I don’t like to be pedantic – I really don’t – but whenever I come across an article or website that’s littered with copywriting and grammatical errors I feel like grabbing my big red pen and scribbling all over it, just like in the old days when everything was in print!
Perhaps it’s a hangover from my past when I did a lot of proofreading for clients? Or perhaps I’m just that way inclined – anal! (There, I said it!)
But seriously, I don’t understand why anyone would spend all that time and effort creating a great-looking website, or a content-rich article, only to be stifled by simple copywriting errors that could have easily been avoided. These errors make you look unprofessional – and worse, they could leave your readers with little confidence in you or your products.
So here, I’ve listed 5 copywriting errors that may be driving your readers mad. Are you making any of these errors?
5 Copywriting Errors that Drive Your Readers Mad
1. Wrong Use of Words.
I know, I know. The English language can be confusing sometimes.
(As my lovely Turkish friend reminded me recently: “Why is the word ‘oven’ pronounced ‘uv-ven’ and not ‘o-ven’? Good point!).
But we’re an English-speaking nation and we should try and use the right words if we can.
What really bugs me are these common wrong usage of words – and I see them all the time:
“Your” instead of “You’re”
“Your” means something belonging to you. “You’re” is the contraction of “You are”.
“To” instead of “Too”
“To” is used for expressing movement. “Too” means in addition to.
“Loose” instead of “Lose”
“Loose” means free or not tight. “Lose” is to fail or be without.
“Their” instead of “There”
“Their” means something belonging to them. “There” means in that place or at that action or time.
2. Wrong Use of Apostrophes.
Ah, this little doozie…
Putting apostrophes in the wrong place can be so annoying that there’s even a website dedicated to it called Apostrophe Abuse. Ha!
An apostrophe should be used for the contraction of words, like “You’re”, “That’s” and “Haven’t” – or the ownership of something, like “Lil’s” or “Tony’s”.
It is NOT meant to be used to improve the appearance of plural words that end in a vowel!
Common errors include:
- “Menu’s” instead of ”Menus”
- “Soda’s” instead of “Sodas”
- “How-to’s” instead of “How-tos”
- “Pasta’s” instead of “Pasta” (no plural required!).
Another common error is using “Its” instead of “It’s”. “Its” means something belonging to It, and “It’s” is the contraction of “It is”.
And what about “Party’s” instead of “Parties”?
We were all taught at school to write formally – and to use big, flowery words in our essays. Well, in the real world, this kind of copy isn’t going to please anyone except lawyers and English teachers.
If you really want to engage your readers, you need to communicate with them in their language. And this means having a conversation with them, and writing as if you’re talking with them face to face.
Here are some quick tips to help you write copy that connect with your readers:
- Write like you talk
- Use simple words – no jargon
- Start your sentences with “And” or “But” (don’t listen to your English teachers!)
- Use contractions as much as possible, eg. “I’m”, “There’s” and “Would’ve”
- Use first-person wherever you can – especially “you”.
And if you’re writing a blog post or an article that’s personality-driven, also include exclamations and colloquialisms like “Wow!”, “Oh yeah” or “Whew!” as you would in person. This makes you more real!
4. Going on and on and on and on…
Yep, I’m talking about rambling – or what I call “waffling”. Going on and on without any sub-headings or paragraph breaks, or massively long sentences without punctuations.
Whenever I see a web page or article that has screeds and screeds of copy with no breaks in between, my eyes instantly glaze over. I click out – even before finishing the first paragraph!
So how do you stop rambling?
- Cut to the chase – be direct and say what you have to
- Use lots of sub-headings – and make them descriptive, so your readers can see at a glance what you have to say
- Use bullet points wherever you can
- Write short sentences and be as brief as possible
- Use punctuations – commas, dashes, full stops. The purpose of punctuations is to make your copy easier to digest – so use them!
5. Keyword Stuffing.
Arrgghhh…. this drives me crazy too!!
I’ve come across so many articles that may actually contain good content, but I wouldn’t know because they’re so full of keywords that I’d already switched off and clicked away.
You see, copy is supposed to flow, but when every other word is a keyword, the content becomes stilted and difficult to read.
I have to say I like the changes to Google’s algorithm because it means we get better-quality content, written more for readers than search engines. Hoorah to that!
Also check out my article 7 Simple Tips to Writing Awesome Copy for more great copywriting tips.Photo credit: Main Image: Darwin Bell; Waffles: Ikayama via photopin cc