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5 Common Mistakes New Copywriters Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

You want to be a copywriter or you want to learn copywriting for your business. You have bundles of big ideas and great slogans to capture your audience's attention.

But writing isn't as easy as throwing words onto a page and calling it a day. Writing is a skill that takes time to learn, hone and practice.

As with any skill, you're going to make mistakes. Even after years of writing I still make some mistakes. It's all part of the learning process.

That said, there are some mistakes you need to avoid early on in your copywriting career. I've identified five of the most common mistakes new copywriters make in the early days of writing.

These mistakes can apply to any form of writing, whether it's a book, a blog, an email newsletter, or a social post. I'm here to show you what can go wrong in your writing, and how to fix or avoid these mistakes. You'll be writing killer copy in no time!


1. Trying too hard

This is not the same as working too hard. What I mean is, when you try too hard in writing, you use flowery language that looks as if it comes straight from a Jane Austen novel. And while Jane Austen's classic novels are wonders of literature, that doesn't make them any less difficult to read!

You want your audience to read your writing - otherwise, there is little point in putting it on the internet. Here's how you avoid this pitfall:

  • Avoid over-describing (this includes adverb abuse and filler words)

  • Vary your sentence length, but don't make sentences longer than 24 words

  • Opt for simple language - don't overcrowd your sentences with complex vocabulary; if there's a simpler way of saying something, then say it.

This clip from season 10 of "Friends" sums it all up:


2. Grammar mistakes

I don't mean the obvious spelling, punctuation and grammar errors (although it certainly helps to learn the grammar of your language). Often new writers make more subtle grammatical errors that more seasoned writers don't.

One example is tense switching. Tenses in English grammar include the obvious past, present and future, but each has "sub-tenses": simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous.

Out of these, you want to avoid the perfect and perfect continuous tenses if you can. This is also known as passive voice. It's all very well enjoying parkour, but it has no place in copy. Find a tense that makes sense for your writing, and stick to it.

Other subtle grammatical errors include the abuse of commas and the problem with homonyms. For commas, I would recommend brushing up on punctuation rules. You can find all 15 rules for commas here.

Homonyms are also tricky to spot. They are words that sound the same but are spelt differently or mean different things (e.g. see and sea). Spell-checking software like Grammarly may not always get it right and may miss homonyms in your writing because they are spelt correctly.

This is where editing and proofreading pay off. By editing your work, you make sure to pick up on sneaky grammatical errors that were missed in your earlier drafts. Or, you could hire an editor to do the work for you (like me)!


3. Editing as you go

So you're writing a blog post or an email newsletter. You've written the first paragraph. You're proud of your work, and you want to read it over. You want to perfect it.

It's tempting to look over what you wrote and edit it as you go. But that won't get you anywhere. It will only slow down your progress, especially if it's the first draft and especially if it's a book - it may even prevent you from finishing it!

So, save the editing for later. Your first draft will be awful because it's a mind dump. You're throwing everything you have onto the page, often without much logic.

It's the second draft that will tidy it all up. After that, then you can start editing and perfecting your copy.

pencil with pencil sharpener and shavings on top of a notebook
Source: Angelina Litvin on Unsplash


4. Lack of research ... on anything

If you're going to write something, whether it's a 90,000-word book or a 1500-word blog post, you must do your research.

If you write something without researching it beforehand, it becomes painfully obvious to any reader that you don't know what you're talking about. As a writer, that's the last thing you want.

For example, if you're writing a blog post about WWI, you'll research WWI. Even if you have a great understanding of WWI, it pays to brush up on your knowledge and explore different accounts and historical ideas.

Here is a list of topics you ought to research during your writing projects:

  • Facts and statistics: impress your readers with up-to-date data and information on your area of interest.

  • Societal events: historical events, current affairs, politics, religion, etc.

  • Writing style: see here for more on writing style and brand voice.

  • Genre: for novel writers, this includes themes, tropes and sub-genres.

  • Plot: for novel writers, how to plot, plotting techniques, story structure, etc.

  • Agents and publishers: for book writers, it's imperative you understand how the publishing world works.


5. Showing vs telling

You've probably heard the advice "show, don't tell" before. In storytelling, it's important for your readers to experience the world in your story, not just be told about it.

Here's an example of the difference between the two:

  • Telling: it was a hot day

  • Showing: the midday sun boiled the pavement, melting parts of it. The heat from the tarmac shimmered and warped the air.

Now, for storytelling, showing is preferable to telling. But for copywriting, it's different. The written copy needs to be clear and to the point. You're telling the reader something directly, rather than dancing around the concept.

This is especially important for landing pages and social posts. The copy for these needs to be focused, to the point, and attractive to the reader. You are persuading them that your product or service is ideal for them.

There is a fine balance between showing and telling in copywriting. More "showing" results in the problems discussed in the first point I made - too much flowery language and jargon confusing the reader. But you need a little bit to make it more appealing.

So, try not to treat your copywriting as if it's a story. There's a time and a place for complex language, and the more you practise writing, the better you will become at understanding when to use it.

person writing in a notebook
Source: Kat Stokes on Unsplash


Moving Forward

So that's five common mistakes new writers make and how to avoid them. They are:

If you can fix these errors in your writing, you'll be well on your way to writing like a pro.

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