How Your English Teacher and Corporate Boss Kill Good Copywriting

You’re probably thinking,”What’s he saying? My English teacher taught me how to write and my corporate boss critiques my business writing to improve it.”

It’s true, your English teacher did teach you how to write but not how to write marketing copy. And your corporate boss wants what you write to follow corporate editorial and content guidelines neither of which were designed to help you be a copywriter.

Read the following two pieces – one written the way your English teacher and your corporate boss would have wanted and  the other written the way a copywriter would write it.  Same  message but different delivery.


English Teacher/Corporate Speak

We are proceeding to communicate proactively with our team to teach quickly its members to strategize going forward more effectively. We will provide each team member with a cell phone with which he/she may stay in touch with his/her corporate team leader. However, the cell phone  can only be utilized for corporate communication purposes by the person to whom it is given. We will launch this program on a limited basis to assess its effectiveness and establish metrics before rolling it out on a national basis. If the national response meets our metrics, we will expand the program to encompass the globe.


We’re going to teach our team to plan better for the future. And we’ll give each member a cell phone to stay in touch with the team leader. But the cell phone can only be used for business by the person it’s given to. We’ll start small and depending on the results, go national. Then global.

Now your English teacher might have given you an A for the first one because you did not

  • Use contractions
  • Split infinitives ( a little awkward avoiding it with “to teach quickly its..” “to quickly teach” would be better, don’t you think?)
  • Start a sentence with And or But
  • End a sentence with a preposition
  • Use a fragment
  • You did use the passive voice.  Teacher would not be happy but would recognize that sometime the passive is OK.

Your boss would have given you an A because of your use of corporate speak terms such as proactive, strategize, utilize and the confusing and tortuous format of the piece.

Which is easiest to read and understand? That’s what you need to worry about as a copywriter. Not fine points of grammar, jargon, and meaningless expressions.  You’re trying to sell somebody or some business (which is represented by somebody) something.  You want to come across as a friend in a bar not some college professor who loves big words. You want to sound like you’re having a conversation not a sales talk.

Be conversational not professorial and the money will flow.

Til next time.






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