope to do? Try Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway and other great authors who are known for their original voices. You’ll be surprised by how many new ideas they give you.

4. Let your personality shine through

One of the reasons web copy is so bland and clichéd in 2012 is that everybody shoots for the same style. It’s a benign, non-threatening, friendly-robot sort of tone of voice.

Don’t just follow the same program. Stick to your brief, but try expressing your own personality too. You’ll stand out from other writers and write copy that’s more human and engaging.

5. Get an outside opinion

Testing makes your copy better. So before you submit or publish your work, get someone you trust to read it.

But don’t just ask your friend “Was it ok?” Ask if they were persuaded. Ask if they were inspired. Ask which parts were boring, and which parts they loved. Then use the feedback to make your writing brilliant.

Those are your five tips. Now, to use a particularly annoying old cliché – get out there and give it 110 percent!

Written by Neil Wheatley

Neil Wheatley is a Manchester-based freelance copywriter who writes for agencies and marketing depts across the UK. He isn’t this grumpy in person.

Up next…
Design Inspiration #4
3 September, 2012


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