how to ruthlessly cut worthless words from your sales copy

how to ruthlessly cut worthless words from your sales copy

reader comments (33)

  1. thanks for this post. absolutely necessary, in particular, if you want to reach an international audience!

    the newest phrase that absolutely irks me is ‘just for you’. this insults my intelligence as everybody knows that this type of content tries to reach as many people as possible.

  2. this is a good article, hit home for me. i struggle with the balance between conversational and “professional” sometimes

  3. hi beth,

    you seem to be putting the onus on the copywriter to prove that adding these sort of slang words improves the sales message, but you don’t show any solid proof that it detracts either?

    i think you are probably right that you can confuse some people with unfamiliar and non standard english, but perhaps you can also excite users with such language?

    either way it would be nice to see some stats on this.

    thanks, phil

    • i think you have to trust your gut, phil, and if there is a good reason to use slang and text-message abbreviation, try them out! i think the onus for decisions like this are always on the copywriter!

  4. indeed. even when trying to persuade millennials, don’t try to write like one unless you are one. they’ll be on to you quickly. imitation is definitely not flattery within this context – it’s a turnoff.

  5. for my own writing, i’m with you on leaving out the non-standard english.

    unfortunately, however, i’ve read this piece twice and i can’t find a single shred of evidence in it. i would love to be convinced that this is something other than the author’s opinion.

    you *assume* that slang is distracting. however, for some audiences couldn’t it be what makes the difference between boring, ho-hum copy and text that actually connects with those readers? vocabulary is a huge part of persona and positioning.

    • it is, marcia, and that’s exactly why i advise testing it yourself if you firmly believe your prospects would respond well to a particular kind of language. i haven’t seen any specific studies on how these kinds of words test in the field, because i think conversion studies like that wouldn’t hold up when you try to write for different audiences.

      i have read that it takes a reader 5-10 seconds to decide if they want to stay on a web page (https://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/) so i think cutting out words that don’t add meaning or depth makes sense under those circumstances.

      the point of my article is common sense advice: cut these words, or test them to see if they act work for you.

  6. excellent thoughts, beth.
    i agree with you. it’s good to write conversationally … but you need to be careful, as you point out. my favorite “voice” is to write in a ‘business casual’ tone.
    another thing to watch out for is local dialect. some folks forget that.
    for example, what may be a common term for me in arkansas may not be so common in other areas of the country and world. in fact, it may carry a whole other meaning, sometimes with a negative connotation!
    thanks for the article. will be sharing this one!
    steve maurer

  7. yes, it’s too bad people must be reminded to not use text messaging abbreviations in their sales materials.
    maybe writing copy to high school kids has a different set of rules, but i’m not going there.

  8. the best thing about this article is the headline. unfortunately, the copy doesn’t come up to my expectations. at all.

    i generally like the copyblogger articles. i’m a long time subscriber, but this one really is thready.

    it can be summarized as follows: “i believe slang terms like omg are killing conversions.”

    not very insightful in the year 2016. maybe it’s killing conversions – maybe not. we can decide, if we test it.

    and: you should really change the headline. as a matter of fact this blog post is not about “how to” cut words. let alone “ruthlessly”.

    no offense intended, but this was not a very pleasurable read.

    • sorry you didn’t love this article, gavin, but some copyblogger pieces are indeed opinion pieces (like this one). the information i’ve shared in this post is based on my 10+ years of experience as an online marketing coach and writer. i wanted to share my professional opinion with the hope that it would spur discussion, and it certainly has…with people agreeing and disagreeing with my main point.

  9. hi beth

    thanks for an interesting article. i agree that slang can be very off putting.

    as i read your article it made me think of the saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. with all business relationships, no matter how well you know your clients and get along with them, you should always maintain an attitude of professionalism. the same applies to your sales copy. it’s a matter of respecting the business/ professional relationship.

    thanks again

    hayley

  10. beth, omg, this post freaking rocked! boom! pleeeez, write more, lol. really though, indiscriminate use of slang or words that have some ephemeral currency can cause readers—and i’m one, so there’s my evidence—to say “wtf?” and move on. boom!

  11. valid points, yet some writers have developed their unique voice in their blogs and emails, and a following along with it, using lots of slang. ben settle is one example. carlton does it regularly also.

    so i guess it depends who you are and who you’re writing to. nuff said. 🙂

    • exactly, jim – my point is that we need to question whether or not words like this actually work, and not assume our prospects will like reading them just because we like writing them! test, test, test! 🙂

  12. i can’t remember ever using slang. and whenever i’m reading a sales copy and encounter one it makes me grimace.

    i think, writing conversationally is ok for most blog-posts. however, some writings with slang are so offensive as soon as i see them i immediately click-away.

    thanks beth, great article. love it!

  13. nice article.

    as my opinion, using slang words can create a bad impression about that product/service.

    thanks.

  14. good post.

    am i the only one that rejects emails that contain:
    “no-brainer
    crazy
    insane
    a ton of money
    interesting trick”

    seems to me like there is an industry standard pallet of words that get sprinkled all over sales copy. i mean, who searches for these words?

    to me, none of these words add value and whiff of hype, if not scam. these words in the mail subject of an email result in instant deletion from my inbox.

    what i do like, though, is honesty and openness. if there is value for me within that then i can see it easily and make a rational decision rather than going to the trouble of buying something and then the trouble of applying for a refund. sure, you might get away with that strategy once or even twice but soon your name will be marked down like a snake-oil merchant. that’s what’s really insane and can lose you a ton of money.

  15. i’ve received email from long-time customers with smiley faces in them. i let it slide because of the “long-term customer” part, but it still struck me as unprofessional. casual and conversational are fine — i specialize in those — but at some point we must wear our metaphorical pants.

    meanwhile, cutting unnecessary words is always welcome. my website quotes a guy who notes in 1971 that people would rather read two 3000-word articles than one 6000-word article. i’m also certain that shakespeare the author learned from shakespeare the actor that you hit your mark and move on. if we all had to recite our writings in front of an audience every day for a few months, we’d cut every word that didn’t clarify our meaning.

  16. how’s this for an opening line i’ve just read in an email sent from teachable..

    ‘we missed you like whoa.

    hopefully you took the weekend to get caught up on section one of your course, ‘cause we’re about to dive into section two. yeeeeeeeee-haw!’

    maybe someone asked their 14 year old to give writing a bash.

    i also hate ‘freaking, awsome, stoked’, and ‘crushing it’.

    i enjoyed your article.

    • i agree with you on those, kevin – especially “stoked” and “crushing it”! i think the latter has become really overused in the last few years.

  17. hi beth,

    this article is awesome. totally agree with the slang part. while i’m not guilty of such, i could definitely imagine it!

    i have seen it myself a couple of times, so yes!

    thanks for sharing this and i totally appreciate it!

  18. thanks for the post beth! it’s always good to pay attention to the quality of your content. so to maintain good quality avoid using slang in your content.

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