17 Mar

Beware of superfluous copy

I’ve seen it many times in the past: you’re reading through a blog post, a website, a press ad [insert any other example here] and there’s a sentence (or even a whole paragraph) that’s entirely unnecessary. It’s simply extra information which adds no meaning to what you’ve been reading and – if anything – just leaves you with more questions than you otherwise might’ve had.

To illustrate my point, I came across a comment in the ‘Good Deed Feed’ of the Metro newspaper:

Superfluous Superfluous copy

The bit that completely threw me was ‘with a helium balloon tied round my wrist’.

I suppose, in the context of the ‘Good Deed Feed’ (people write in to thank kind strangers who they’re unlikely to meet again), adding an identifying feature, such as a helium balloon, might help the message get through to the person being thanked.
However, the extra information left me with all kinds of unnecessary questions – some of them sillier than others;

Had ‘Sobby Girl’ just broken up with her partner, minutes or hours ago? If so, it seems like she had a lovely day out with her partner, including the tying of a balloon round her wrist…. then she got dumped – bit harsh.

Had she broken up with her partner weeks/months ago, but just decided to have a day out in town, which involved tying a helium balloon to her own wrist… which, in turn, reminded her of happier times, making her cry?

Had she been out with friends who tied a helium balloon to her wrist, to cheer her up after her break-up?

Is she more emotional when in close proximity to helium balloons than she otherwise would be?

Did the man give her his seat on the Northern Line because she was crying AND she had a helium balloon tied to her wrist? Would he have been less inclined to do so if she’d simply been crying, but without the helium balloon?

Does she generally just walk around with helium balloons tied to her?

Okay, that’s enough. I am being a little facetious, but you get my point: what bearing does the helium balloon have on the rest of the story? Does it create more questions than it answers? Would you still understand that a kind man gave up his seat to a visibly upset lady, without the mention of the balloon?

Does any of this ring true in relation to some of your own/your company’s marketing?
Take a look at your website/marketing brochure/press ads etc. Is any of the content superfluous? Does any of it leave the consumer with unnecessary questions about what you do?
If the answer to the above questions is yes, then be brutal, take an axe to it, and trim it down to only that which is absolutely necessary.

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