Is your copywriting TOO easy to read? Some readers may complain!
February 3, 2009 • Glenn Murray
“What’s more”, “Nevertheless”, “Of course”, “Needless to say”… Why do some reviewers think these devices are too informal for sentence-starters? Oh, and let’s not forget “Importantly”, “Just as importantly”, “Additionally” and “Furthermore”!
I wouldn’t say it happens all the time, but enough to make me wonder. After pointing to something in my copywriting portfolio and saying, “Write it in that style”, Joe Client proceeds to rip out many of the bits that probably drew him to the piece in the first place (albeit subconsciously). I suspect if you’re a blogger with a boss who reviews your posts before publishing, it’s happened to you too.
Why all the fuss? I’d always considered most of these devices kinda formal. I actually avoid them in more casual copy. I know “What’s more” contains a contraction, but c’mon! That alone surely doesn’t make it casual.
So I asked around on Twitter, and some of my copywriter buddies were of much the same opinion as me: it’s an affront to what some clients consider professional. (Here’s @angie1234p’s answer, @Skigod’s answer and @angusgmelb’s answer.)
But that still doesn’t tell me why! The real why. Why do some people think these devices are an affront to professionalism?
Determined to get to the bottom of it, I had a good think about it on my run yesterday. And I came to a conclusion. Here it is…
Some people are so used to formal copy being hard to read, that they think anything easy to read must be informal.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I reckon I’m onto something, and I have a justification for the theory. Unfortunately, if you wanna hear it, you’ll have to sit through a bit of grammar. But I promise I’ll make it as pain-free as possible!
“What’s more” from a copywriting perspective
“What’s more” and co. are great for linking sentences to each other. They make for a bump-free read, and, in Joseph Sugarman’s words, grease the slippery slide leading to conversion. I talked more about this in a previous post: A quick tip for keeping your readers on your copywriting slippery slide.
“What’s more” from a grammar perspective
“What’s more” and its greasy companions are all examples of transitional devices (or ‘linkers’ or ‘transition words’). They connect ideas to provide coherence.
“Unless readers can move easily from one thought to another, they will surely find something else to read or turn on the television.” (Capital Community College Foundation’s Guide to Grammar & Writing)
Extra Reading: Some great descriptions and examples at:
Transitional devices can be formal or informal
The above readings list a couple of hundred other examples of transitional devices. If you take a look, you’ll notice they vary in formality. Some are really formal, like “moreover” and “notwithstanding”, while some are just your plain old garden variety conjunctions, like “and” and “but”.
This got me thinking. If some reviewers question both the formal and the informal transitional devices (I don’t need to remind you about the “Never start a sentence with a conjunction” reviewer), perhaps formality’s not the real issue. Perhaps it’s the use of the transitional device itself. ANY transitional device.
Formal writing often doesn’t use transitional devices
I did a quick search. These are (honestly) the first documents I found. And whatdyaknow?! A real shortage of transitional devices.
Now remember, these are the documents that most copywriting clients and blog reviewers think when they think formal.
Some reviewers just don’t like anything that greases the slippery slide
So I’ve come to the conclusion that some reviewers consider transitional devices informal, simply because they’re not used in stereotypical formal writing. Regardless of whether the device itself is actually informal. Put another way, some reviewers find anything that greases the copywriting slope kinda confronting.
What do you think?