How to avoid the 4 most frequent copywriting mistakes

Whether online or offline, when your marketing materials aren’t generating the results you’d hoped for, take a closer look at them. Sit down and read your copy carefully because it’s possible you’re making one (or several) of these four common copywriting mistakes.

Mistake 1: You’ve written copy that starts with the product instead of with the prospect. Customers don’t buy products, they buy what the products do for them (i.e. benefits).

DO: Begin with the concerns of your reader. Tell them “what’s in it for me?” As a writer, create a picture in your mind of your ideal customer — their lifestyle, their wants or needs, their pains or frustrations. Then, identify with your customer. Put yourself in their shoes and write.

Mistake 2: Where’s the big idea? The mistake is the absence of a big idea, also known as a unique selling proposition (USP). Direct marketing pro Bob Stone says that people respond to any given proposition for one of two reasons: to gain something they do not have or to avoid losing something they now possess.

DO: Write about something specific or inherent to your product (i.e. its unique difference). Do your best to express the big idea in a single sentence. For instance, “Speak Spanish Like a Diplomat” (created by colleague Don Hauptman for a set of language tapes).

Mistake 3: The sin of superficiality or not digging deeply enough. You copy is lacking in details.

DO: Tempt your audience or tease them. What are your prospect’s biggest fears (i.e. the desire to avoid loss) or opportunities he perceives he’ll gain (i.e. the desire to gain something)?

Mistake 4: The lack of social proof. You don’t establish a sense of trust so there’s no incentive to read further.

DO: Use tools that increase your credibility. Be sure copy is anchored in reality, human interest (i.e. testimonials, real life incidents), mention actual events, give results, etc.

One final note: Don’t bury strongest selling point.

DO: Start with your strongest selling point.

So go ahead and re-read your marketing copy. Are you making any of the aforementioned mistakes? If so, give your content “new life” by following one or all of the five tips suggested above. Then, let me know how it goes by entering your comments on my blog at I’d love to hear from you.

• Based on Kaua‘i’s north shore, Debra Jason, owner of The Write Direction, is a seasoned marketing copywriter specializing in Web and direct marketing communications. She may be reached at 826-1846,, or visit her website at


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