The unkillable cockroaches of writing.
If I’m honest, the best way to get me to open an email is to insert “50% off” in the subject line. I am but a lemming, same as you. Apart from discount t-strap sandals and cropped denim markdowns, I often come across copy in my inbox that, as a copywriter, I don’t want to judge, but being a living, breathing, slightly mean human, I do.
There are many copywriting mores that make my retinas hurt, but I repeatedly come back to the same lament: cliché. The inbox equivalent of an eye roll. The stuff our community is doing that I kind of can’t believe it’s still doing. We blame being busy, we blame deadlines, we blame just needing to get it done. But when will any of those things not be true to allow us time to write better copy? I blame us.
We can be better than overused idiom. We can inspire a reader or consumer to exclude us from their batch delete. But at this point, we aren’t. Instead, we’re still doing this:
- Bandwagoning: Whatever meme or solar system phenomenon is happening right now, maybe we don’t need to try and harness its power for our own benefit. Maybe that’s a little transparent. I’ve seen it done when it makes sense (Minibar sending a push notification for wine deliveries the afternoon before The Bachelor finale–rose emoji included), but if your brand has nothing to do with the Olympics or Stranger Things, and you’re just forcing association because you think it makes you sound current, please stop doing that. You sound like a parent bursting their head in on a slumber party asking everyone if they’re talking about boys.
- Again with this? Sweet mother of Merriam Webster if I see “new year, new you” in one more subject line I will Jean Grey your laptops into the sky, I promise you. Don’t think of cliché as an overused phrase. Think of it as any phrase you have ever heard before. If your copy sounds expected, expect it to be deleted before opening. Example: Instead of “new year, new you” what about something like “shop 2018 trends before the ball drops” etc, etc. I’m not saying be so clever that you forgo clarity, I’m just saying don’t re-write the past.
- Low low price of $19.99: I like to refer to this as Used Car Salesman Copy. As much as I hate acknowledging the millennial generation because it is the world’s most over-mentioned cohort, the one thing they do really well is tell you what they want. And they don’t want to be sold to, at least not obviously. This is a generation obsessed with YouTubers beaming gooey smiles into cameras and being “so excited you guys” about a new face primer, that they’re 100% willing to ignore the truth that the vlogger has been paid more for that video than they’ll make in a year. Don’t sell to them. Talk to them. Leave the daytime TV infomercial copy back with a Ronco food dehydrator where it belongs.
- OH LOOK ITS CAPS: OMG VISUAL CUES THAT MAKE WHATEVER THE COPY SAYS IRRELEVANT SUCH GOOD TRICK MUCH TALENT YAY WRITING.
Any of us who work in this realm know that copy is important. It’s not just filler meant to bookend a beautiful image. “Nobody reads anyway” isn’t true and never was. Because some emails get opened. Some pushes get swiped. And if you live and die by open rates, learn which copy clichés to kill.