Confusing shop sign that at first glance is easily misunderstood
Helping live animals, not burying dead ones!

If you’ve ever worked in the public sector you’ll know the amount of paperwork generated is astonishing. New policies, reports, plans, statutory guidance from endless government departments. When I worked for a local authority, everyone seemed to have a pile of reading a mile high.

One day my poor boss wailed to me, “Look at my read pile.”

“That depends,” I said, “on how you see it. Doesn’t it also say read?”

I have to read / I have read. The same spelling but two different meanings. An ominous  ‘to do’ pile? Or evidence of your hard work and diligence?

The copywriting point is? 

Choose your words and phrases with care. If your reader has to stop, even for a millisecond, to fathom out what you’re on about, chances are you won’t get the response you want. (Unless, as with this post, the pause for thought you create is deliberate.)

I’ll illustrate this with another shameless reference to Nell, my dog (who knew dogs could provide such a rich mine of copywriting inspiration?).

When we were training Nell the word we used to stop her jumping up was down.  Now, with one firm ‘down’ Nell hits the deck, tail wagging and looking very pleased with herself.

So Nell knows what we mean when we say down. But when she was still a puppy and less well-mannered, she kept jumping up to greet people. Who would then say things like ‘get off’, ‘get down’, or ‘no’. Which Nell didn’t understand. And so she didn’t get down.

Even the phrase ‘get down’ confused Nell. She recognised ‘down’ but coupled with ‘get’, it didn’t register and therefore trigger the response we trained her to give.

As copywriters, we want to trigger a response too. And as people, we respond to certain words we have an association with. So it pays to use words your reader will know. Simple, direct words that clearly communicate your message. Plain English. That’s why you see words like free, now and easy used time and time again.

After all, you want your copy to be easy to read, so it’s read – and acted on – now.


Hello. I’m Sarah Russell, a freelance creative copywriter.

I’m glad I can choose what goes on my read pile these days.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you found something in it to help or inspire you, or to make you smile.


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Call me on: 01873 776 153

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