Bev Legge is a writer, editor and trainer working in publishing, journalism and PR
It won’t be long now before the world’s top athletes are heading to Japan for the 2020 Olympics. Needless to say, I’ve not been asked to take part.
But what about that other great, international, competitive event: the Bad Copywriting Olympics? Surely I’ll be getting an invite to that?
Actually, I won’t. My ability to write bad copy may be world class, but I guarantee I will not be competing in that particular tournament. Why? Because, as you may already have guessed, there is no such event.
The importance of bad copy
In my view that’s a crying shame. The ability to write awful copy is an underrated skill, one that deserves to be celebrated at a global level.
“But hang on a second,” I hear you say. “No one wants to read rubbish like that!”
Exactly right. And that’s why bad copy is so important. Forget about readers for a moment and think, instead, about copywriters.
Learning how to be a bad copywriter
Those of us who aspire to work in this profession should never lose sight of a key responsibility we all have. It falls on our shoulders to do everything we can to remove from our writing the stuff that drives people away.
That means we must develop an unerring ability to identify what doesn’t belong in good copy and then ensure we never inflict it on our readers.
Bizarre though it may sound, part of becoming a good copywriter involves learning how to be a bad copywriter.
Boxing, shooting and gymnastics
So what bad practices are we talking about here?
To answer that let’s return to the Bad Copywriting Olympics. If a contest like that really existed, what kinds of awful writing might it feature?
In the real Olympics, of course, we find sports like boxing, shooting and gymnastics. So what would the equivalents be in a tournament dedicated to the art of clueless copywriting?
I’m guessing they would be things like: shooting yourself in the foot, boxing yourself into a corner and overdoing the verbal gymnastics.
Freestyle skiing, ice skating and curling
And then, of course, there’s the Winter Olympics. This offers spectators a whole range of high-action, low-temperature activities such as: freestyle skiing, ice skating and curling.
So what are the bad copywriting counterparts to those events? My suggestions would be freestyle waffling, skating on thin ice and writing prose that’s truly toe curling.
As a long-time professional copywriter I can tell you I’d be a formidable competitor in every single one of those.
I’d also fancy my chances in perhaps the most important event of all – namely, the Bad Copywriting Triathlon.
This would surely involve three of the greatest causes of poor quality copy – clichés, platitudes and formulaic writing.
Weave all three into your narrative and you’d be guaranteed to drive coachloads of readers away. Unless you had a stunningly creative reason for including such things, you’d be well advised to steer clear.
And that still leaves countless other ways to abuse the written word that I haven’t been able to touch on. By my reckoning there are more than enough bad writing options out there to support multiple decathlons, and then some.
Creative Copywriting for Publishers
All of which brings me to my Creative Copywriting for Publishers course. For those keen to avoid producing bad copy, this distance learning resource is now available online through the Publishing Training Centre.
As you can probably guess it addresses the issue of bad copy head on. In fact the very first tool it offers is the Bad Copywriting Detector, a facility that helps you to spot copy that is underperforming.
Then comes a short writing exercise in which we ask students to create some promotional text that’s deliberately dire.
Although it might seem a frivolous task, do not be fooled. This exercise offers copywriters three very practical benefits. One of these we’ve already discussed. The other two you will discover, if you sign up to the course.
There’s one last thing I must mention. My course certainly addresses the issue of bad writing, but be in no doubt – its primary focus is on how to write good copy.
You’ll find it’s packed with tips, tricks and exercises, each designed to give your copywriting a boost. All told there are 13 writing tools for you to employ, 15 skills to master, 21 activities to explore and 5 tutor-marked assignments to complete.
Among other things the course gives practical guidance on how to write effective taglines and cover copy for works of fiction and non-fiction. You’ll also learn how to professionally craft brochures, mailshots, press releases, journalistic articles and advance information sheets, not forgetting web and social media content.
If you score 60 per cent or higher in your marked assignments, you’ll receive an industry-recognised certificate at the end of the course. Even better, if your final score is 90 per cent or above, you’ll be awarded a certificate of distinction.
To learn more please visit Creative Copywriting for Publishers.