Dr Diablo’s Terrible Tales of Horrible Copy
Hello children. Welcome to the gruesome lair of the unspeakable, the unutterable and the un-readable.
We’re here to tell you about the evil that lurks among us.
You don’t need to check its pulse, or put a mirror in front of its mouth to see if it mists up. You can tell from a distance; from the gagging noise that people make when they pass it.
Your copy is lifeless, and it’s stinking up the place.
Seeing as it’s nearly Halloween, and everyone’s got more of a taste for the macabre, let’s get down to the gore. Cower, mere mortals, as we share horrifying tales of how everyday people committed blood-curdling acts of terror on unsuspecting words.
Let the torment commence.
#1 – AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH, MY SPIIIINE
Your writing is not a jellyfish.
It needs a spine to keep it in shape, so it doesn’t just flop around and squidge all over the place like spilled porridge. Without one, it’s really hard for your copy to go anywhere.
Before you start scribbling, take some time to sit down and plan what needs to be said, and how. There are different ways of doing that. You can talk about an oncoming plague, and then offer an antidote. You can sing ballads about a dream world, and offer your audience a ticket to bliss.
You’re taking your reader on a trip. Try to get them there as quickly and directly as possible, rather than meandering down random cul-de-sacs like a dodgy taxi driver trying to weasel a bigger fare.
#2 – CURSE YOU, DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN
“Accursed creator!” Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?”
It started with the best of intentions, as many horrors do. “People must know we’re trustworthy”, you said. “And unique. With really focused on customer service”. Maybe you whistled a sunny tune while you worked; while you sewed together all those common parts. But how you recoiled when you gazed upon it: A terrifying creature made from pretty things, and yet doused in the sour stench of something born in empty darkness.
As the cursed doctor himself will tell you, creating life isn’t as simple as stitching together various parts. So no matter how much you like the idea of being “a best-in-class business that develops tailor-made tools and solutions for a diverse range of international clients, with a longstanding commitment to customer service and innovation”, merely mashing together those buzzwords will birth a copy-monster that will scar the world.
#3 – PRIDE COMETH BEFORE THE FALL
Speaking of best-in-class, who reckons they’re the best?
You are? That’s GREAT. Now tell us why. Give us examples. Give us attributed quotes. Give us statistics. Tell us what you’re best at, so that we know where your skills lie.
This one’s an oldie. But it’s the hardest habit for brand copywriters to kick. If only there was some example that we could offer, to demonstrate once-and-for-all how awful and ridiculous organisations sound when they just spend all their time blurting out how great they are with no explanation.
Anything? Anything at all?
#4 – BEWARE THE SWARM
This is what you get when you ask a trusted friend or colleague to check your work.
This is what you get when you ask several.
Individually, each of these people are intelligent, insightful, and reasonable. Collectively, they are blood-fanged gremlins, gnawing at every corner of your work until it’s a shredded puzzle of garbled pulp. Logically, you’d expect that having many different perspectives on your work would create a beautiful prism of truth. In reality, you’ll most likely find yourself quivering in the corner next to the tattered remains of something that’s a thousand times longer and yet contains no recognisable human sentences.
#5 – INVASION OF THE COPY-SNATCHERS
Everyone has their own golden rules of online communication:
Be natural. Start conversations. Express your personality.
But often that’s quite hard. So let’s start small:
Try not to let slip that you’re actually an alien pod-person from a creepy tentacle dimension
For the most part, humans are only dimly aware of the pod-people that lead seemingly-normal lives in our society. But they’ve pretty well-trained at spotting the “tells”. Maybe someone’s trying too hard, being too familiar, or seeming too proud of their knowledge of human customs and dialect. Maybe they’re dripping with slimy slogans, because they learned human language by downloading TED talks from the internet. Or maybe they just use too many exclamation marks.
(Yes, that last one. Trust me, folksy copywriters. We’re onto your little secret)
#6 – ET PHONE HOME
We know what you’re doing.
You don’t fool us, with your quirky, misplaced apostrophes in words that are clearly just plurals. We’re often happy to shrug off that confusion about “its” and “it’s” like it’s just the result of a junior school grammar lesson that didn’t quite stick.
But we know the truth. Oh yes.
On their own, these “slip-ups” might not look like much. But every rogue mark and dot is actually part of a coded message, beamed cunningly to the ships from your homeworld that are slowly but surely massing above our planet, waiting to strike.
There are many people who just smile it off, saying that message is more important than grammar. But they’ll have plenty of time to reflect on how wrong they were, when they’re mining the earth’s precious Queasium deposits for their brutal new alien overlords.
So listen to the rest of us, humanity. Because that blackboard-scraping cringe we get when you write “prize’s” isn’t mere pedantry. It’s a portent of impending doom.
#7 – ETERNAL DAMNATION
When it came to outrageous punishments, the ancient Greek Gods were about as measured and merciful as the Daily Express.
For the crime of pinching fire and giving it to mankind, Prometheus was chained to a rock while an eagle ate his liver, only for it to grow again every night. King Sisyphus was damned to push a boulder up a mountain every day, only for it to fall to the bottom again and again. Tantalus was taunted by fruit trees and refreshing water that remained just out of reach.
And what made these punishments so grotty? It was the fact that they went on forever.
Don’t be a Greek god. However, much you want to stress your point, know when to stop.
Have you been spooked by some of these terrible tales? Drop us a message and we’ll see how we can help.