My Copywriting Christmas List: 5 Writing Mistakes I Asked Santa to Eradicate This Year

Happy Holidays, all! Please enjoy this joyfully cranky Christmas list from one of our top copySmiths. She’s wrapped at least a dozen copywriting insights inside to transform your copy in the new year.

Dear Santa,

I’m writing you this letter as a last resort. (Not that I think you’re unimportant or incapable; just that I am a grown-up, and it’s probably kind of weird getting a Christmas list from a 44-year-old.)

Anyway, I’ve tried everything I can think of to get the things I’m asking for. I enlisted my boss’s help; I posted requests–friends called them rants, but whatever–on my Facebook page; and I taught writing classes to third graders in the hopes that they would make my Christmas list unnecessary in the future. I’ve even taken up yoga and meditation so I don’t lose my marbles before December 25th, when I know you’ll grant my Christmas wish. That’s because I believe in you, Santa.

So here it is, the Christmas wish that I wish I didn’t have to ask for at all: Eradicate heinous copywriting.

I know it’s a big ask, but please, for the love of Rudolph, I’m begging you. I really can’t see another incorrect possessive pronoun or read another keyword-stuffed blog, and I most certainly can’t suffer any more hard sells or indecipherable industry jargon.

On a side note, you might wonder why the list of offenses I’d like you to eliminate does not include the most obvious marketing content crime–writing boring content. Under this umbrella are things like being too general, listing product specs versus offering value propositions, and taking a college term paper tone.

I didn’t ask you to anhilate boring copywriting because I didn’t want you to think I was selfish. The problem is so prolific and its causes are so far-reaching that wiping it out would take up almost all of your time. I’m a good person, Santa, and I don’t want all the world’s children to go giftless because my gift was all-consuming.

Also, I realize, Santa, that you’re busy this time of year and will be more inclined to grant my request if fulfilling it is easy. The same is true in content creation! (Consumers signing up to emails and newsletters and such if the form is quick and simple, see?) But be warned: “Obliterate boring copywriting” will be No. 1 on my 2019 Christmas list.

In case you’re not sure how to get started on this task, a list of the most egregious copywriting errors is post-signature. If you have any questions, you can call me at (347) 686… Wait, what am I doing? You have my number. You have everybody’s number.

Thanks in advance, Santa. My bleeding eyeballs and semantic sanity appreciate it.

Amanda Cargill

P.S. Merry Christmas.

Skipping the Spell Check (and All Other Proofreading)

Santa, this should go without saying, but sadly, of all the egregious errors I see on the internet, this is the one that boggles my mind. Typos? Clunky sentences? Verb-subject disagreement? Seriously, this must be stamped out.

Writing In

What do I mean by “writing in,” Santa? I mean content that starts with long-winded paragraphs that waste my time and solve no problem. I mean, I’m reading for a purpose. That purpose could be anything from comparing mobile phones to researching political candidates to sourcing jewelry from my New Year’s Eve outfit. Content should tell me up front how it will fulfill my purpose–after, say, a short paragraph or two. If it doesn’t, zap it, Santa.  

Over SEO-ing (aka Keyword Stuffing)

As a former SEO specialist, I know how important SEO is, both on-page and off. But it shouldn’t trump legibility. A human being is content’s end user, and a human being decides whether to purchase or comment or sign up or whatever else a brand wants him or her to do. Keywords in titles and headers and keywords sprinkled throughout body copy are cool. But Santa, look out for wall-to-wall keywords. That’s the stuff to scrub.

Pushing the Hard Sell

Call to action? Yes. 1950’s-style advertising proclamations that tout the “Best product ever!” in all caps followed by 8,000 exclamation points? No. Of all content-related transgressions, Santa, this one most hits me where it hurts. Why? Because it’s an affront to subtlety and nuance, to the creative language and deft turns of phrase skilled writers employ to seduce readers. It’s a heavy-handed hard sell practiced by charlatans, and Santa, it’s something I just can’t abide.

Showing Off with Industry Jargon

A question for you, Santa: Do industry jargon and insider language make you like a product better than another? Like, when you’re comparing drum sets and bicycles and Kindles for kids? Personally, they don’t make me trust a brand; they make me think its writers are insecure showoffs trying to prove how much they know. It’s a total turnoff that, to quote Shania Twain, “don’t impress me much.” Please, Santa, make it stop.

I’m asking a lot, I know, so if you need help in executing all of this, I’d suggest you email the copywriters at Marketsmiths. Like you, they get the job done.


Amanda Cargill

Amanda Cargill

Amanda Cargill is a Brooklyn-based writer, video producer, and marketing communications strategist specializing in food, travel, culture and lifestyle content in domestic, multicultural, and international markets.

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