In this post, we’re continuing the eight-week series to help all business owners sharpen their copywriting skills. Throughout this series, I’m so excited to be sharing my knowledge with you all on effective copywriting. My ultimate goal from the series is to make sure that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tools that you need to write your copy effortlessly and with the confidence that you’re going in the right direction.
This is week four of the series, and we’re tackling the topic of “empty copy.” I believe that words matter, and I want us to really analyze those words we use in our copy without really thinking about what they mean or what we’re saying. This is all about writing intentionally.
What is Empty Copy?
Empty copy refers to the idea of using words without intention, or without thinking about the meaning that they carry. Maybe we’re not sure of the meaning of the words we’re writing down, or maybe they carry a definition for us but have a totally different meaning to our readers.
I call this copy “empty” because that’s exactly what it is. It’s devoid of a purpose, and we’re using this copy as filler without providing any real value to our reader. This can be really damaging to your business because you’re putting weight on the words without anything to actually support that weight.
An example of this that comes up a lot is the word “authentic”. Someone will put out the statement, “I’m a business coach for women who want to authentically run their business.” What does “authentic” mean there? Is it immediately clear? Not really!
Authentic could have a lot of different meanings. For example, think of the phrase “authentic copy”. Maybe it means your copy will be more original, or non-sleazy. Or maybe it means the copy will sound like it was written by the business owner and not a copywriter.
As you can see, there are many ways a reader could interpret this word. However, instead of trying to decipher the word and what it means to them, the reader may actually just skip over it altogether. This is because it holds no meaning for them. And that means that the overall statement is pretty weak.
That’s why I want to really zero in on the issue with “empty copy”. When we think we’re putting out a robust statement, it can really end up leaving us with a message with zero extra context.
How Do You Know When You’re Using Empty Copy?
There are a few things to look out for to understand if you’re falling victim to empty copy in your messaging. It can be hard to identify, but I have a few tells that you can look for.
The first thing to look out for in your copy is the use of jargon. This is defined as special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand. They’re simple for you to understand, because you’re specialized in what you do. However, they won’t be easy for your average reader to grasp.
Let me give you an example of this. One that I struggled with is the word “funnel”. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what a funnel is. And that shows that your audience could be struggling with that same issue. Sure, maybe they are attracted to your messaging around earning a passive income and that may hook them, but you could lose them with the word funnel because they have no idea what it even means.
Another thing to look out for is clichés. These are phrases or opinions that are overused and, thus, display a lack of original thought. When it comes to empty copy, this is a word that is thrown around so much that its intended meaning becomes unclear. As referenced before, authentic is an example of this. This is because it’s so overused in our industry and can no longer be universally defined.
Another example of this is the phrase “we’re passionate about”. It’s easy to TELL someone you’re passionate about something – and businesses are doing this all the time. Simply saying you’re passionate about something doesn’t pack a punch. Instead, it’s something your reader will glance over without a second thought. Instead, show your audience you’re passionate. Give them examples of the fact that you’re excited and driven by the work you do.
Examining Your Messaging to Eliminate Empty Copy
So now that you have a few things to look for, how do you effectively examine your own messaging to identify and eliminate empty copy? Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” for this – it really depends on your industry and your intended audience.
In general, you need to do a gut check when you’re looking over your messaging. If you’re using a term and not sure if it resonates with your audience, why not ask them? Go into a Facebook group or use the question box on Instagram to see what people respond to. Ask something like, “what does the word authentic mean to you?”
If you get no responses, you’re probably not nailing it. If you get varied answers, it confirms that there’s no clear universal definition in the way you’re using it.
Another way I like to check my own copy is to do the grandparent test. To perform it, I think about reading my copy to my grandparents. Would there be any words that would make them go, “What’s that?” If so, that is empty copy! Of course, use your best judgment while doing this, but it’s a good rule of thumb to use!
Crowd-Sourced Overused Terms
I took my own advice and tapped into my audience on Instagram to see what terms they think are overused and cliched. Here are the top contenders I saw:
- Dream Life
I just found it interesting and thought you’d like to be in on what I’m seeing!
Today’s Coffee Break
For today’s “homework”, I want you to pull up your “I help” statement and do a gut check. Do you notice any language there that could be considered empty copy?
If you aren’t sure: ask! If you think something is, can you find a synonym or a better way to explain that term or phrase?
For example, if you see the word “authentic” and want to replace it, really dig into what you mean by “authentic”. Map it out, journal, and see if there’s a common thread that keeps popping up to explain what you TRULY mean.
Take your time with this assignment! It’s so important – every word in your messaging counts. But it’s not easy to refine copy and find the emptiness there, so really put the effort into it.
Thank you for reading! If you love what you learned, be sure to connect with me over on Instagram and share your biggest takeaways. I’d love to hear from you!
And if you need some guidance on how to structure your copy for social media & MORE, check out The Copy Template Shop! See you back here in the next post — and remember, I’m rooting for you, always.
Meet the Host
Welcome! I’m Megan Taylor — copywriter for online entrepreneurs, bookworm, and founder of The Copy Template Shop. I believe that anyone can write strong copy, and I’m here to teach you how to write words that sell your online offers while prioritizing real connection, serving your audience, and simply being who you are.
Grab my free Website Copy Roadmap and learn my five-step process to writing website copy that connects with & converts dream clients.
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