Okay, you all know that I work as a copywriter and ghostwriter…which means I write for other people. Sometimes books, sometimes email funnels, sometimes web pages or TedTalks (yes, I have written a political speech before and it was kinda’ sappy)…
And it’s weird writing for other people because you want it to sound like them. I pay attention to their phrasing, their syntax, their personality, the way they see the world…and their word choice. Even when I don’t agree with it. Especially when I don’t agree with it! Because I have to make sure I still get it right.
But I’ve always been fascinated by the line between what a copywriter will and won’t write. For example, in the past I’ve helped sell products that I knew didn’t work or weren’t actually worth the hype…was that ethical?
So in 2019, here’s what I won’t be writing:
“Pimping yourself out”
This has become such a common phrase for anybody writing about entrepreneurship and being shameless in selling yourself. As in, “don’t be afraid to pimp your offering,” And honestly, it’s just plain offensive, it’s alienating to women and I don’t think people find it as relatable as we all pretend to.
There are many other ways to talk about the importance of hyping up your own offerings or being your
“I’m addicted to helping others”
Addiction has become a cultural shorthand for anything that we like a lot or feel passionate about…like our smartphones, or lip balm, or yoga. Which is a little ironic given that our culture tends to brush aside the seriousness of addiction and treat people with addictions like they’re just lacking on some “good old-fashioned” willpower.
If you want to describe the sensation of really really liking something or feeling unable to stop doing something (like using your phone), just say that. Describing it as an “addiction” is insensitive, overdramatic and a little overwrought.
“Lose those last five pounds”
i.e. Any reference to dieting, losing weight or trying to fit in those “goal weight” jeans.
This became an issue last year when I was hired by an awesome company who just happened to use dieting references frequently in their sales copy (even though they were selling something that had nothing to do with dieting). Even though I loved their product and believed in their mission, I just couldn’t get right with how frequently they used diet language to talk to women. They felt like that kind of language was the most effective way to engage with women…and so eventually I told them they needed to find a new copywriter.
Seriously, though, it’s INSANE how much dieting is used as a reference. Like, skipping that second slice of birthday cake references willpower. Or being unable to button your jeans as a way to describe feeling frustrated with yourself. Finally lose that baby weight as a way to describe living your dream life. It’s like we can’t figure out how to talk to women without making it about their bodies. If I want to sell a dream life to a female, I need to describe her body because who can have a dream life without a dream body!?!?!
What are the obligations of a writer? Or a copywriter? If people normalize certain types of language, does that give me a pass to write it? If I’m being paid to share somebody’s story and opinion, at what point am I responsible? And if so many other people are writing diet cliches and subject lines about being addicted to Pumpkin Spice Lattes…does it make a difference if I do or don’t? Is it worth it to have one less “pimp” reference in the world?
I guess that’s where I landed on this, and why I’m going to be more selective about what I write in 2019: I may not choose what my clients think or say, but I can choose the words I put into the world.
And so can you.