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Penning polished copy for various websites is a mix of skill, inspiration and craft. More often than not, you have to bring a human angle to an impersonal-sounding product, but telling a personal tale is but one facet of copywriting, and is of no use if you don’t have the fundamentals down pat.

All too often I see the same mistakes being made all over the internet, from small tweets to the latest product description in an e-commerce store. The basics – spelling, grammar, syntax – are becoming a lost art in the 21st century, but they don’t need to be.

Copywriting dont’s

In order to get customers through the virtual door, avoid doing these:

  • Gratuitous use of all-caps

I once had an employer who would leave “inspirational messages” on my MySpace page (back when that was a thing), and yet forget to turns ‘caps lock’ off. I had to politely tell him to knock it off in person; when he asked why, I simply cupped my hands around my mouth and said, louder than normal:


…and that’s what using all-caps is tantamount to: shouting at strangers as to interest them in your product. Don’t do it.

  • Exclamation marks!

Hey, are you excited about this big new thing? I am! So excited I can’t contain myself!! Can’t you see how excited I am!!!

No. Just no. If using all-caps is akin to yelling, overuse of exclamation marks is analogous to jumping up-and-down while waving your hands. It’s trying to get attention where it may not be wholly warranted.

  • Not using the dictionary

If you’re not sure how sure how a word’s meant to be spelled, or in what context to best use it in, Google it. Even if you know the word’s wrong, it will most likely point you in the right direction.

  • Bold is not always beautiful

Used sparingly, bold text can call attention to what you need to drive home to the end-user. Having whole swathes of text – or, indeed, entire paragraphs – bolded, though, will result in the potential’s customers’ eyes bouncing off the screen, as your sales pitch won’t register. Less is more in this instance.

  • Inconsistent font use

Related to the above; keep your font of choice (and its relative size) the same as much as possible. Having your font change halfway through a paragraph – and suddenly going from large to small and back again – will result in your copy looking like a nu-metal album cover circa 1999, and believe me, you don’t want that.

Copywriting do’s

There are certainly other examples of poor copywriting around the web, but these are the most egregious examples of how not to go about it. Like any other art, too, it takes time and application to finesse it; it’s rare that the novice copywriter can hit the ground running with call-to-action copy that works like magic (despite what Mad Men would have you believe). Study what works, and adapt it to your own purposes; a good place to start is, believe it or not, the solicitation copy used by the likes of Marvel & DC Comics in order to push their product. There is over a decade’s worth of polished, descriptive, bouncy copy to pore over in various places across the internet (Comic Book Resources is a gold mine in this regard); in the end, who knows? You could end up being a superhero of copywriting in your own right!

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