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.
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.