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The 12 Copywriting Sins that Matter

Browse the web and you will find countless resources on copywriting sins.

Many named ‘deadly’ like herehere and here.

Some are ‘no-no’ lists like here and here.

And even a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts like here.

But from the biggest picture:

  • Whether it is your first day as a copywriter, or
  • You have 45+ years experience

These are the 12 copywriting sins that matter! 

Read on or use the table of contents to ‘jump’ to a specific section in the post.

Table of Contents

1. You Fail to Do Adequate Research

Top of this list for a good reason.

And one of 3 golden keys to success in copywriting discussed in this blog post.

Research is fundamental to copywriting successIt’s the ‘art’ of dissecting key information (usually from around the web) and crafting it into a compelling message for your target audience.

Fail to do it ‘comprehensively’ and your results will suffer.

Because you cannot rely on:

  • Intuition
  • Other people’s authority
  • Blind luck when crafting ‘winning copy.’

And you cannot overcome all objections (copywriting sin 11) before gathering ‘information’ during research.

Cayuse summarise the importance of research best in this resource, that states without research in society:

  • Our ‘demands’ would go completely unanswered
  • Our lives would be completely ‘different’
  • Our understanding would be ‘lacking’ to move forward in life.

And in copywriting that is:

  • Better understanding how users speak
  • What they want
  • What they need.

So go away now and do your research like a good copywriter!

2. You Fail to Make the Content Scannable

Users scan first before reading.

It’s proven.

Nielson Norman Group found this in research, and report that your target audience pick out individual ‘words’ and ‘sentences.’

The Code Academy goes in-depth (read more here) to describe how users scan web pages using the F-shaped reading pattern.

And the summary is that your target audience will not read much of your web page.

Therefore, as a copywriter, you must ensure you ‘break’ up your content as much as possible into:

  • Structured headings
  • Short paragraphs of 2-3 lines (with plenty of spacing)
  • Bullet points
  • Multimedia, and
  • More.

Human attentions spans are short (shorter than a goldfish according to Digital Information World).

So, whether it is:

  • Mobile phone distractions
  • The baby constantly crying
  • Demanding pets

Time is ‘precious’ and this makes the need for content scannabity huge!

3. You Fail to Get to the Point Fast

Make your point fast by being concise (and not wasting words).

One of the keys to this (as explained by the Fast Company in this resource) is not to overexplain.

Because even though your goal is to be comprehensive remember: Too much information can = information overload = poor outcome.

And besides words you have various multimedia options (a great word substitute that adds value).

And (finally) that does not mean you should not inject personality into your copy!

Just do so in a way that ‘adds value’ without necessarily ‘adding words.’

Doing this is an ‘art’ (as discussed here that copywriting is 80% art) that is learnt with:

  •    Patience 
  •       Practice 
  •        Perseverance.

4. You Fail to Build Momentum

No ‘momentum’ in your copy = no ‘engagement’ = poor desired outcome from your target audience.

Because no copywriter that hits ‘publish’ wants a user to:

  • Yawn
  • Lose interest
  • Hit the dreaded ‘back button’ on their browser to return to Google and find a better resource / solution to their problem.

Beth Barrett here, even goes so far as to say that ‘momentum’ is the the magical hidden benefit of great copywriting.

And this ‘momentum’ goes beyond how you build words into your copy.

Because as Beth says (again here) even when:

  • Nobody in the organisation can agree on the web copy (hurdle 1)
  • Nobody in the organisation is supplying the web copy (hurdle 2)
  • The content supplied by the organisation just plain sucks (hurdle 3)

Great copywriters will keep the ‘momentum’ of any project flowing and deliver results.

5. You Fail to Write in Plain English

You need to reach all of your target audience for best results with any copywriting task.

And to do that you it is best to avoid:

The great Zig Ziglar once said: “A good life is when you assume nothing” (read full quote here).

And that should be your takeaway when crafting winning copy for your target audience (from beginner to intermediate to advanced).

The #1 key to writing in plain English is to resist the temptation to write purely on ‘instinct.’

Because even though ‘instinct’ is a golden key to success discussed in this blog post, you must:

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • Think (before writing).

More great tips: Be sure to check out this resource by the Plain English Campaign.

6. You Fail to Write for Your Target Audience

Marketing week reports here that half of online campaigns fail to reach their target audience.

And when it comes to copywriting, ‘rushed’ or ‘bad’ research is usually to blame.

But then there is SEO!

Because unfortunately some copywriters make the SEO mistake of not writing for humans first and search engines second (key to success).

And as a result, the outcome = poorly perceived content (by the target market).

Neil Patel details how to write content for people in this amazing guide.

Takeaway: As Grin concludes in this resource, it’s only when you reach your target audience that you can drive more conversions.

