The Most Overused and Annoying Copywriting Techniques

Post by Eric Brantner

At its best, copywriting is a way to connect with your target audience and to motivate them to take action. At its worst, it’s a way to alienate potential customers and to severely damage your brand. How can you be sure your copy doesn’t fall into the latter category? You can start by avoiding these highly overused and annoying techniques.

• Ellipses—I see this most often in email marketing messages. The copy will go something like this: “We’re your all in one shop…for everything you need…from bicycles to watermelons…and everything in between…all at low prices…all guaranteed to satisfy…so you have nothing to lose…and everything to gain…conveniently located…so you can get in and out…come shop with us today!” Do you see how annoying this is? I understand the point of ellipses is to insert pauses, making the content more conversational, in theory. But when I read through a paragraph full of these, I often lose track of what the main point is, and I forget what I read by the time I reach the end. There’s nothing wrong with using ellipses, just don’t overdo it.


• Quotation Marks—Everybody hates the guy who does air quotes, right? Just as “annoying” as him is the “writer” who does the same thing when he “over-quotes”, like, “everything.” See what I did there? Yeah, it’s annoying, and more importantly, it distracts readers from the main message of your content.

• Strikethroughs—We get it, you’re an annoying pain in the @$$ clever and oh-so-snarky.

• Bolded Text–By now, we all know online readers tend to scan content rather than read it word for word. As a copywriter, I’m all for making content easier to scan. One way to do this is by using bolded text to highlight the main points of the copy. Unfortunately, this is another technique that’s very easy to fall in love with and to overdo. Look, if every other sentence has a bolded phrase, it defeats the purpose. Bold sparingly, my friends.

*Bonus: This isn’t really a copywriting technique, but it’s still a word that gets overused.

• The word “that”—The word “that” can almost always be eliminated from a sentence without changing the meaning. It typically improves the flow of the copy as well. Here’s an example: “The keywords that you choose that will earn you the top search placement that you want.” Get rid of the three uses of “that” and the sentence will be fine as is.

What copywriting (or just writing in general) techniques bother you most? Share them in the replies.

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4 thoughts on “The Most Overused and Annoying Copywriting Techniques

  1. I find myself using “that” quite often. I use “just” a lot, as well. I don’t feel I use ellipses too much, but I do use them. When I began your article, I felt you were talking about me, but I don’t use strikethroughs, so it must be someone else.

  2. The success of search engine optimisation depends on acquiring inbound links and analysing the popularity of keywords, WordStream has said.
    Research has shown that over a third of search engine marketers (SEMs) find link building the most challenging part of SEO, and keyword research is seen as the second most difficult aspect.

    WordStream, a search engine marketing software company, published the results in the 2010 Search Engine Marketing Pain Points Survey.

    Tom Demers, director of marketing at the company, explained that link building and keyword research are “crucial to SEO” and that companies “can´t succeed without it”.

    Just under half of the surveyed companies admitted that they were reallocating budgets to SEM from print advertising.

    The research also reaffirms Google´s dominance among search engines, with 97 per cent of companies paying to advertise on its AdWords advertising product.

    Google recently told advertisers that placing too much emphasis on SEO could make their website appear like a phishing site.

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