How to Write Advertising Copy without Losing your Soul: #1

If you are a business with soul, I desperately want you to succeed. You don’t have to write pushy, über enthusiastic advertising copy that promises miracles to do it. In fact, you’ll have better results if you don’t.

This is the first in a series of posts that share some guidelines I’ve established to help write advertising copy that sells everything, BUT your soul.


Exclamation Restraint

Now, let’s be clear. I love exclamation marks. In fact, they’re probably my favorite piece of punctuation. They just look good. Sexy, even. In casual communication (text, email), it could even be said that I use them to excess.

Furthermore, when reading for pleasure, I find it rather charming when established and respected writers employ the exclamation point.¹

But when it comes to writing that’s meant to persuade people into parting with time or money, there’s something about excessive exclamation marks that just come off as loud and annoying.

It’s the written equivalent of TV commercials that are way louder than the show you’re watching. It seems their philosophy is: THE MORE WE ASSAULT YOU WITH SOUNDS AND SALES WORDS, THE MORE YOU WILL BUY FROM US!!!!!!

But the superfluous enthusiasm really just comes off as high school cheerleader at best, stimulant-crazed or manic at worst. While I can’t speak for you, this tactic does not compel me to BUY BUY BUY.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say exclamation marks should be altogether avoided when you write advertising copy. They’re an excellent way to express excitement. (And I do hope you’re excited about what you offer the world.) But use too many and the emphasis gets lost. Plus, you run the risk of turning people off with the overzealous tone.

Try this: Limit your exclamation marks to one every 300 words or so.

Limit your use of exclamation marks when writing advertising copy.
Pretty sure this would make most math people roll their eyes.

Economy of Emphasis

When there’s a lot to say and not much space to say it in, the urge to STATE EVERYTHING EMPHATICALLY SO NOTHING IS MISSED can be hard to resist.

And so one may add emphasis in a variety of ways: bold, underline, italic, CAPITALIZATION, changes in font size and color

But as is often the case, just because you CAN add all of the things, really doesn’t mean that you should. Because here’s the thing: instead of making your piece of information easier to understand, the extraneous emphasis really just muddies things up.

Too many different kinds of emphasis breed confusion rather than clarity. The eye doesn’t know where to go, adding tension to your brain and body, because you’re trying harder than normal to read and comprehend the words.

You want your potential customers to feel stimulated when they encounter your marketing materials, sure. But not tense. You’re looking to take away their anxiety, not add to it.

Try this: Part of good design is in prioritizing the most important piece of information and using visual hierarchy to make that bit stand out the most. So first you gotta get clear on what one (maybe two) thing(s) need(s) most to be seen. Then judiciously choose one way to emphasize it. This article by The Visual Communication guy is a great reference for how to best use each form of emphasis.


I have a lot to say on this topic! Continue on to Part 2. And stay tuned for Parts 3, 4… and potentially more.

Do you agree? Or am I being an enthusiasm killjoy?
Let me know in the comments below!
(See what I did there?)


¹So charming, in fact, that several examples simultaneously sprang forth from my memory banks  (filed under: Literature!), such an impression did they make upon my respective initial encounters. Feeling distracted? Click and enjoy: Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Walt Whitman, Jim James.


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