Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When Good Testimonials Go Bad: 15 Words to Avoid

How to avoid the most common copywriting mistakes
when writing testimonials for source approval

By Susan Kendrick

This is the third in a series of three articles on testimonials: getting them, writing them, and now avoiding the most common copywriting mistakes in testimonials for your book cover, website, and all your book marketing.

The excerpts below are from the first article in my Copywriting Fitness Series I'm writing for the Independent Book Publishers Association, IBPA, (formerly PMA). This article will be published in its entirety and posted online on February 20, here and on the

First, the Good News
The good news is that, among all the copywriting mistakes you can make, the one that will do the most damage may also the easiest to spot and fix: exaggeration. Yes, you want that sizzle that makes people buy. Just don’t let the sizzle burn you!

... Here are some examples of the kinds of overwriting and exaggeration that you need to avoid when writing testimonials for source approval because they will make those testimonials work against you instead of for you. You don’t want to risk damaging your reputation, your book’s reputation, or the reputation of those people who are giving you their support.

Examples of What to Avoid

To stress benefits of your book, use copywriting that highlights those benefits in a way that is believable, specific, and relevant. In other words, avoid doing the following:

* "This author is celebrated around the world as the leading expert on ___________."

Really? Around the world? The leading expert? This had better be true. Unless you are Tony Robbins, reel this one in and be more specific: “He speaks to and coaches organizations in the United States and ## other countries on how to _________.”

* “The author unleashes unprecedented power in all individuals who follow her methods.”

Really? Unprecedented, as in never before possible? And in all individuals? Stop the presses! Surely no other books on personal power are needed because readers finally have the single answer that works for everyone. How about replacing that copy with: “Her methods are helping individuals face financial change [or whatever the right specific is] with new levels of confidence.”

* “The steps in this book will improve every area of your life quickly and easily.”

Really? Every area of my life? Quickly and easily? Sign me up! I sure hope I’m not disappointed when I get to the last page and my life is pretty much the same as when I started. Don’t give self-help a bad name. Be specific in your claims: “The steps in this book provide simple ways to be more respected as a partner, parent, and co-worker.”

Build your copywriting muscle and take control of the credibility that great quotes can give your book. The book gets the credibility boost it needs, and the people kind enough to lend you their good names to it looks good, too.

The Word Gym Anti-Exaggeration Checklist
15 Words to Avoid in Your Copywriting

World renowned

- Check for word length. Sometimes the longer the word, the bigger (too big) the claim.

- The bigger the claim, the more you need to support it by being believable, specific, and relevant.

- * Use “First” and “Only” only when this is absolutely, positively, demonstrably true, in which case, you should not only say so, but say so loud and clear.

To ask a question or for help writing testimonials for your marketing materials, feel free to contact me at

Happy Publishing!
Susan Kendrick

Write To Your Market, Inc.

© Copyright 2008, Susan Kendrick, Write to Your Market, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.writetoyourmarket.com/ 1-715-634-4120.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is a great little resource, one of the best in the world! Seriously though, it is tempting to over do the gush - it will help me with people I have asked to write testimonials.