Category Archives: Copywriting

Top tips for proofreading your marketing copy

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Top Tips for Proofreading

When you're writing copy for your website and marketing materials, proofreading your content may be the last thing on your mind – particularly if you're on a deadline. But paying more attention to the words you're using could help to maintain and improve the perception people have of your business.

Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and poorly-constructed sentences can make your business look unprofessional, which will only encourage your potential customers to look for other - more professional - companies to spend their money with.

Mistakes can also cost you money. Business owners sometimes waste whole print runs because of bad spelling, punctuation or grammar that spellcheck didn't pick up. Mistakes can be more easily and cheaply rectified on a web page – but only if you spot them!

Here are some handy tricks that professional proofreaders use, which should help you pick up errors before your customers do.

QUICK TIPS

    • Make sure you are in a quiet place, free from distractions
    • Work from a print out if possible
    • Use a red pen
    • Read out loud
    • Cover up the line below
    • If you're using a computer, use spellcheck but DON'T RELY ON IT!
    • Read backwards sentence by sentence
    • Read backwards word by word
    • If you can get someone to help, get them to check it too
    • If you can get someone to help, have them read it out while you follow the text
    • Double check numbers too, e.g. £100000 instead of £1000000

COMMON MISTAKES TO LOOK OUT FOR

      • Spacing between words – are there any spaces missing or are there too many?
      • Letters accidentally typed twice e.g. Councill
      • Words accidentally typed twice
      • Full stops missing
      • Missing close bracket
      • Writing numbers: 1 to 9 should be written as numbers. Numbers from ten onwards should be written as words
      • Make sure quotes and speech are in speech marks
      • Make sure proper names, places and brand names start with a capital letter
      • Look out for missing or extra commas
      • Look out for full stops used incorrectly
      • Make sure brackets are closed
      • Add speech marks where necessary
      • No need for double punctuation e.g. !!

PUNCTUATION
Incorrect punctuation can be dangerous...

“Let's get ready to eat, Granny!”
OR
“Let's get ready to eat Granny!”

You can see why punctuation is important if you try to make sense of this sentence which has no punctuation at all:

perhaps you dont always need to use commas full stops colons etc to make sentences clear when i am in a hurry tired cold or lazy i sometimes leave out punctuation marks grammar is stupid i can write without it and dont need it my uncle Harry once said he was not very clever and i never understood a word he wrote to me i think ill learn some punctuation not too much enough to write to Uncle Harry he needs some help

Now let's see if punctuating it makes a difference...

Perhaps you don't always need to use commas, full stops, colons etc. to make sentences clear. When I am in a hurry, tired, cold or lazy I sometimes leave out punctuation marks.

"Grammar is stupid! I can write without it and don't need it," my uncle Harry once said. He was not very clever and I never understood a word he wrote to me. I think I'll learn some punctuation - not too much, enough to write to Uncle Harry. He needs some help!

Get in touch if your marketing copy could do with the once-over from our eagle-eyed team of proofreaders!

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6 rules for writing advertising copy – by George Orwell

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Copywriting Leamington Spa

George Orwell, author of ground-breaking works such as Nineteen Eighty-four and Animal Farm, started his career as an advertising copywriter.

He used this experience to create a few simple writing rules, which we can still use today to ensure our writing is clear, direct and effective. His rules apply whether we're writing a blog post, web page, magazine article, news story, advert or mailout.

1. Try not to use metaphors, similes or other figures of speech
DON'T SAY: Cutting-edge web designers
SAY: Leading designers / the kind of designers that others follow / the industry's most original designers

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
DON'T SAY: Expeditive, accommodating or monumental
SAY: Quick, helpful or large

3. If it's possible to cut a word out, do so
DON'T SAY: J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury's most lucrative writer, is now exploring themes of great importance - crime, suicide - in her first novel as Robert Galbraith, “The Cuckoo's Calling”.
SAY: J.K. Rowling explores crime and suicide in her first Robert Galbraith novel “The Cuckoo's Calling”.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
DON'T SAY: It was understood by the team that Peter's visit was a great success
SAY: The team understood that Peter's visit was a great success

