5 Lazy Writing Mistakes Marketers Love (But Need to Stop ASAP)

March 24, 2021
Brad Smith

It’s too easy. It’s too tempting.

Most content online falls into lazy writing traps.

There are unnecessary words, forced adverbs, and enough snooze-worthy expressions to leave even the most ambitious readers in a glazed-over, drunken stupor.

The good news is that business content doesn’t have to be chock-full of bad writing.

The bad news is that most of it is, unfortunately.

We’re not just talking about something as obvious as plot holes in a book, but even the most basic elements of style like sentences in a blog post.

So here are five perfect examples of what lazy writing looks like in most business or marketing content, along with exactly how to rewrite and un-suck them ASAP.

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❌ 1. Overexplaining simple concepts with too many words

Don’t confuse word count with quality.

If anything

Attention-depraved consumers won’t sit through 1,000+ words until something shiny on TikTok or Instagram catches their eye.

But B2B? The loooooooooooooooonger the better. The more complex the topic and the nerdier the audience, the more they’ll read and read and read and read.

That’s amazing! It means we can unpack difficult or complex topics without reducing everything to simple soundbites.

HOWEVER…

It doesn’t mean you should over-write or become too verbose, either. Because then it’ll backfire quickly, causing your audience to bounce.

✅ Fix: Say ‘more’ with ‘less’

Concision (more on that in a sec) involves using the least words possible to explain something.

Look at all the highlighted words in yellow here:

Let’s actually address that last part, first:

  • “… creating a piece of content that serves as a lead magnet”

When you could just shorten it to:

  • “a lead magnet”

No need for the extra, clunky wording. Easy, peasy.

Then, go back and focus on the first (useless) expression being used.

“One of the best ways…” is so generically clichéd it hurts. And yet, you see this across so much marketing content today.

Other favorites that fall into this same category include “as you know… ” or “it’s no secret… ” or “as far as… ” or basically anything that follows “one of… ”

True, adding extra words here or there can help your flow or overall narrative.

Just like starting with the word “True…” in that last sentence.

But in general, cut it out.

If something “doesn’t need to be said,” don’t say it.

Here’s a final example that repeats both mistakes:

Ugh.

For those keeping score at home, that’s 27 (!) words used when only eight are required:

  • “A logo is like a shorthand for branding.”

You get the gist.

❌ 2. Relying on generic, overused, meaningless expressions

Why is it easy to fall into the trap of being too verbose or “over writing” an explanation?

Because you’re trying to tell people all about something, instead of just showing them.

Intangible concepts or ideas are hard to describe with words alone because they’re, well… intangible!

You’re struggling to conjure up the right phrasing because by its definition, it’s probably not the right way to explain it.

Most “filler” in today’s marketing content is guilty of this point.

Take this seemingly simple example:

  • “Either way, freelancing is a great way to build lasting networking relationships and get your name out there.”

Hmm…

Is it?

Has this person ever actually freelanced? Like, full-time? Professionally? At a high level?

Because if they have, they’d recognize the problems:

  1. What, exactly, are “lasting networking relationships”?
  2. How does one build “lasting networking relationships”?
  3. What, exactly, is “getting your name out there”?
  4. How do you do it?
  5. What’s the point (or the end result it provides to the freelancer)?

✅ Fix: Show, don’t tell

Instead of falling back on generic, overused expressions like “networking relationships,” show the reader what that actually means, like:

  • a six-figure Rolodex to call on for referrals”

This is concrete (“Rolodex”), focuses on the outcome (“six-figure”) and also alludes to the primary benefit (“inbound referrals”).

We’re visually painting a picture with words here to make the writing more interesting and useful to the reader who’s ultimate goal reading your content is to get their hands on the inbound referrals that stem from a six-figure Rolodex!

Here’s an excellent example of unpacking some generic buzzword “profit margin” into a concrete explanation that readers will actually care about reading:

Provide specific examples of what you’re talking about, otherwise, you’ll lose the reader by the end of your introduction.

❌ 3. Writing in the same style regardless of subject matter

There are certain rules for writing on the web.

You should write in shorter sentences. You should use simpler words. You should write in shorter paragraphs.

All are true!

And yet, there are still always exceptions to the rules.

Here’s Exhibit A:

Ok, stop.

We’re only three sentences in, and we’ve already alienated the less technical readers who’re stuck scratching their heads, wondering:

  • What does “CMS” stand for?
  • What does “accessible” mean, and how does it work?
  • How does a URL “serve as an online address” and what does THAT mean?

Normally, writing in short, simple sentences online is a good thing. However, not in this case.

If anything, writing this concisely is starting to actually backfire. Here’s why.

✅ Fix: Sentence length & sequencing dictates pacing (or how fast people read & consume)

We (mostly) write in short, simple sentences online because it helps people consume information faster.

