Or the garage, or your desk. The best copy is nasty neat in its Spartan efficiency. It’s trim of excess words and punctuation. It compels through specificity—without TMI. It neither rambles nor says too little. And it’s easier to de-clutter your copy than get motivated to clean the garage.
In copywriting, less is more. If it’s possible to shorten anything—sentence, paragraph, headline, a trail of acronyms after your name—do it. Clear, concise copy keeps readers engaged. Paragraphs cluttered with unnecessary words and awkward phrasing confound readers and make them stop reading.
Unnecessary words are symptomatic of vaguery. Be clear. Be concise. Be direct. Search and destroy lapses into passive voice. Sure, the passive voice has its place, but it’s not a substitute for past tense. Consider these two sentences:
I drank three dirty martinis.
Three dirty martinis were drunk by me.
There’s an almost drunken quality to the passive voice in the second example, as if the writer has temporarily forgotten where to place her subject.
Weird, excessive, unexpected punctuation is another drag on the reading consciousness (semicolons are not interchangeable with commas). And if you’re a commaholic, read your copy out loud. When you hear how choppy it sounds, you may kick the habit.
Randomly capitalized words also make readers stumble, popping up out of nowhere, challenging the laws of grammar and logic. People tend to capitalize words they deem important, like their titles, also their professions, and ANYTHING for emphasis. In fact, titles should be capitalized if they appear before the name, not after, and never in the middle of a sentence. And an em dash will do if there’s something you’d like to emphasize—like how important it is not to write in all caps unless you want to come off sounding like a 12-year-old girl.
Cleaning up your copy is so much easier than cleaning out the garage. Just remember, from commas to capitals to word count, less is more.