Copy Matters: Copy That Sucks

Copy Matters: Copy That Sucks

April 19, 2012 by

This is part 13, the final post, in our Copy Matters series.

We’ve come to the end of our little series on copy. Hopefully you’ve learned something. If you haven’t, then at the very least take a look at this list of pet peeves and avoid them at all costs. Otherwise you’ll have copy that sucks.

Anyone who has done writing and editing for any length of time has their share of pet peeves. Here are a few of mine. If you want to make your writing better, avoid them.

Avoid the insider lingo. Nobody knows what you’re talking about. Justification, sanctified, narthex, host, transubstantiation… these are not words you can just throw around. Use plain English.

The only exception is if your audience is very familiar with them—but word to the wise: Your bulletin is read by everybody, and everybody does not know what transubstantiation means. The handout for a small group? That might be the place to pull out the big words.

Churches have a tendency to write with cheesy, overused metaphors, ideas and jokes. Lose the kitsch. Don’t try to be clever or cute.

Exclamation Marks
How much you love Jesus is not determined by how many exclamation marks you use.

What’s In It For Me?
Copy should relate to the person reading it, not the person writing it. Figure out what’s important to them and talk about that. Often what the church staff thinks should be in the bulletin and what the person in the pew wants to see are two very different things.

Tell a Story
Church announcements don’t have to be boring. Tell a story. Make it engaging. Give people something they won’t get anywhere else.

The single greatest way to make your copy seem more professional is to be consistent. Even if you’re doing it wrong, do it wrong consistently:

  • Do you use PM, p.m. or pm?
  • Do you abbreviate the books of the Bible or not?
  • Do you put the ‘www’ on a url?

I don’t care how you answer these questions—just answer them and be consistent. Create a style guide, share it with your staff and whenever you’re in doubt consult it. If something isn’t in your style guide, make a decision and add it.

Typos & Mistakes
It happens to the best of us, but do your darndest to avoid them. Read your copy out loud, find someone else to read it, create a proofing team. Whatever it takes to avoid spelling errors, typos and silly mistakes.

I Don’t Care About Grammar
Notice that none of my pet peeves have to do with grammar. I’m not a grammar Nazi. Things should sound right and be correct, but what really matters is having engaging copy.


Getting Started: Copy Matters - "Bad writing tries too hard to impress."

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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3 Responses to “Copy Matters: Copy That Sucks”

  • Dan Smith
    April 19, 2012

    Christianese bugs me to no end. I’m not a church communicator, but I pity the ones who are that use too much of this sort of lingo. How many people do we alienate?

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  • Eleanor
    April 20, 2012

    “How much you love Jesus is not determined by how many exclamation marks you use.”

    AMEN. (All caps are pretty trite, too, it should be pointed out … )

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  • Ronaldo Patrocinio
    April 23, 2012

    One of the problems with Christianese stems from the fact that a lot of well-meaning Christians spend time to really have simple conversations with people outside the church.

    The other problem is that it also reflects our own shallow understanding of such concepts: when we fail to translate/express such high falutin words in simple language, it goes to show that we never really understood what they mean. Either that, or we’re too lazy to bother. And if we’re too lazy to bother or care, then our church communication is just a matter of self-pleasing self-expression.

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