What happens when you don’t write right

That’s a tweet I posted this morning. I was surprised by the lazy copy and wanted to share. It’s been four hours since I wrote it and I’ve moved from surprise to disgust to despair to frustration to blind fury. Well, perhaps not fury – more something akin to, “Why on earth would you even DO that?”

This promotional copy from TPG arrived in an Australia Post redirection service letter. We’ve been paying for redirection since moving from the big smoke two years ago. Apparently I had checked a box consenting to receiving third party offers. Righto, don’t remember that but not too fussed. However, this content cannot go unpunished.

First, my problem with the copy;

  1. Sentence two bears no relation – no link – to sentence one.
  2. The first sentence is valueless. I know it’s been two years since I moved – I don’t need you to tell me that. You just come across as a stalker with unsolicited access to my personal details.
  3. Why on earth would I consider a phone bundle two years after I’ve moved. The time to strike was … wait for it … TWO YEARS AGO.

I’m back to furious again. This is shit writing.

You know what I think happened? Here are three scenarios:

  1. The writer – quite rightly – wanted to relate the offer to Australia Post’s redirect service. This makes sense if the campaign is sent out within days of the redirect being set up – but not TWO YEARS after moving. Come on! I think this campaign was dug out from the vaults and not copy-reviewed for context.
  2. An intern wrote it in between reading Bob Bly’s ‘The Copywriter’s Handbook’.
  3. A five year old wrote it.

My second problem with it is still the copy. In particular, the spelling and sentence structure.

It has almost been 2 years since you moved home.

Redundant words such as ‘almost’ really grind my gears. Just go ahead and say, “It’s been two years …”

And while you’re at it, numbers up to ten are always spelt out, so don’t use ‘2’. Write ‘two’, damn it.

Wait – I’ve moved home? As in, moved back to my parents? BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT READS LIKE. Moved house suits the situation here – not moved home. Grr.

We suggest that you consider TPG’s ADSL2+ with Home Phone bundle deals

“We suggest … you consider TPG …” – what, we’re referring to yourselves in the third person? This is a TPG direct mail piece – why are you referring to yourself in the third person. WHY?

You know what? I ain’t even mad now. I just know I won’t be considering TPG as a service provider. Call me elitist, call me a grammar nazi, just don’t [heh] call me – I don’t want to do business with a business that doesn’t know how to write good [sic].

And the lesson today is just that: write good. Don’t be lazy. Write, then write again. Then review it. then review it again and again and again.

The first thing you write isn’t the right thing, even if it looks right. Why? Because it’s probably been written a million times before – that’s why it came easily to you. Write it again. Differently. Better. Challenge yourself. Then check it. And then get others to check it. And only THEN should you publish.

The rules are a little different online, but not much. You have editing power online, so you can publish quickly knowing you can edit later. But that only works if you DO in fact edit later. Sloppy writing is sloppy. It presents unprofessionally. And at its worst, it can turn consumers off you.

Just like TPG has turned me off. I certainly won’t be … [heh] … giving them a call …

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