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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Clients and their corporate waffle copy text

    I'm sure many web designers here have received copy text from your client and when you first read through it you discover it's the biggest load of corporate speak, and you have to know the lingo to understand it.

    Recently I had one such client. The site was aimed at providing travel services for normal working people working in the marine industry, typically cabin crew, cooks, entertainers etc. My client arranges transport to get them home after a long voyage.

    So the opening statement on the home page reads something like...

    "[Company name] understands that the often resource-constrained, time-critical and complex nature of our clients markets and our ongoing commitment to understand our valued clients requirements enables us to consistently deliver high levels of reliable integrated solutions"

    What a load of tosh! Your average cabin crew person or ships cook isn't going to understand a word of that.

    It took several attempts to try and get them to rewrite it into a clear consise message that was easily scan read and understandable. I believe thats it's still not perfect on the live site even though I tried my hardest to convince them about users scan reading content.

    I know there are a ton of articles about writing for the web but what what experiences have you had with these sorts of clients? Have you got any copy text gems that you want to share?

  2. #2
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    Perhaps there are some resources out there (in the usability field?) that explain the benefits of simple, concise statements - without sacrificing the message that is trying to be said, of course.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Yes there are resources about and I've pointed clients to them - but either they don't bother to read them or they simply can't understand the concept!

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot Vertexity's Avatar
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    I think the problem a lot of new online companies have is that they look to bigger companies and try to imitate them in a false belief that if they appear to be successfull that they will land bigger clients etc..

    In a lot of cases, and for example, if you are just a person sat at home designing web pages for people, why not just state that on your site? What's wrong with "Hey, I'm just a guy making some designs - Im not a big company and I don't charge big company prices" A lot of clients will prefer a more personal approach when looking to hire someone, they would prefer to speak to the same person each time rather than being passed around like somebody that called the wrong number.

    Too many people are too quick to use a thesaurus these days...

    IMO Anyway
    Dave McNally
    Freelance Digital Illustrator & 3D Artist
    Vertexity.com

  5. #5
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    Vertexity, didnt you mean, An excess of humans are overly rapid in their deployment of synonyms in the current epoch
    The pisstakers humor blog covers web and tech stuff.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot Vertexity's Avatar
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    That's one way of putting it

    By name, by nature I guess lol.
    Dave McNally
    Freelance Digital Illustrator & 3D Artist
    Vertexity.com

  7. #7
    SitePoint Addict palgrave's Avatar
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    It's about finding a diplomatic way of saying, "If you could write good copy you would be a copywriter. Stick to running your business and I'll stick to giving you a good website".

    You're absolutely right bluedreamer:

    it's the biggest load of corporate speak
    Why not offer copywriting as part of your package, explaining the benefits of good copy. Web designers can't do everything (graphics, SEO, marketing, copywriting, development) but are usually in a good position to sub-contract these services and take a cut.

    Why? Because SMEs think, "I need a website therefore I need a web designer."

    In my experience when a copywriter is mentioned, they think I say "copyrighter" ie someone who sorts out the legal aspect of the site and its content belonging to them!

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by palgrave View Post
    Why not offer copywriting as part of your package, explaining the benefits of good copy. Web designers can't do everything (graphics, SEO, marketing, copywriting, development) but are usually in a good position to sub-contract these services and take a cut.
    Yes you're right and I'm coming to the conclusion that I should be offering copywriting services as well. As you say, designers can't be everything (even though that's what many clients expect...lol), most of us are probably "jack of all trades" to a certain extent already!

    PS - I'm dying to see if anyone else has any other quotes!

  9. #9
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    Unfortunately I don't have any of my own quotes but have read enough on the web to know that when someone waffles on with language like that they are either extremely expensive and I go somewhere else or a start up that doesn't have a clue. If a site is branded, then it's the former, if it's someone I've never heard of then I go elsewhere regardless.

