They’re Sucking the Life Out of Your Copy, No Really!
Adverbs –you don’t need them, really, you don’t. Just avoid copywriting with adverbs, and you’ll write better copy. Without adverbs, your copy will be powerful, your copy will be engaging, and most of all, your copy will capture your reader’s attention.
Not convinced? Here’s two sentences. Which one conveys a stronger message?
- Adverbs are really bad for your copywriting, and you should really avoid adverbs in your copy. (16 words)
- Adverbs kill your copy. (4 words)
If you picked #2, Hooray! Imagine confetti falling from the ceiling. Sentence 2 has no adverbs in it (except, of course, the word “adverb”, but it’s functioning as a noun). Sentence 2 grabs the reader and makes him feel something, good or bad. And, isn’t that the purpose of copy — to connect and make your reader feel something? Because if they feel something, you’ve set the hook and can now reel them in. Sentence 2 is the stronger copy because it is engaging, it’s powerful, and it captures the reader’s attention.
What is an Adverb?
As a writer, I’m sure you probably know the definition of an adverb, but there’s a part of the definition I want to focus on.
An adverb is defined by Merriam-Webster as
a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial…
Remember the part in red; it’s important.
3 Reasons to You Should Stop Copywriting with Adverbs
Reason Number 1: Adverbs modify and weaken words.
It’s right there in the definition — adverbs modify words. Modifying wastes and weakens words.
Looking at the two sentences above, you’ll see sentence #1 has 16 words. As sentences go, it’s grammatically correct, but it uses the word “really” twice, the word “adverb” twice, and the word “copy” twice. If you’re using words more than once in a sentence, chances are it needs revising. Not only that, somewhere along the way, sentence #1 will make your reader mentally yawn. It’s just that boring!
Sentence #2 has four words. Why is the number of words important? If you’re trying to grab someone’s attention, then the words you choose must be precise. People are distracted. How many times have you seen someone walk into another person, pole, or door because they’re looking at a phone? Precise words, not modified words, capture a distracted person’s attention. So, when you use precise words, you’re more likely to get the reader to pay attention to your copy.
Sentence #2 also makes you feel something. You could be saying to yourself, “Nuh-uh, I use adverbs all the time, and my writing works”. Or, possibly, “Wow, I didn’t think that adverbs were that bad”. Whatever you’re thinking, I made you feel something, and that’s what copy has to do to set the hook. Now, you’re more likely to buy.
Reason Number 2: Adverbs keep you from picking the right verb.
Action verbs are power words. Here are three action verbs: sprint, strut, saunter. Don’t you see a person moving in your head? Each word relates to a person’s movement but draws a different picture. A person strutting is completely different from sauntering, and a sprinter is rushing towards a finish line. That’s the power of an action verb at work.
When you use an adverb with a verb, you’re weakening the power of the verb. You’re using more words to say less. Let’s look at these two verb phrases below:
- effectively cleans and sanitizes surfaces of viruses
- destroys and eradicates viruses
In verb phrase #1, “effectively” is the adverb that modifies the verbs “cleans” and “sanitizes”. Verb phrase #2 has no adverbs.
So, I ask you, which one draws a picture in your mind? That’s right! #2 paints the best picture. If you’re like me, right now, I want to destroy and eradicate every virus so life can get back to normal. In my mind, I see a microscopic commando group killing germs. Again, I’d bet you’d be more likely to buy what verb phrase #2 is selling.
Reason Number 3: Adverbs make your adjectives wimpy
As copywriters we use adjectives as our paint brush. Adjectives help to connect with the reader, grab his attention and make him feel. Here are two examples:
- You’ll sparkle and shine at prom in Essentials navy, sequined maxi-dress.
- You’re sure to be a hit a prom with this very lovely dress.
For our prom dress ad, sentence #2 uses the adverb “very” to modify “lovely”. The adjective, “lovely”, modifies “dress”. Sentence #1 does not have any adverbs in it.
Sentence #2 makes me yawn. On the other hand, Sentence #1 speaks to the teenage girl who wants to be a princess on this special day. Imagine a gawky, awkward teen seeing this ad with a picture of a sparkling sequined maxi-dress. Suzy teenager imagines herself in this dress. She wants to be elegant for one night; she wants to sparkle, not be very lovely.
So you see, adverbs weaken our words, keeping us from capturing the reader’s attention. If our copy can’t capture the reader’s attention, then surely they won’t buy what we’re selling. And, isn’t that the point? Let’s hear what you have to say about avoiding copywriting with adverbs.