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
DON'T SAY: In the spirit of carpe diem, the design team blue-skied proposals on the aortic behaviour of cupid's arrow
SAY: The designers took the opportunity to think creatively about love

6. Don't break these rules!

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How to use apostrophes in your marketing copy

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Proofreading-marketing-copy

How often have you seen SKIRT'S FOR SALE or CHEAP HOLIDAY'S on a website, poster or on social media? Our eagle eyes usually spot these errors straight away, and we think twice about using the services of businesses who commit crimes against the apostrophe!

To help you out, we've produced a quick guide below.

The apostrophe is used:

1. To indicate the possessive.

  • This is Peter's book.
  • This book is Peter's.
  • The dog's dinner looks disgusting.
  • Diana was the people's princess.
  • I tore up the men's shirts.
  • It is everyone's duty to protest.
  • It is no-one's responsibility.

Apostrophes are not needed here:

  • They had two photos.
  • We sell CDs and DVDs.
  • I was born in the 1970s.
  • There were only three skirts left in the sale.
  • She got three As in her exams.
  • I think Sonys are the best DVD players.

Personal pronouns are already possessive, so they don't need an apostrophe: my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs.

For example, none of these have an apostrophe:

  • The house is yours.
  • The dog broke its leg.
  • She said the book was hers.
  • They claimed it was theirs.

The apostrophe is also used:

2. To indicate missing letters in the middle of words or phrases.

  • You cannot have it = You can't have it.
  • Do not do that! = Don't do that!
  • I would like an ice-cream, please = I'd like an ice-cream, please.
  • We had better hurry = We'd better hurry.

Where do I put the apostrophe?
The apostrophe goes directly after the thing doing the possessing:

  • The sun's rays = the rays of the sun.
  • The table's leg = the leg of the table.
  • The archbishop's palace = the palace of the archbishop.
  • The archbishops' palace = the palace of the archbishops.
  • The men's shirts = the shirts of the men.
  • Children's T-shirts = T-shirts of children.
  • The people's princess = the princess of the people.
  • My mother's photo = photo of my mother.
  • One week's notice = notice of one week.
  • Two weeks' notice = notice of two weeks.
  • Three years' experience = experience of three years.
  • Everyone's help = help of everyone.

Get in touch if your marketing copy could do with the once-over from our eagle-eyed team of proofreaders!

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Are spelling mistakes ruining your website?

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spelling mistakes

Two of the many factors Google uses to rank a website are spelling and grammar. So not only can the incorrect use of a word look unprofessional, it can also lead to a lower ranking on Google.

We’ve listed some of the most commonly misspelled words below. Our advice – make sure you check your website content carefully before it goes live. Or even better, get a fresh pair of eyes to review it for you.

ACCEPT (to receive)
I accept your offer.
VS
EXCEPT (to leave out or take out; make an exception of)
When I go on holiday I pack everything except the kitchen sink!

AFFECT (to influence; produce a change in; to stir the emotions)
The cat’s death affected its owners.
VS
EFFECT (anything brought about by a cause or an agent; result)
The new speed limit had little effect on motorists’ behaviour.

A LOT (many) – always two words, not one word
A lot of people came to the networking event.
VS
ALLOT (to distribute, give or design)
Ten minutes were allotted to each speaker at the networking event.

ALLUSION (an indirect reference)
He makes vague allusions to Harry Potter being his son.
VS
ILLUSION (a false idea or conception; misleading appearance or image)
The magician created the illusion that he was levitating.

BORROW (to take or accept something for a short time)
May I borrow your iPad please?
VS
LEND (to give something for a short time)
Could you lend me your iPad please?

CACHE (a safe place to store supplies; anything stored there; computing auxiliary memory)
The weapons were left in a cache under the tree.
VS
CASH (money; currency)
Do you have any cash in your wallet?

DESERT (to leave without permission; dry sandy area)
Soldiers should not desert their posts, especially in the desert.
VS
DESSERT (sweet pudding)
They ate two desserts each.

