An ice hockey coach hung a motivational sign in his teams dressing room that read “Safe is Death”.  If his team wasn’t taking risks, they lost.

I take a different approach.  My sign reads, “Vague is Death”.

If your copy is vague, it dies.  Quickly and without notice, like a flunky in a Bond film.

Your copy has to be specific to yank the readers eyes to your words.  Failure to grab attention means your words join the ever bulging ranks of wasted keystrokes.

Your brain agrees, Vague is Death

Brains (yours, mine & your customers) yearn to see new ideas, distinct thoughts and unexpected twists. Unconsciously you anticipate the predictable and discard it automatically.

This is why you must be different.

Your copy must interrupt your readers brain, force a pause for one microsecond to alert the cognitive brain of your reader to your interruption.

Now allow me a brief interruption of my own.

You know success in business demands a unique selling point.  Something that makes your product or service different from the other guys.  Unless competition is nonexistent, like this Antarctic Wedding Service, your USP must be outstanding.

You should look at all of your marketing literature in the same way.  If your selling points aren’t different from your competitors or even other businesses in unrelated fields, they’re effectively vague and will attract about as much attention as a grain of sand at the beach.

Now we’re back to vague, and you can’t get any more vague than a Cliche.

You’ve read, heard and ignored cliche’s too many times to count.  Clearly cliches should be kept away, far away, from your copy.  Our brains delete non specifics and cliches like a good spam filter.

How about an example of how a cliche can be detrimental?  One really popular line litters adspace through all mediums.  “For All Your Something Needs”.  (Where ‘something’ can be just about any product)

There’s a pet store near my house that has “For All Your Pet Needs” painted in large font on valuable billboard space above its doors. First off, they’ve missed a prime opportunity to present their USP right outside their shop.  Secondly, the statement is so non-specific that it doesn’t trigger any thought.

But I think about, and if I had a really bizarre pet, say a Patagonian tarantula that only ate Andean crickets, I would assume they couldn’t cater to me.  My needs are too unique.  If the pet store did cater to an exotic pet like mine they completely missed a unique selling point!  Instead of generally trying to attract all customers, they should be specific and say what they’ve got.  Chances are if the Pet Store carries Andean crickets, they’ve got fish food too.

At the end of the day you want all of your marketing material to have punch, to grab attention and get results.

The best way to start getting attention getting copy?  Speak in specifics.

Because vague is death.

So now you know to avoid vague like the plague(sorry) .  How do you achieve that?  We’ll here’s a rough guideline to help keep vaguaries out of your copy.  Print this out if it helps!

1) Write what you need to say.  Don’t edit as you go.  Get the words out of your head and onto your screen.

2) Read through your work and look for nouns that represent a category and try to specify.  For example, if you sell clothes make sure you talk about the actual articles of clothing – don’t say pants, say skinny jeans.  Not Shorts but cut offs.  Give the reader no choice but to imagine exactly what you want them to.

3) Adjectives always spice things up and can add to your specifying powers!  Thesaurus.com is a great tool for helping your get just the right word.

4) Cliche’s sound slogany – if you think you’ve let one slip in your copy the best thing you can do is to keep your eyes & ears open.  You’d be surprised how often a cliche appears once you’re aware of it.  Google it and see what happens.

5) Test it.  How you do this is up to you.  Get someone in the office to read it and get their thoughts Or split test it and let your customers give you the results.

And most importantly

6) Finish it.  Post it, Submit it whatever it takes to finalise it.  If you think you’re spending too much time on a piece of writing, you probably are.  Perfectionists have trouble with this, but sometimes you’ve just got to bite your lip and put it out there.