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How to avoid hyperbole and exaggeration in copywriting

November 26, 2010

Today’s blog is a short one out of necessity but I thought I’d pass on two useful copywriting tips which was told to me by a journalist friend of mine recently concerning getting rid of pointless words so as to focus only on core message. It’s about how to cut unnecessary words from copy so that your message stays focused and to-the-point at all times.

These days, credibility counts for much – whether we’re talking about online marketing or simple brand touch points such as point of sale, advertising, flyers or brochures. For brand owners and strategists, it is crucial that brands, when represented, do not become incredible and one of the problems faced by many companies is that of creative minds who go over the top.

Here are the two simple tips. Firstly, study your words carefully. If there is anything which can be removed without damaging the message, then do so. Words, to be effective, need to be understood quickly. That’s why farmers selling eggs do not have signs by the road saying “Barn-laid fresh brown eggs available at this quintessential English farm”. Instead, you’ll see a blackboard saying just “Fresh Eggs” or even just “Eggs”.

Of course, for publishers, you can’t get away with being quite so blunt but it is possible to deliver refined, focused and purposeful copy while still being a “curator” of your editorial stance. To do this, tip number two comes in. Here, the advice is simple: never say anything which if reversed you would never say either when trying to sell something.

Here are a few examples:

  • A” totally brilliant read” could not become a “dreadful” read.
  • “This book will fundamentally change your outlook” could not become “a book that won’t change your way of thinking”.
  • “This book includes everything there is to know about Ethiopia” could not become “This book doesn’t cover anything about Ethiopia”.

The point is this. If words are worth writing to sell brands or books, they need to be demonstrably truthful. The only judge of truth (or perceived truth) is the reader and NOT the writer. So the best copywriters (whether marketers or even PR professionals) are those who can convince the mind of the reader without resorting to the excesses of verbal diarrhoea.

Today, when social media, trust agents and trust-based marketing are transforming the routes of commerce, you cannot afford to be a purveyor of the incredible. Truth – demonstrable truth – is all. Truthful communication delivers customers who stay.

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