Monday, August 27, 2012

Don’t pad your copy (1)

Don’t pad* your copy, especially if you are writing educational or instructional copy. Padding makes your copy less readable, less clear, and less credible. It makes you less credible. And heavy padding irritates and even repels readers.

Example of padded copy

Here’s an educational web page about modifiers, pronouns and participles. The page does contain useful information. However, the copy is heavily padded; for example, the author uses 171 words of padding even before getting to the topic.

The padding is cutesy, histrionic, and ungrammatical. And it contains incoherent imaginary dialog such as this:
Before we dive into our mirthful mayhem, let’s take a look at what writing is supposed to do. Anyone? Anyone know what writing is supposed to do? hmmmmm…yes, entertain, that’s a good one. Yup, inform. But what is the basic thing that writing needs to achieve. YES!!! oh yes!! *pumps fist in the air* COMMUNICATE…the more clearly the better. If we don’t communicate, we don’t…really, we don’t exist.
Many semiliterate writers believe that padding “funs up” copy. I will concede that there are probably a lot of semiliterate readers who find that sort of thing amusing. But it hinders serious readers; in the case of the example above, readers who are trying to learn how to write better.

The Takeaway: Whenever you are writing straightforward copy, such as educational or instructional copy, avoid padding. It’s OK to use personal examples, so long as they are relevant and illustrative. A little humor (grown-up humor) is OK, too – but don’t let humor overwhelm the information that you are trying to deliver.

See disclaimer.

*“To lengthen or increase, especially with extraneous or false information: pad a lecture with jokes; pad an expense account.” (Source)

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