7. You Fail by Hard Selling Too Much

Time summarises it best in this resource: It’s hard not to hate the hard sell.

And goes one step further by stating: Why the ‘hard sell’ should die a slow death.

Whilst as a copywriter, your big-picture goal is conversions, you cannot achieve this at every ‘opportunity.’

Instead, you must focus on ‘engaging’ your target audience first; and then building trust, expertise and authority with them to:

  • Educate
  • Inform them (before any form of action can be taken).

And that action could be:

  • Now
  • Next week
  • 1 year from now.

Because ‘building brand awareness’ (as pointed out by Taboola Blog in this resource) is the first step in the marketing funnel (more on how that works here), and critical to acquiring customers over time.

And it’s this approach that builds better brands.

8. You Fail by Not Linking to Other Great Resources

The web is a ‘social’ place.

One where you can easily ‘network’ with other webmasters to improve your content by linking to their ‘resource.’

Remember your ‘resource’ (as definitive as you want it to be) is not the only resource.

So don’t be afraid to ‘link out’, but only do so, if it will ‘benefit’ the user, and add ‘overall value’ to the content piece.

Google’s John Mueller summarises this perfectly in this resource by Search Engine Journal by answering the question: If linking out is good for SEO?

And here is his response (again detailed here by Search Engine Journal): “Linking out to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often times, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions they have.”

And his failure to directly answer the question and mention the word ‘SEO’ in his response says everything.

Because as a copywriter you must always put your users first and SEO second.

Takeaway: It’s ‘value’ to the user that matters.

9. You Fail Appealing to People’s Emotions

The facts:

Summary: Big Think summarises everything brilliantly in this resource by saying: “Even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.”

Therefore, as a copywriter, you must do your research (failing to do it is copywriting sin 1) to begin with.

But then?

Rather than just:

  • Oozing emotion
  • Writing with emotion
  • Hoping to evoke it with your target audience

You should understand ‘psychological triggers’ that cause all human beings to act.

And this is brilliantly detailed by Neil Patel in this resource.

Because once you understand the ‘psychological triggers’ behind emotion, you can write winning copy that hits home runs every time!

10. You Fail to Focus on Benefits

Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income summarises it best here by stating: Benefits sell and features don’t.

Read why in his post.

And this blog post summarises everything more bluntly (but honestly): It’s not about you in content (a copywriting fundamental).

May sound harsh but it’s the truth in copywriting.

Because focusing on the ‘benefits’ is 101 to better copywriting.

Takeaway: You are judged by the ‘results’ and therefore you must deliver ‘results’ with:

  • Well Laid out
  • Structured
  • Easy to understand benefits

That encourage your target audience to take action ‘now’ or in the ‘future.’

Sarah Klongerbo (9 Clouds) point out 3 great tricks here for writing about benefits, that are:

1. Start with an action verb

2. Say ‘you’ as often as possible

3. Try the ‘so what?’ test.

11. You Fail to Overcome All Objections

You cannot leave anything ‘on the table’ as a copywriter when it comes to objections.

Because the difference between a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ is simply knocking down every objection!

And that is brilliantly summarised by Copyblogger in this resource, that also includes ‘simple’ tips to overcome all objections.

Note: As we detailed in this blog post, the result of having to solve more problems (and overcoming objections), is a big reason why longer content is quickly becoming king (read 3 plain English reasons why it is here).

But how do you overcome all objections?

Focus on ‘value.’

Because when you have ‘value’ engrained within your brain as a copywriter, you will:

  • Get to the point faster (copywriting sin 3)
  • Create serious momentum (copywriting sin 4)
  • Overcome all objections easier.

And if you are looking for big-picture steps on creating ‘value’, be sure to check out these 5 steps by here.

12. You Fail by Not Proofreading

Last on our list of 12 copywriting sins but not least important!

A ‘comprehensive’ proofread is a must to:

  • Add power to your content piece (read more about that here)
  • Drastically improve your writing (more on that here).

Because nothing discredits your ‘expertise’ (as an author) more than content pieces with ‘errors.’

So whatever you do (going forward as a copywriter), ‘enjoy the moment’ when you finish a content piece, but never ‘switch off’ mentally until after your comprehensive proofread.

Because unfortunately copywriters are judged off the ‘published result’, and ‘one mistake’ is all it takes for your work to stink!


As quoted by American poet Nikki Giovanni: “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.”

Because as a copywriter (on all levels – from newbie to pro) there are ‘countless’ mistakes you can make. But it’s your ability to respond to these mistakes that count.

And overcoming these 12 copywriting mistakes (sins), are from the biggest-picture (without sweating the small stuff), what will propel you to copywriting success!

Over to You…

Do you believe these are the 12 Copywriting Sins That Matter? Or would you like to remove or add some?? Would love to hear from you in the comments – any feedback is greatly appreciated.

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