IT’S (contraction of IT and IS)
It’s very sunny outside.
VS
ITS (belonging to)
The cat will only eat its food when I’m not there.

LOOSE (not tight, giving enough room)
He lost a stone and now his jeans are loose.
VS
LOSE (to become unable to find; to fail to win)
Did you lose your iPhone again?

PRINCIPAL (first; most important; a governing officer)
Its principal function is to provide information about a business.
VS
PRINCIPLE (a fundamental truth or governing doctrine)
Their parents instilled them with strong principles from an early age.

STATIONARY (not moving; fixed or still)
I was stuck in stationary traffic on the motorway for two hours.
VS
STATIONERY (writing materials; paper and envelopes etc)
I’ve taken some pens out of the stationery cupboard.

THEIR (of; belonging to; made by; done by them)
They were proud of their new website.
VS
THERE (that place or point)
I parked the car over there.
VS
THEY’RE (contraction of THEY and ARE)
They’re bound to be proud of their new website.

TO (in the direction of; as far as; to the extent of)
I’m going to Birmingham.
VS
TWO (the number 2)
We’ve launched two new websites this week.
VS
TOO (as well as; superfluously)
I’m going to Birmingham too. It’s too hot here.

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How do I improve my website content? Just copy Star Wars

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Website content Star Wars

What story is your website telling about your business?

The trick to finding this out is to put yourself in your customers' shoes. Customers usually visit your About Us page first, and then move on to your Case Studies or Portfolio page to check out what you've done for other customers. Your Case Studies page can help convince people that your company will be a good fit for them.

Your Case Studies need a story; a list of bullet points isn't good enough. Bullet points miss out the 'juicy bits', for example if you're a web designer, its useful to talk about the initial situation (perhaps how awful the previous website was!), the fact that it was built from scratch, how happy the client is now, etc.

Before you start writing the story, think about who you're talking to. Who are they, and what do you want them to buy? It's useful to create a 'persona': who are they, where do they live, what keeps them awake at night, what do they worry about, how much do they already know about possible solutions?

A great way to connect with people is to write about 'The Hero's Journey'. The Hero's Journey is a classic storytelling method, used in countless films like Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. George Lucas used this format when he created Star Wars. Here it is in outline:

1. The status quo: the hero is living in the normal world, but thinks there must be more to life.
Luke Skywalker lives a quiet life with his aunt and uncle.
This is the background of the 'ordinary life' of your client.

2. Call to adventure: the hero faces a situation that could alter the status quo.
Luke finds Princess Leia's message.
What led the client to contact you? Was it a problem that they can't address themselves? A supply issue perhaps, or a lack of knowledge in a particular area?

3. The hero finds a mentor.
Luke meets Obi Wan Kenobi.
The client meets you. (You should make the client the hero - you are the mentor).
Talk about how you and the client got together, and remember that the client initiated the change, even though you actually did the work.

4. Challenges on the journey.
Luke joins the rebellion and faces multiple battles and adventures.
This is the most important section of your Case Study.
Challenges make a compelling story. Each challenge is a mini story in itself:
- The challenging obstacle
- The inspired solution
- Repeat...
Talk about how you worked with the client to solve their problems. Mention any hazards in your way, for example tight timescales, legal constraints, lack of budget, and changing requirements.
If you can see any themes in your challenges, group them together. Between three and six challenges should suffice. So by the end of this section, you have showcased your services AND shown how great you are to work with!

5. Triumph – the victorious hero returns.
Luke destroys the Death Star and returns to a hero's welcome.
What were the outcomes? For example when was the work delivered? Was it delivered on time and to budget? Do you have a continuing relationship and future plans?

Don't forget that the client is the hero, not you. You are the mentor. So think of yourself as Obi Wan Kenobi!

Some other considerations:
1. Include testimonials (either on the Case Studies page, or on a separate Testimonials page).
These are powerful, as you can demonstrate a direct link to the 'hero' to establish the truth of the story.

