25 Mar

What grinds my gears: three things

I was recently asked, in an interview, which things annoyed me, as a copywriter – specifically in relation to feedback (whether from an internal or external client).

I could think of three things, immediately:

1. You can start a sentence with ‘And’, or any coordinating conjunction, despite what many people think.
We had it drilled into us, at school, that you can’t start a sentence with ‘And’, ‘But’, ‘Yet’ – that this is bad.
But it’s simply not true.
And starting the odd sentence with a coordinating conjunction makes copy flow better – makes it more conversational.
Yet you’ll still come across dozens of people who think it’s wrong and has to be pulled out of your copy.

2. Oxford commas are good.
If I wrote down that I’d been to a smoothie tasting session and tried mango, strawberry and raspberry smoothies, did I try just two smoothies: 1. mango 
2. strawberry and raspberry?
Or did I try three different smoothies:
1. mango
2. strawberry
3. raspberry?
If the sentence said that I tried mango, strawberry, and raspberry smoothies, you’d be in no doubt that I tried three smoothies.
Similarly, if my company won awards for design, construction and safety, did they win one award for construction and safety or were they two separate awards.

3. ‘I don’t like it’ / ‘it’s not what I expected’ / ‘it’s not very good’.
I can take criticism, but I can’t take criticism that I can’t do anything with.
I don’t know what to change for the better if I’m given any of the above comments. I need to know what’s not liked or why it’s not very good.
I need a critique, rather than blunt criticism.
If you tell me what you don’t like/why you don’t like it, I can then look to improve it.

3.5 (because it’s related to the stuff above) ‘I don’t like it’.
Unless you’re the target audience, ‘I don’t like it’ is irrelevant. If the target audience is lawyers between the ages of 30 – 50 and you’re a marketing executive/account handler, whether you ‘like it’ isn’t relevant – it’s a personal opinion.
However, ‘it doesn’t work’ is completely valid: ‘it doesn’t work because the language is too flowery for this audience’.

So, those are the 3.5 things which raise my hackles – what about you? 
What gets under your skin?

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