18 Jul

Beware of ! and ?

I’d love to write a longer post, but I’m too warm and I’m trying to work outside (got to be some benefits to the freelance life), squinting at the screen, trying to block out the sun with an old, black, leather portfolio.

So, a relatively quick post – effectively an expansion of a point I made in an earlier tweet, today: just be wary of using exclamation marks in your copy.
Whether you’re sending an email, rewriting all web content, producing a new brochure, or running a press campaign, exclamation marks run the risk of you/your company inadvertently sounding like an overexcited child.

Think about the difference between an email that starts ‘Hi Nick’ Vs ‘Hi Nick!’ or a line in a brochure that says, ‘give us a call and see what we can do for you!’.

In fact, only last week I had a conversation with a client about the final edit of their web copy, in relation to the use of exclamation marks. The content was aimed at an affluent audience, all around 60+, all quite conservative (with both a big and a small ‘c’).
Comparative with this client’s competitors, I’d written the content to be as formal as possible, while still being engaging.
The client still felt the copy needed tweaking. Looking through it, I realised that I’d dropped in about five exclamation marks (across 5,000 words, to be fair), but there was no real need for them to be there. The copy certainly wouldn’t suffer if I removed them, so I did. It gave those particular sections a whole different feel – far more professional – and both the client and myself were happy with that small, but effective, change.

The other question mark hangs over…. question marks. It’s more of an issue when you use question marks at the end of a tagline or slogan. In doing this, you force your audience into answering a question, but you can’t guarantee that their answer will be positive:

‘Want to work with the best provider out there?’ (actually this isn’t really a tagline, but will still work as an example of why questions are best avoided)

Unless you are, without doubt, the best provider (of whatever service) out there, this line runs the risk of eliciting the response: ‘yes, but that’s not you’.

‘Does your toothpaste do what it should, for you?’

If the answer, in a consumer’s mind, is ‘yes’ then that’s the end of their conversation with your toothpaste brand. If their answer is ‘no’ then, beyond asking them a question, what have you done to make them switch brands?

Actually, here’s an tagline I’ve seen:

‘Why pay more?’

I don’t advise this. I pay more to have my pet insurance with Petplan because their service is excellent, they’re quick and efficient, and they’re also compassionate: they were so good when my cat was ill. 
Asda pet insurance is cheaper, but if they simply sold to me on the basis of ‘why pay more?’ I’d have to say ‘because, from what I’ve seen, I’m guaranteed great, fuss-free service from Petplan, so I’m happy to pay more’.
(this sounds like a damning indictment of Asda’s pet insurance. It’s not. I’ve actually heard they’re quite good)

Anyway, that’s me done on ! and ? – turns out it wasn’t such a short post after all … and my squinting eyes are bloody killing me.
Oh well, happy Friday one and all.


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