2. Highlight your case study with headings. Don't use big blocks of text as this will deter people from reading on.

3. Include some great pictures.

4. If your client has requested confidentiality, you can use this as one of your selling points. You can still tell your story without actually naming the hero or their business.

Writing compelling words for people is one of things we do best. If you need a few words (or lots of them) for your website, brochure or other marketing materials, get in touch to find out how we can help.

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10 copywriting mistakes that are ruining your marketing

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Copywriter Leamington Warwick

One of the ways of increasing traffic to your website is to have well-written, enticing copy that will result in people spending more time there. Well crafted news pieces or articles, for example, can help create trust in your organisation, and may even attract enough web traffic to make advertising revenue a potential income source.

Poorly-written copy, on the other hand, can reflect badly on your company and turn potential customers away. Below are some common copywriting mistakes that you should try to avoid.

1. Overuse of exclamation marks
I couldn't agree more!!!!! The exclamation mark is for shouting something at the top of your voice. It should be used sparingly, so that when you actually do have something to shout about, it is meaningful. If not, stick with a full stop. If you have well-crafted, eloquent sentences, they should make an impression on the reader without needing an exclamation mark.

2. Too, two and to
Too is an expression of excess. It can mean also / very / extra. Two is one more than one. To is for everything else. Use the wrong one at your peril.

3. That vs. who
“That” is used when you refer to an object. “Who” is used when you refer to a person. For example, “He's the man who devised that incredible advertising campaign.”

4. Misuse of apostrophes
This is our bugbear at Public!* An apostrophe is used:

(a) To indicate the possessive.
- This is Sarah's house.
- The dog's food smells disgusting.
- Men's shirts are on the third floor.
- It is everyone's responsibility to keep our streets clean.

Note: Personal pronouns are already possessive, so they don't need an apostrophe (my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs).
- The house is yours.
- The dog broke its leg.
- That car used to be ours.

(b) To indicate missing letters.
- You can't stay here.
- Don't empty the dog bowl there!
- I won't be able to climb up the stairs.

* Unnecessary exclamation mark

5. It vs. they
There seems to be confusion about which pronoun to use when describing a company: it or they? The trouble arises because a company is an entity, but it is made up of people. How do you choose? A company is a non-living entity, so the pronoun “it” is used. For example, “Twitter floated on the stock market and it sold initial shares for $26 each.” If you're talking about Twitter’s directors, use “they.” “The directors said they were 'feeling excellent' after the share price was announced.”

6. Capitalising job titles
You should only capitalize a title immediately before someone’s name. For example, “Marketing Director Emma Jones was praised for her work” and “Emma Jones, marketing director, attributed the success to her team's hard work.”

7. What goes inside the quotes?
The full stop and the comma. They don't ever go on the outside. Question marks and exclamation marks are different - they go outside or inside depending on whether they refer to the whole sentence (outside) or just what is inside the quotes (inside).

8. Lead vs. led
This is a common mistake. “Lead” rhymes with “head” when you're talking about the metal. “Lead” rhymes with “seed” when you’re at the front. But if you were once at the front and now you're at the back, then you should use the past tense, which is “led.”

9. Less vs. fewer
Use “fewer” for things you can count, but use “less” to quantify something you really can’t count. For example, “Please hang fewer clothes on the line next time.” Conversely, “I wish we had less stuff in this attic.” And yes – the sign at the supermarket checkout is wrong – it should say “8 items or fewer” because you can count the items.

10. Over vs. more than
Over is the opposite of under. It shouldn’t describe number or quantity. If you want to tell someone how many or how much or how long, use “more than”. For example, “We’ve sold more than 500 widgets this quarter.”

Good copy can impress your customers. Bad copy can turn people away and detract from your brand. If you've invested in a well-designed website, why would you populate it with copy that you've just thrown together?

Professional, effective web design is a great way to build confidence in your organisation and boost your reputation. But fill it with unprofessional, inarticulate copy and you'll destroy your customers' trust and undermine your reputation.

 

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