Reader: I don’t want to slip on butter and break my back. Weird copy and image choice but okay. Oh meant the shorts are buttery soft and therefore slip on easily.

If someone has to read your copy twice to understand what you meant does this mean the copy is clear?

Not, in my book.

Today I came across this ad:

Side Note: I also think a photo is the wrong format to accompany the copy in this lesson's example. A video would be best to show and tell.

If these shorts are so buttery soft, show me a split-screen video of a calm collected woman slipping these on with ease versus a disgruntled woman who's sweating, probably gonna be late for work, and grunting like Donkey Kong as she battles to put on the cheap Amazon knockoff.

But that's a post for another day.

I blamed my impossible-to-turn-off "editor brain" for dissecting marketing in the wild as usual. Yet curiosity prompted me to open the comments and—to my surprise—every single comment was poking at the copy.

Do we all probably know what the copy meant to convey?

So what's the harm if it took a few extra seconds to click?

People don't have the patience for potentially confusing copy

  • People scroll
  • See your ad
  • Maaaybe read (or watch)
  • But then they have a ‘huh’ moment 🤔
  • “Ah whatever, don’t get it, who cares” they think
  • And then, they forget and move on to a cute puppy video

Make Your Copy Misunderstanding-Proof

Sometimes, a double meaning is intentional and might make great copy. But most of the time being clever loses to clarity.

It's cliche but true.
Be clear, not clever.

The thing is, this is often easier said than done.
Being both a writer and a marketer is a double-edged sword.

The Good
You understand your company, your product, and what goes into making great copy.
The Bad
You (and your team) know so much and have so much skin in the game that—without realizing it—you make assumptions about what the reader will understand, you're so zoomed into company minutiae that highlight the wrong things because you fail to see the big picture, and so you end up with clever copy that (at best) might win awards but not resonate with potential customers.

Here's what I like to do when I'm the one writing the copy and have something I'm on the fence about whether it's clear or confusing:

  1. Read the (possibly confusing) line of copy.
  2. Walk away from the copy for a day (or at least for an hour if on a time crunch)
  3. Reread the copy.
  4. Share it with an outsider (e.g. your partner, a friend, family member) and ask them to tell you what they think the content is about.
  5. Pay attention to their face to see if they look confused or note if they ask clarifying questions.
  6. Fix whatever made them look perplexed.

For example, I recently ran a line of B2B landing page copy by my husband (coincidentally, he fits our ICP profile). He made his signature confused face as he quietly read out loud followed by a louder and unfiltered "What the fuck does that even mean?"

When you ask someone you know who doesn't work at your company to sense-check something you're more likely to get a genuine response whether they get it or are perplexed.

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