Four Northern Ireland copywriting mistakes

We’re celebrating a few distinctly Northern Irish copywriting mistakes. Most of them happen when regional dialect or accent creep into the written word.

It’s a bit of fun more than anything, but it’s still probably worth a look to make sure none of these appear on your website or in your company brochure!

1. Where and were
This crops up on almost a daily basis. It’s an accent thing caused by the Northern Irish voice in your head!

Where and were are regularly muddled when NI folk put finger to keyboard, resulting in people who don’t have a clue were they where going when they started the sentence. Continue reading

Why you need a banned words list

Like it or not, we all need rules.

Does that sound a bit too regimented for your rebellious side? Guidelines any better?

OK, we all need guidelines. In just about any aspect of your life you know there are boundaries that you can’t cross. That’s why you should set some for your business’ written content too.

You will already have words that you find particularly irritating and will avoid regardless, but why not make your banned words list a bit more formal? Writing is a creative process and there is a danger that some of your would-be banned words might slip into your copy if you get a bit carried away.

If there’s more than one person contributing to your business’ content then your need is even greater.

The benefits of a banned words list

  • It discourages cliches. We all succumb to a hackneyed word or phrase from time-to-time. If you know the ones that your business is susceptible to, they are easier to avoid.
    Words you might like to ban: innovative, revolutionary, passionate
  • It stops corporate nonsense. Business websites are littered with management-speak: words that are widely overused, probably due to some over-enthusiastic use of Microsoft Word’s thesaurus at some point in the dim and distant past. Somebody decided that it was better than saying it in simple terms, and it caught on.
    Words you might like to ban: solutions, facilities, synergy
  • It makes you focus on what your business is and isn’t. If you start hunting around for synonyms to describe your business while you’re mid-project, the search for variety might result in you taking desperate measures. Life’s a lot easier if you’ve already got rid of words you know you don’t really want to use.
  • It helps your colleagues. Think of the banned words list as an indication to your co-workers of the hymn-sheets from which they shouldn’t be singing. It should help you to get more of a collective grip on your brand’s persona. It will also save lots of ‘tsk, tsk’-ing.

Do you already use a banned words list? If not, what words would you ban?

How to become an expert in writing about any industry

You probably receive emails from your boss and find it’s difficult to decipher precisely what they are trying to say. That’s because it’s written in management speak gobbledygook and the reason you can’t understand it is because it’s nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything.

The good news is that you too can now become proficient in management speak thanks to this buzz-word generator, which is credited to the Canadian Defence Department.

Its creators boast that it will provide “instant expertise on matters pertaining to defence”. We’d argue that it can be – and sadly is being – used across a wide range of industries!

It’s simple to use. To get “that proper ring of decisive, progressive, knowledgeable authority”, simply pick one number from each column.

For example, I could go for a 442 and claim that this blog post will provide functional digital capability to communicate with your boss.

Try it out for yourself, have your fun and then never use it again. Please.

COLUMN A COLUMN B COLUMN C
0. integrated 0. management 0. options
1. overall 1. organisational 1. flexibility
2. systematised 2. monitored 2. capability
3. parallel 3. reciprocal 3. mobility
4. functional 4. digital 4. programming
5. responsive 5. logistical 5. concept
6. optimal 6. transitional 6. time-phase
7. synchronised 7. incremental 7. projection
8. compatible 8. third generation 8. hardware
9. balanced 9. policy 9. contingency

Via The Complete Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers

Transfer deadline day and hyperbole in your content

With the January transfer window due to close in a few hours, today seemed like the perfect opportunity to discuss hyperbole in copywriting.

Unless you’re Sky Sports News, whose reporters have managed to carve an irritatingly endearing reputation out of their distinctive brand of hyperbole, exaggeration can be off-putting to your customers.

There is a balance to be struck. Many businesses find that their copy suffers because they fail to sell themselves. Just as we all struggle to fill out self-appraisals, so a lot of business owners underplay themselves when writing about what they do.

Unfortunately, there’s often a tipping point. Once people start blowing their own trumpet, they don’t know where to stop and end up passing off someone else’s concerto as their own.

The aim of the game is to convey the benefits of your services without resorting to overstating them.

Here’s a few common sense tips to help your tread the hyperbole tightrope in your content.

1. Don’t lie.
The lie will probably get found out and it probably isn’t very convincing in the first place. There’s also a good chance it breaks at least one law.

2. Focus on your good points.
Make sure these are good points from your customers’ point-of-view, not what you perceive on your good points. There is a difference.

3. Avoid the buzzwords you think make you sound good.
Lots of people hit the meaningless marketing spiel dictionary when they set about explaining how effective their business is. Steer clear of the buzzwords. They come across as fake, arouse suspicion and are likely to deter readers from giving you their business.

4. Find an angle.
There’s always a positive spin that you can put on any content to show yourself in the best possible light. It must stop well short of lying (it shouldn’t even be close), but can be a very favourable account of the facts.

5. Don’t over-egg it
Make sure that positive spin doesn’t go too far. Is your new product genuinely revolutionary? Overstating the impact of whatever it is you’re writing about can be counterproductive. You need people to trust what they’re being told.

If you’d like help to explain why people should work with your business, please get in touch.