6 Characteristics of “Not Good Enough” Writing
FYI, following are some common elements I see all the time in writing that would otherwise be good, but “not good enough” to succeed as a freelance writer.
(1) Spelling/grammar errors
You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve fixed things like your (when it’s supposed to be “you’re”), or their (when it’s supposed to be “they’re”) on sites for clients. Many people just don’t know the difference. For example, I still have to Google “lay” and “lie.”
It’s ok not to know the difference, but you must know when you don’t know so you can do the appropriate research. My rule is, “when in doubt — research!”
When I change a series of errors like this to client copy, they wonder why it flows so much better. They can’t put their finger on it, they just know it “sounds better,” “flows better” and is “easier to understand.”
FYI, these are all comments I’ve received from clients as a writer – and all I did was fix minor errors that their previous writer (who could have been a niece, cousin or friend) had done. This is why it pays to hire a professional (like you!).
(2) Choppy copy
Have you ever read something and you can’t quite follow it because the text seems to “jump around?” Well, this is what I mean by choppy copy. Good writing flows – it easily moves the reader along from one related point to the next.
And if there’s going to be a “hard break,” then the writer lets the reader know. For example, they may say something like, “This may seem like it’s coming out of left field, but I’ll connect the dots for you; just hang in there with me a bit.”
Then, proceed with your seemingly unrelated text. But, DO connect the dots for readers at some point. Don’t leave them hanging.
(3) Me, me, me content
Good writers know that they’re not writing for themselves or even their clients. They’re writing for the client’s customer. NEVER forget this when you take on a project. Good copywriters know to use pronouns like you and your, instead of “my,” “our” and “we.”
You see, when you’re hired as a freelance writer, you’re hired to write sales copy – even if the client doesn’t say that. They’re in business to sell something. Now, HOW they sell can be via many different strategies, but whatever copy you produce for them must keep their CUSTOMER in mind, not their BUSINESS as an entity.
(4) Not using punctuation; incorrectly using punctuation
Punctuation cues the reader into how to read copy; it tells them what you’re trying to say. If you don’t use it, or use it incorrectly, it can deliver the opposite message you’re trying to convey. Proof? See the graphic that accompanies this post.
‘Nuff said, no?
(5) Using big words when “small, simple ones” will suffice
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”~Albert Einstein
I don’t know many six-year olds who go around using words like “conversate” when “talk” will do. Do you?
Some writers like to show off their linguistic skills. And this is fine — if the copy calls for that. But the vast majority of it doesn’t — especially online copy. In fact, I run across job ads all the time where companies are looking for copywriters who can “produce clear, concise copy,” especially in niches like technical, legal and medical writing.
You see, most clients these days want well-written, “conversational-style” copy that readers can relate to. In the post, The Power of Simple Writing, social media and content marketing guru Jeff Bullas summed up beautifully why I think this is so. He wrote:
Keeping it simple takes time and effort. Stripping something back to its essence requires thought and effort. It means wrangling, wrestling and removing unnecessary words. … Grammar is complex. Conversation is simple. Write as you speak and that simple power will work its magic.
(6) Not delivering on the headline
There’s nothing that will piss potential readers off than not supporting what your headline touted.
Many writers use this tactic (sometimes unknowingly) to draw readers in. This hurts your client(s), so don’t do it.
FYI, writing great headlines is a necessary skill to succeed as a freelance writer – especially if you’re an online writer. But when you don’t deliver on it, it leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth; they feel scammed, bamboozled, and possibly lied to.
Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Share Your Thoughts
Are there things you’ve noticed in reading copy that would make you say, “Good, but not good enough to succeed as a freelance writer?” Please share in the comments section below.
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