How To Avoid 15 All-Too-Common Copywriting Mistakes

How To Avoid 15 All-Too-Common Copywriting Mistakes

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While a high level of creativity may be essential to doing your job, some common approaches to writing won’t actually get your message across in a clear and effective way. Making any one of these errors in a professional communication could be more than embarrassing; it could also lead your peers and managers to question your acumen.

Here, 15 members of Forbes Communications Council share the copywriting mistakes they most frequently encounter, along with tips on how to avoid making them.

1. Focusing On Features Rather Than Benefits

It is a mistake to focus the message on the features of a product or service rather than the benefits or impact it has on the intended audience. The audience does not care about all the stuff the product can do; your audience cares about how it makes them happier, more fulfilled, less stressed and higher-performing. Stop with all the features. Tell me how I cannot live another day without buying. – Ryan George, Docupace

2. Not Telling A Story With A ‘Hook’ And A Payoff

The problem with writing is that it just isn’t engaging enough. Writing doesn’t the have extrasensory things going on that video does, for example, so that means the writer’s words do all of the heavy lifting. If you want to suck people into your copy, you have to be a good storyteller. Stories start with a “hook” and naturally have a beginning, a middle and an end with a big payoff. – Stacy Gentile, Vengreso

3. Shifting The Point Of View

Stick to the chosen point of view. Far too often, I see corporate writing that begins in first person and continues in third person, or vice versa. Pick a tone. Are you speaking as “I,” or as “he,” “she” or “it?” This shifting POV is present on so many “About Us” pages and in company boilerplates in press releases. – Daniela Martucci, DMH & Associates Communications

4. Not Focusing On The Reader

Focus on the audience. Why do they care? What will motivate them? And what action do you want them to take, or is it just to inform? I often see writing that is focused on the writer and not the reader. It is not only about what you want to convey as the writer; it is more about why the readers should care. – Michelle Bank, Nuspire

5. Using Repetitive Brand Messaging

Repetition can be a good way to establish a strong brand voice, but when used too often, it can seem impersonal and give content the appearance of a script. While referencing brand messaging is important, each piece of content should be unique to avoid seeming too branded. – Melissa Rivers, Mattress Firm


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


6. Trying To Be Too ‘Cute’ And Clever

Be clear, not clever. Clarity always wins. Cleverness rarely does. Too many writers get stuck on “cute,” clever language and messaging. If your audience cannot immediately identify the problem your brand solves and how your brand helps them overcome that problem, you will lose them. Put your copy to the test. Ask an “outsider” what your copy means. If they miss your point, get clear and rewrite! – Ashley Libby Diaz, Cancer Support Community Southwest Colorado

7. Forgetting To Include A Final Call To Action

It’s a surprisingly common mistake when writing marketing copy to focus so much on grabbing attention and connecting with the audience that the writer forgets to include that final call to action or clearly identify the next step the audience should take to respond to the message. Making a checklist of the key copy elements can help to ensure a call to action is always included. – Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC

8. Not Researching Or Organizing Enough

Copywriting is a structured and well-researched process. Putting words on the page is just the tip of the iceberg. Before any words are written there should be hours of research, note-taking and organizing all of that information. Then, the page writes itself. Most people are either unaware of this process or take shortcuts due to self-imposed time constraints. – Ross Kernez, HPOne

9. Trying To Appear Trendy And Hip

Avoid trendy language. Companies often want to appear current, but trendy language should be avoided at all costs. While it might seem as if you’re “personalizing” your messaging for your target audience, you’re likely to be called out for it. Nobody likes inauthenticity, especially in our current era of intense scrutiny, so don’t try to appear hip; customers seldom believe that when it’s coming from a company. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

10. Writing Excessively Long Content

Too often, I see content that drags and is excessively long. Instead of writing lengthy copy and cutting, I recommend writing bullet points of the main content you want to share and then building from there. This helps you stay close to the main points and be more strategic about the “fluff” you add while finessing the language. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group

11. Not Reading Your Copy Out Loud

Write like you speak. Take time to read your copy out loud before publishing or pressing send. If it doesn’t make sense coming out of your mouth, it’s not going to make sense on the page. Don’t use an entire paragraph when you only need one sentence to make your point. And for goodness’ sake, stop dating yourself by putting two spaces after a period. – Heather Byrd, Taillight

12. Misplacing Modifiers

Every time I see a misplaced modifier in professional copy, the journalism graduate student in me cringes. When writing, always check your modifying phrases. “With an intuitive user interface, our team created this product to work!” Your team doesn’t have an intuitive user interface (I’d hope); going back and reading slowly through the phrase will allow you to recognize and remove the mistake. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio

13. Being Overly Verbose

Business communications buried in excess words make communications lengthier than they need to be, creating greater potential to lose the attention of the audience. Keep business communications concise and use hyperlinks to add additional context and further information. – Sheryl Seitz, Plus One Robotics

14. Misspelling Names

Misspelling names is one of the most common mistakes I see copywriters make on a daily basis. It is vital to get all of the information spelled correctly when copywriting for a client. Otherwise, it might seem as if you didn’t actually take the time to do a good job and accurately develop a piece of writing. It just makes a company look amateurish, rather than professional. – Christian Anderson, Lost Boy Entertainment Company

15. Leaving Typos In Final Copy

I’m astounded by the number of typos I see in the final copy. Just about every word processing tool has a built-in spellcheck function; if not, use Grammarly. If you’re working on a team, make use of someone else’s fresh eyes for proofreading. We live by the mantra, “No one works in a vacuum.” This means we ask for help and offer help to each other. – Murph Krajewski, Sharpen Technologies

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