    It really doesn't make sense to write in such vague terms; I'm a big fan of plain, understandable English and I don't understand the need for all this to try to make themselves sound better than they are. This is especially true outside of the Internet, in text books for example where the problem is almost like a viral infection - one leading author does it, and then everyone does it. It means you usually have to rewrite half their books in your own words to properly understand the text for the benefit of having to write an exam in it. Very sad situation and the web is following it seems.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Guru bronze trophy
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    Bullfighter is a buzzword checker you can run text through just like you validate code.

    There used to be another buzzword checker just like a validator, where you could point to the generated bloviating. With a seperate "geek" and "suit" score subsections. You could also have a badge showing your score, like the XHTML, CSS, ETC badges. Having such public disclosure is the only way to change things.

  11. #11
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    Bluedreamer: I regularly have a hard time a compliance manager at a large financial institution I freelance for. He phones me up and says "the copy is great, Bill - I've just added a few bits and pieces and sent it to the printer". My heart always sinks because I know that his "bits and pieces" are corporate gobbledegook, and it's too late to rescue it from distribution. The terrible thing is that his line manager sees this terrible BS he's added and assumes it's me!
    Check out my copywriting blog at www.billhilton.biz!

  12. #12
    Carpe Diem = Fish of the Day fisherboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billhilton View Post
    Bluedreamer: I regularly have a hard time a compliance manager at a large financial institution I freelance for. He phones me up and says "the copy is great, Bill - I've just added a few bits and pieces and sent it to the printer". My heart always sinks because I know that his "bits and pieces" are corporate gobbledegook, and it's too late to rescue it from distribution. The terrible thing is that his line manager sees this terrible BS he's added and assumes it's me!
    Try sending all text in a protected PDF file so they have to retype before they can edit. It might discourage last minute changes?

    My approach is to present the client with the copy and ask them to check it for factual errors only. If they object to the writing style, I will rewrite it for them.

    Then again, I stay well away from corporates.
    fisherboy
    Web Site Design

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by fisherboy View Post
    Try sending all text in a protected PDF file so they have to retype before they can edit. It might discourage last minute changes?

    My approach is to present the client with the copy and ask them to check it for factual errors only. If they object to the writing style, I will rewrite it for them.

    Then again, I stay well away from corporates.
    You're very sensible! The problem with your otherwise excellent idea is that PDFs would provoke complaints that I was being difficult. Also, there's usually a large volume of editing that needs to be done on the product details - as opposed to the actual sales copy - so it would triple the amount of time I had to spend on the job. One of the difficult things about the banking sector is that everything has to be filtered past a compliance department. Its job is is to make sure that outgoing copy is completely watertight from a legal point of view and won't upset the regulators.

    Frankly, I wouldn't work for them at all, if it weren't for the big upside: they spend money like it's going out of fashion.

    Nice fish, by the way :-)
    Check out my copywriting blog at www.billhilton.biz!

  14. #14
    Carpe Diem = Fish of the Day fisherboy's Avatar
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    Frankly, I wouldn't work for them at all, if it weren't for the big upside: they spend money like it's going out of fashion.
    If they pay well..... the customer gets what the customer wants!!!! If they want to stuff up your fine handiwork I guess you just have to grin and bear it.

    I understand the frustration though and I guess it makes the work a little less satisfying as a result.

    Off Topic:

    The fish is a Dolly Varden, caught in Alaska. I don't seem to have any good photos of me with my favourite prey - trout.
    fisherboy
    Web Site Design

  15. #15
    SitePoint Evangelist old_expat's Avatar
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    I believe it was Mark twain who said something like, "I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have time."

  16. #16
    SitePoint Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by old_expat View Post
    I believe it was Mark twain who said something like, "I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have time."
    Montaigne. Now there was a man who teach 21st century bankers a thing or two about expressing themselves clearly. Only I don't think he spoke English, and I think they'd struggle with 16th century French.

    A Dolly Varden - cool. I used to fish for pike when I was a kid.
    Check out my copywriting blog at www.billhilton.biz!


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