People multitask online, with different windows and notifications and pop ups and devices in front of them at any one time. So they’re not slowly comprehending each and every word like they would a novel inside a library.

BUT…

Short, simple sentences can force people to miss the point if you don’t fully explain everything you’re trying to get across.

In the example above, it would be better to actually use more complex sentences that help fully explain each concept (CMS, accessibility, and online addresses respectively) before moving into the next one.

Because whatever you’re setting up after these three sentences will require the reader to understand those ideas, first.

So take your time here. Write longer sentences, using more words, to force readers to slow down and get where you’re going. Then, once you’ve got them onboard, plow ahead with shorter stuff to keep the pace moving.

❌ 4. Using jargon, and then not providing context to explain it

We just saw jargon like “CMS” be thrown around in the last example.

Generally speaking, jargon is OK to use when ~80% of your audience already understands it. Using jargon in these cases when talking to a very specific subset can actually help – subtly assuring the reader that you’re one of them. This ain’t your first rodeo.

In other cases, jargon should usually be unpacked and explained so everyone’s on the same page.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s tempting to dumb down when explaining. And this can also backfire, coming across as pretentious and talking down to them, or causing people to roll their eyes at Captain Obvious.

So here’s how to walk the line.

✅ Fix: Explain complex ideas without dumbing them down by using relatable examples reader’s would immediately recognize

Take something complex and technical, like the Internet of things, and try to explain it simply.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You’ll either fall into one of two traps:

  1. You fill up about 500 words trying to explain this intangible concept with a bunch random generic filler, or
  2. You don’t explain anything and hope the reader catches on without any context.

An example of the latter would be:

See? Not super helpful.

The best way to fill that middle ground is to use expressions or examples that your audience would instantly recognize.

So let’s try rewriting that sentence above with this in mind:

  • “That’s the problem with Internet of things (IoT) devices, your Nest doorbell camera might help catch a prowler but the same device in your child’s room turns hackers into peeping toms.”

Almost everyone reading this, regardless of your technical background, now understands a few things:

  1. You know that Nest is a well-known security company
  2. You know their doorbell camera-thingy can help watch out for burglars or porch pirates, and
  3. You now know there’s a danger with using this technology INSIDE your home, specifically
  4. That bad actors, like hackers, could use it to spy on your loved ones.

So the reader is able to infer complicated concepts like encryption, without actually even mentioning it or knowing how it works.

All you need to know is that something unencrypted could harm your loved ones, and that’s a huge problem that you’re not comfortable gambling with.

❌ 5. Writing about boring topics in a boring way

Let’s be honest with each other for a second:

Most marketing content is boring. Doesn’t matter the space. It’s not super sexy. It’s not that interesting. And our job each day feels like having to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Our eternal struggle, then, is to constantly find novel ways of describing the same things over and over and over again.

The challenge is in doing that.

As you’ve seen already, it’s easy to start calling into generic, meaningless expressions.

And it’s also seducingly easy to just let boring topics remain boring topics with boring descriptions. Like this:

C’mon. Where’s the personality? Where’s the whimsy? Where’s the fun?

✅ Fix: Use interesting phrasing or style or personality to make even boring points interesting to read.

Most marketers have amazing personalities.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that they seemingly lock those away when it comes time to put pen to the proverbial paper.

So let’s see it!

Unshackle that clever bastard, that smutty horndog, that patronly saint, that witty court jester. Give us something, anything!

Take something ungodly boring like “large parent web hosting company” and give us something that would actually get something (anything!) out of your reader, like:

  • “This company is just the latest in a long line to be gobbled up by the massive hosting conglomerate, Endurance International Group (EIG). Or, as it’s also known, where good hosts go to die.”

A bit over the top?

Probably.

But unexpected and unusual and interesting enough to actually be memorable?

Undoubtedly.

Conclusion: Lazy writing is generic, boring, ineffectual, weak, and forgettable. Don’t let yours fall into those traps.

Contrary to popular opinion, writing long marketing blog posts or articles doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth.

Yes, details are important in writing. Grammar needs to be clean. Your scene setup or adverb choice or plot points and dialogue are believable.

But at the end of the day, if it sucks to read, then none of that other stuff matters all that much.

Good writing doesn’t always mean the most organized or punctually-correct author wins.

Instead, it more commonly relates to how interesting or enjoyable something sounds.

Did it move the reader? Did they laugh or chuckle or pull in or gasp and slide back?

Every blogger and author and poet talks about storytelling.

But not enough are actually telling stories worth reading.

Don’t make that same mistake.

Brad Smith
Brad is the CEO of Wordable. His content has been highlighted by The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and thousands more.

About the Author

Brad Smith
Brad is the CEO of Wordable. His content has been highlighted by The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and thousands more.