Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don’t pad your copy (2)

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 instructional web page about the abbreviations Cc and Bcc. Like the example in a previous post, the page contains useful material but also a lot of puerile, time-wasting padding. For example:
The fuzzy copies [the copies made via carbon paper] were called “carbon copies.” You knew your worth as a human by which copy you received. If you got copy #3, the super-fuzzy copy, you knew you were scum, and would have to sell your kidney to make your payment on your wood-panel station wagon.
The language used in the padding on this web page is less histrionic than the language in the previous example, and the grammar is better. But this web page is more irritating in one way: it promises a “quick and dirty tip,” leading the reader to expect straightforward instruction, but delivers a lot of padding anyway.

The Takeaway: Whenever you are writing straightforward copy, such as educational or instructional copy, avoid padding. A little humor (grown-up humor) is OK, 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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