First, a short quiz …
Of the two sets of sentences below, pick the one sentence from each set that seems as though it would more effectively serve a marketing or advertising piece (or any piece, really).
1. Our Acme space-saver products will help eliminate clutter in your office.
2. Our Acme space-saver products will eliminate clutter in your office.
1. Give Staff Savers a call! We’ll ease the burden on your overworked staff!
2. Give Staff Savers a call! We can help ease the burden on your overworked staff!
I don’t know about you, but I want the Acme space-saver product that is determined to do the decluttering (option #2). I don’t want the wishy-washy company that’s going to “help” me declutter my office. So when it comes to writing your copy: Be bold! Be assertive! Be confident! And be certain to eliminate the word “help” from your copy!
Same goes for Staff Savers. I want the Staff Savers that will ease the burdens of my overworked staff (option #1). I don’t want the Staff Savers that’s going to “help” ease the burdens. Just take care of it, OK? Staff Savers is either going ease the burden or they’re not going to ease the burden. Don’t give me any of the “help” wordiness! (I’m sure you now understand why this article is branded as “Confessions of a Persnickety Editor.” I am presently searching for a 12-step program. I’ll keep you posted.)
Another short quiz …
Of the three sets of sentences below, pick the one sentence from each set that garners your confidence.
1. Thank you for being patient. Now let me get to the point I am trying to make.
2. Thank you for being patient. Now here’s my point.
1. In preparation for the meeting, he got his copies that he got from the internet and then headed to the conference room.
2. In preparation for the meeting, he retrieved his copies that he downloaded from the internet and then headed to the conference room.
1. He placed all the awards on the banquet table, and then he had the opportunity to take a break.
2. He helped by placing all the awards on the banquet table, and then he got the opportunity to take a break.
I’m confident you’re wise to where I’m going with all this. But if you need reassurance that you chose the best sentence — #2, #2, #1.
The word “get” (and its many forms, e.g., got, gotten, getting) is considered a lazy man’s verb. When I come upon the word “get” in any written copy, my first thought is, “Someone was in a hurry to finish writing this copy.” Then I wonder whether the writer lacks imagination … or maybe the writer isn’t really a writer at all, but simply someone posing as a writer. And then I move on to, “I would have chosen this verb … or that verb … or any other verb except ‘get’!”
This persnickety editor becomes quite annoyed by the overuse of the words “get” and “help,” especially when they are used in advertising or marketing copy. In truth, any copy!
Challenge yourself. The next time you find yourself using the word “help” or a form of “get,” immediately try to find a better way to state your meaning without using either of those words. Do you get where I’m coming from? (Do you understand what I mean?)
So, whereas this article is titled “I Can Help Get Your Copy Perfect,” taking into account what you’ve just read, what would you rename this article?
How about, “I Can Perfect Your Copy!”
Persnickety Editor’s Disclaimer: Of course there are instances where the word “help” is needed. For example, “If you need our help, just ask,” or “How long until help arrives?” As for the word “get,” well, just forget it. If you think you can’t forget it, and you have a sentence to prove that, enter it below … and the Persnickety Editor will provide a rewrite for you.