I used to be a governor at my daughter’s school. One of the best things about it (apart from front row seats at the school play) was the chance to visit other schools and learn from them. However, one school we went to rang alarm bells with me when I saw this sign on a classroom wall:
Don’t panic! Stop and think!
This was advice for children who were stuck with their work. It was supposed to help them.
Which it wouldn’t have done. Instead, because of the word panic and the two exclamation marks, it would instantly bring on, well – panic.
Read it again and notice how it makes you feel.
How much better it would have been if they’d said:
It’s OK if you’re stuck. Relax.
Take a deep breath and a moment to think.
And the copywriting lesson is?
Tell people what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.
‘Call now,’ is better than, ‘Don’t waste time waiting to call.’
‘Subscribe today,’ is better than, ‘Don’t miss out on our newsletter.’
‘Buy now,’ is better than ‘Don’t wait to buy.’
Oh. And please take care with exclamation marks. Only use them when you’re genuinely highlighting an exclamation (the clue is in the name).
This could be when you want to express a strong emotion, such as excitement, delight, fear or surprise.
Or when you want to highlight a warning.
So, ‘Wow!’ and ‘Watch out!’ are fine.
But, ‘Sign up today!’ and ‘Let us help you!’ are overkill.
Superfluous exclamation marks make your writing sound overheated and your words lose the impact they should bring.
Hello. I’m Sarah Russell, a freelance creative copywriter.
I love learning but am relieved I’ll never have to go back to school.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you found something in it to help or inspire you, or to make you smile.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call me on: 01873 776 153
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