Professional writers aside, the world is split into two distinct types of people. People who think they can write because everyone can write, right? And people who are physically terrified to scribble out so much as a post-it note for fear of offending the grammar police.
The truth is somewhere in between. Most people have what it takes to write leaflet copy, but with a few tweaks, they could vastly improve their style.
Spelling and grammar may not seem that important once you leave school or university, but getting it wrong can have consequences for your business. At best, people raise an eyebrow and think you ought to have proof-read better. At worst, people lose all trust in your brand, seeing it as a scam that’s best avoided.
Here we uncover some of the most common mistakes in leaflet copy that scream “amateur” and risk people turning off when reading.
Common Mistakes in Leaflet Copy
Using the wrong spelling for words which sound the same
English is full of words pronounced the same way but that have a completely different spelling or meaning.
These trip up even the most advanced writers. While they can explain the difference, and most of the time remember it too, when they’re rushing out a Facebook post or have a looming deadline, they forget to check.
Here are the most common homophones you should look out for when writing leaflet copy:
- It’s and its
It’s is a shortened form of “it is” while its is a possessive adjective meaning “belonging to it.”
It’s raining today = It is raining today.
The squirrel carried the pinecone in its teeth = the teeth belonging to it (the squirrel).
- There, their and they’re
There is refers to a place, or is part of the expression “there are”. Their is a possessive adjective meaning “belonging to them” and they’re is a contraction of “they are”.
You left your phone over there = a place away from the speaker
They left their shopping on the bus = The shopping belonging to them
They’re on holiday = They are on holiday.
- Where, were and we’re
While the pronunciation is slightly different for each depending on your accent, in some regions these three words sound identical, leading to problems when writing them.
Where is a question word or an adverb referring to a place. Were is the past tense of “are” and we’re is a contraction of “we are”
- Where are you going now? = To what place are you going?
- Stay where I can see you = Stay in the place I can see you.
- They were going on holiday but it got cancelled = Past tense of “They are going on holiday.”
- We’re over the moon = We are over the moon.
Wrongly positioned apostrophes
Apostrophes are still a cause of nightmares for many adults. Maybe your teacher didn’t explain it very well or you just never got it. Perhaps you understand apostrophes perfectly but you still mix them up when writing quickly.
These annoying characters are either used to show ownership or to bring two individual words together.
They’re never used for plurals (more than one of something).
- It’s raining = It + is
- My brother’s car is an Audi = The car belonging to my brother.
- I bought some tomato’s
- He sells TV’s and DVD’s
- Can you post some letter’s?
It gets a little confusing when you use a plural and an apostrophe in the same sentence. For example:
- My clients have arrived = More than one client (plural)
- My client’s car has arrived = One client (ownership)
When you’re referring to something belonging to more than one client, you use an apostrophe AFTER the S.
- I need to deliver my client’s leaflets = I have one client and I need to deliver their leaflets. (singular ownership)
- I need to deliver my clients’ leaflets = I have more than one client and I need to deliver leaflets for all of them. (plural ownership)
Copy that doesn’t flow
If your spelling and grammar is pristine, you may not be off the hook just yet. Writing perfect sentences in an order that makes no sense to anyone but you can be confusing and misleading.
If you read your own copy with fresh eyes a day or two after writing it, you may well find that it reads better if you move a couple of sentences around. To help with this, ask one of your colleagues or an honest friend to have a look over your writing and they will be able to tell you straight away if something doesn’t flow quite right.
Depending on what decade you learnt to type, you’ll have a different take on this.
For example, if you were actually taught to type, you probably maintain that there should be a double space after every full stop.
Anyone who learnt to type in the information age will probably assert that one space is correct.
We’re not going to take on that argument, since no-one seems to be able to agree anyway.
However, if you do accidentally leave a double space between words mid-sentence, this is an error and looks untidy, so make sure you delete any unnecessary spaces.
Using all capital letters in all your copy makes reading difficult. It may be a stylistic choice in your headers and call-to-action buttons on your website, but in your body copy (eg the paragraph text), smooth reading is hampered.
Before there were conventions for road signs, there were a wide variety of designs with no consistency. Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir were tasked with developing unified signage and introduced two new typefaces which we still use today.
The two new fonts were Transport and Motorway. Transport caused a backlash being in lowercase lettering rather than the more traditional capitals.
The reason this was introduced was to make the entire word shape more visible at a distance, something which is easier for our brains to decode than blocky uppercase letters.
In the digital world, we often perceive a sentence written in capitals to be aggressive, as if someone’s shouting at you.
Therefore, it’s better to stick to sentence case, where capitals go at the start of a sentence and in proper nouns only.
Overusing exclamation marks
There are copywriters who say that an exclamation mark in your writing is like laughing at your own joke.
We say that it’s okay to use one now and again, but don’t go overboard. When every sentence ends with an exclamation mark, or worse, three, then you need to read over your work and decide if it’s necessary to the meaning of the sentence, and if not, take it out.
These are a few pointers stop you irking potential customers so they come to you instead of your competitors.
What are your punctuation pet hates?
Read more like this: