Cure a case of marketing fluff with the substitution test

I’m sure you’ve read them: press releases, articles and brochures that are full of vagueness, meaningless phrases and marketing-speak. The substitution test offers you a simple way of reducing the likelihood that your next piece of writing will be described as ‘marketing fluff’. You might expect a good copywriter to never be guilty of creating that kind of anodyne, buzz-word laden fluff, but even a good writer needs to be on his or her guard. When we write technical case studies or award entries our clients, there’s an almost irresistible urge to use the words like ‘solutions’ or ‘systems’ and the like. While such words do represent the concepts we’re trying to articulate there’s a real risk of the text becoming a bit too, shall we say, fluffy.

A good test to apply when writing material that contains any kind of technical content is to use the substitution test. It’s very simple:

  1. Wherever the name of the product, service or company that you are writing about appears in your copy, substitute the name of an entirely different product, service or company
  2. Does the text still make sense?

If the answer to question 2 is ‘more or less’, you should probably look at tightening up some of the text. If the answer to question 2 is ‘yes’, rework it; your copy is almost certainly suffering from a severe case of marketing fluff and it’s time to get the red pen out. If you’ve got a good example of marketing fluff, why not share it in the comments?

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