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Anatomy of some rubbish copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

Headline unlovingly handcrafted in fluffy gray flannel, with a limp lining of blah blah blah etc.

Autopsy of a rubbish peace of copywriting

Hello there. I am a rubbish piece of copywriting.

First thing of note is my hedline. See how it is overwritten to make it as difficult to read as possibel. You may have also noticed that a American spelling has crept in. Nothing wrong with americans or american English, but the writer is English English, as is the audience what he is amining at. SO theres the first mistake. Naughty.

You may also notice the odd spelling mistake here and there. This is inexxcusibel.

It happens. Copywriters are human, but readers can be unforgiving.

In a recent poll, carried out by So What If Industries (aka me); of 366 respondents, 52% said that long rambling sentences were even more of a turn off than spelling mistakes or poor punctuation, you know the sort of sentences that go on and on and on and on and then go on a bit more.

Rubbish Copywriting Poll Results – Freelance Copywriter Jonathan Wilcock

Many wanted to vote for all three, but that’s not the way these things work is it, so…

Punctuation seemed to be the least of anyone’s concerns. Some thought this was because of the sloppy art of texting. Basically, we know it’s wrong, but we’ve given up the formality of using apostrophes and the like when faffing about with stupid little keys and touch screens. It’s easier to use a cheeky emoji and be done with it all.

Bad spelling got 31% of the vote. And I wud argeu that if you’re trying to convey authority or professionalism, spelling errors are a great way of doing just the opposite. Personally, typos (as spelling errors are often referred to in the trade) are one of my biggest bug bears.

Sew wat can yoo doo? The obvoice thin is too run yore copee thro spell chequer. Spelcheck knose bestest isn’t it? Where cud passibly gone rong. Weel lest find dout shallwe, Wen I put this para graph thro spellcheckers here am th suggest ons:

Sew watt can you doo? The invoice thin is too run yore cope thro spell cheer. Spellcheck knees besets isn’t it? Where cud passably gone rung. Weal lest find doubt shall we, Wen I put this Para graph thro spellcheckers here am the suggest ones:

I have a feeling this hasn’t solved all the errors, so like a good copywriting soldier, let’s run it through a well known online spelling and grammar checking tool instead. I’ll go with the first suggestion it makes for any highlighted words. And the result:

Sew what can you do? The obvious thin is too run yore cope thro spell chequer. Spellcheck know best, isn’t it? Where cud possibly went wrong. Weel lest find doubt shall we When I put this paragraph thro spellcheckers here am the suggest on:

Maybe if we put the spellchecked version through the online tool…

Sew watt can you doo? The invoice thin is too run yore cope thro spell cheer. Spellcheck knees, isn’t it? Where cud passably went rung. Well, lest find doubt, shall we When I put this Paragraph thro spellcheckers here am the suggest ones:

Rubbish Copywriting Final Poll Results – Freelance Copywriter Jonathan Wilcock

So, basic spelling and grammatical errors sorted, let’s move on to other improtant matters.

When doing my survey, some people were kind enough to share other copywriting no nos that get their backs up:

Words in ALL CAPS in headlines, Daily Express style. c/o André Spiteri @Andre_Spiteri

A Perfectly Normal Sentence Using Capitals For Every Single Damn First Letter Of Every Word, YouTube Video Title Style. c/o Nik Jones @HelloNikDesign

Ego-driven jargoneering. c/o Lauren McMenemy @TheContentType

Talking crap that they can’t articulate well, regardless of any of the above. c/o David Gyertson (Digital Director at Zest The Agency)

Then I would add to the list:

– Flowery, multisyllabic words plucked from a thesaurus.
– Too many. Very short sentences. That are placed. Back-to-back.
– Anything that makes the journey arduous, burdensome, laborious, hardwork, tedious, boring, stale, stodgy, uninteresting and repetitive, or tries too hard to make its point.
– Like a goat in a top hat, nothing’s as annoying as a random analogy.

Another common mistake that may also be hampering your reader’s experience, especially here in the online world, is large chunks of text and a lack of, now what are they called again…

Sub-headings like this one

Aaaand another thing that’s even more mind-boggling than the most mind-boggling thing in the whole wide world (other than ridiculous hyperbole) is the fact that the readability tool I’m using reckons that this blog post’s readability is ‘OK’.

Here are the stats. Apparently stats don’t lie, but let’s just say they may be a little misguided.

• The copy scores 74.4 in the Flesch Reading Ease test, which is considered fairly easy to read.
• None of the paragraphs are too long, which is great.
• 13.7% of the sentences contain more than 20 words, which is less than or equal to the recommended maximum of 25%.
• 36.5% of the sentences contain a transition word or phrase, which is great.

What is also a little concerning, is that when uploading the entire contents of this blog post, the aforementioned online grammar tool tells me that: This text scores better than 55% of all text checked by (brand name removed) where comparable goals were set.

How bad can that other 55% actually be?

Still with me?

If so, thank you for your resilience.

There was once a magic rabbit called Keith who was always getting up to mischief. Back-filling entrance holes to the warren, putting his elbows on the dinner table, getting facial tattoos; the usual teenage rabbit tomfoolery. But the worst thing he ever did was lead the reader down a dark alley that strayed away from the point and didn’t really go anywhere. Oh Keith, what are you like.

Conclusion (for goodness sake, let’s get to the conclusion):

Bad things:
• Ridiculously long sentences
• Spelling mistakes
• Poor punctuation
• Lack of sub-headings
• Relying on algorythms.

Good things:
• Clarity
• Simplicity
• Brevity
• Consistent tone of voice
• All the obvious stuff that most people don’t do.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might fancy a wander through these:

The seven deadly skills of a great copywriter
Why you need to leave a g p in your copywriting

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk