If you’re like me, you were raised to think that some things are simply “good” no matter what.
Many parents like to teach their kids that some things, like water, carrots, and homework, are so good for you that you can never really have enough of them. Even if you’ve eaten a cement truck full of carrots already, it’s always better to eat another carrot than have a can of coke. Or so the theory goes.
But guess what?
The science shows that this approach is not only flawed… It’s flat out wrong!
There IS such thing as too much of a good thing.
Don’t believe me? Then open Google in another tab and look up the words “water” and “intoxication.” Yes, it’s true: even enough water has the capacity to mess up your health.
And what about any of the other things mom always told you you should be eating more of?
Grandma’s Turkey dinner? Think again, eat enough Turkey and you’ll pass out from too much Tryptophan, a well known sedative.
What about carrots? Certainly, you can never have to many carrots, right? If you believe that, think again: eat too many carrots and you’ll get a case of xanthaemia, which causes your skin to turn orange (yes, it’s real, look it up).
I have a saying: that which is true of food is also true of copywriting.
Well okay, I don’t really say that, but it’s true. Even the most effective copywriting tactics, just like the healthiest foods, can turn on you when taken in excess. It’s good to use bold or colored text for emphasis, but too much emphasis is like no emphasis at all. It’s good to use bullet points, but too many bullet points will interrupt the “flow” of your copywriting and sound overly mechanical. And so on and so on.
With that in mind, the following are the three most common ways that copywriters will take solid copywriting principles to excess, rendering them ineffective and impotent in the process.
1. Too many sub-headings.
This is similar to an idea I mentioned above, that of using too much emphasis. Headlines and sub-headings are crucial ingredients in any sales letter. They get attention and tell viewers what they’re about to read. However, some copywriters take the idea of headlines to the extreme, using a new sub-heading for every paragraph, or using way too much emphasis (big text, bold text, italics) on each sub-heading. The problem here is the fact that too many sub-headings make a page look cluttered, and further, reduce the “emphasizing” effect of any individual sub-heading. To avoid the trap of too many sub-headings, make sure you use no more than one sub-heading for every 250 words of content.
2. Too much of a focus on benefits.
Now, before you go jump out of your chair, I know what you’re probably thinking.
“How in the hell is it possible to include too many benefits in a sales letter??”
Of course, you can never include enough actual benefits in your copy, provided the benefits are actually there. The problem is when copywriters stuff their copy so densely with benefits that it reads more like a passage from an erotic novel than a sales letter. To maintain credibility, you need to balance your descriptive language out with basic facts about your product or service. If you’re always hyping something up without providing basic facts, you’ll end up sounding like a huckster.
3. Going overboard with slang, humor, and pop culture references.
When used in moderation, the occasional joke or pop culture reference can get a chuckle or make you seem relevant. On the whole, though, these are techniques you really want to use sparingly. The problem with humor is that, unless you’re a comedian, you’re not usually as good at it as you think you are, so this approach can come off as try-hard hard when you use it too much. A good rule of thumb for humor is to tell a joke whenever the opportunity to tell one seems too good to pass up, but to avoid it in situations when the joke’s relevance is less ovious.
The one element that the three items above have in common is that the technique or tactic in question is effective, but tends to be overused. So i’m not saying “don’t use sub-headings, benefits, or jokes.” In fact, if you don’t use sub-headings or benefits at all, your copy will be extremely ineffective. What I am saying is that there is a sweet spot in everything, and that in copywriting, it is always better to keep things in balance than to go over the top.
Well, that’s it for today.
Till next time, happy copywriting.