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?

You’re more exciting than you think you are

Your business really isn’t that dull.

When you sit down to write about your business, there is always a temptation to reel off a few historical but mundane facts about your business. It is probably your primary school English teacher’s fault. She succeeded in drumming a linear narrative of beginning-middle-end into your head.

Unfortunately, online reading habits mean that if you haven’t grabbed your potential customer in those first couple of sentences you have probably lost them for good. You need your opening salvo to leave your reader in no doubt as to why they want your product or service.

The uninitiated will often ask a copywriter: ‘Why should I get you to write about what my business? Nobody knows more about my business than me.’

That’s true, but it’s not just about knowledge. It is just as important to pick out the key facts and present them in a way that hooks your target audience.

For instance, imagine Steve Jobs decides to overhaul the Apple website. He is really watching the pennies, or cents, so he decides he will undertake the copywriting himself and starts writing about his business:

“Founded in 1976, Apple is a computer hardware manufacturer based in California.

“We specialise in supplying well-designed desktop and portable devices to a global audience.”

A silly example, but hopefully it illustrates my point. It is factually correct and details exactly what the company does. But you and I know that it is only half the story and is a massive undersell of some of Apple’s key values and selling points.

You need to think about the first impression you want to leave on visitors to your website. What are the most interesting or exciting things about your company? And – here’s the important bit – that means interesting or exciting to your potential customers, not to you or your employees.

If you would like more input from Voz on your website content, we are currently offering free copywriting to one lucky business website.

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Have some alone time
That’s right: just you and your web content. Sit down for a heart-to-heart and make sure your relationship is still as strong as you thought. Are you still pulling together in the same direction in joyous union or has one of you moved on? Don’t go breaking things off just yet though. Your web content can change – it can be what you want it to be. Continue reading

Top 10 New Year reasons to hire a copywriter

You are about to embark on a new year for your business. We have put together 10 reasons why a copywriter might be the answer to some of your problems at the start of 2011 [edit: they're good for 2012 too!].

1. Spring clean
Well, perhaps it is a bit early for a spring clean since we’re still stuck in the middle of winter, but a New Year’s clear-out certainly can’t do any harm. The start of a new year is the perfect reminder to look at your website’s content afresh. Does it still meet your requirements? Is it furthering your business objectives? Did it ever? Take the time to reassess what the copy on your website says about you and if you find it uninspiring or no longer fit for purpose, you can be certain potential clients will be paying even less attention. Continue reading