That happened to me when I de-cluttered last year. I’d collected a folder full of examples of poorly written marketing material, going back 20 years. ‘Shall I keep it or shan’t I?’ I wondered. ‘Oh well, I haven’t used it in ages’, and into the recycling it went. I have regretted it ever since! But I remember the main examples anyway.
There was a Rioja leaflet translated from the original Spanish (possibly via Japanese and Icelandic, by the look of it!). It tried to wax lyrical about the rolling hills where the vines were grown, but read like a child’s bad poem and was full of mis-spellings.
Top tip: Writing should be done by someone who is at least competent in the language
Talking of Japanese, there was also an instruction leaflet for one of those key-rings that you supposedly ‘can’t lose’, the kind that beeps when you clap your hands. Again, it had been written by a non-English speaker. Like masculine and feminine nouns in French and German, this key-ring had been assigned a gender. It was male, and it was very funny to read ‘Put your hands together sharply and he’ll come.’
Top tip: Always apply the ‘dirty mind’ test – your more mischievous readers will!
Another item was the ad in a business magazine about a dictation device. It showed a black-and-white picture of a boss reclining in his office chair, while the copy went on about how his secretary’s work would be so much easier with this new equipment that she’d have more time to sit on his knee. Sexist or what?! At the time I had a male assistant. If he’d sat on my knee (which was not an appealing prospect), he’d probably have crushed it!
Almost worse, the ad was in the style of a letter, and ended with Victorian business-speak: ‘I wish to assure you of my most humble attention.’ Yes, I know, it sounds archaic doesn’t it! But this was during my lifetime and I’m not that old!
Top tip: Use up-to-date references in your writing and be sure to avoid any risk of offence.
I may have lost the pieces of paper, but I haven’t lost the lesson:
If you are not a native English speaker…
If you are dyslexic…
If you are not 100% sure that you know what you’re doing…
…then use a professional!
Professional copywriters have the skill and experience to get the wording right, and prompt the response you desire.
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