Cheap Tricks in Copywriting

Don’t let jargon poison your copy; it doesn’t make you look smart, it makes you look wonky

Consider the following:

  • argumentum ad hominem
  • argumentum ad populum
  • argumentum ad misericordiam
  • argumentum ad baculum
  • argumentum ad crumenam
  • argumentum ad ignorantiam
  • argumentum ad captandum vulgus

These terms sound so stately. If someone knows what they mean, they must smart and well-educated – maybe they know something that can help you.

But these are nothing but cheap tricks.

You probably already know what an ad hominem attack is – it skirts the issue by attacking the person connected to it; threatens them into backing down.

argumentum ad populum appeals to your need to belong. Everyone else is doing it. 34,000 others in your field subscribe to it. Etc.

argumentum ad ignorantium is one of the most outrageous – it’s when someone claims something is true because it has not been proven false.

These terms are the jargon of logicians.

Our jargon is similar in that it was created for an innocent reason – it’s shorthand. It makes complex concepts easier for the professionals thats deal with them daily. 

Then something a little less innocent happens – the jargon acquires the veneer of “insider badge”. 

This is why the police talk in jargon. This is why I sometimes talk in jargon (“content marketing strategy” – guilty). And why you might too. It says:

  • “I have a system for dealing with this complex problem”
  • “And I am a part of a special group of people.”
  • “I’m smart”

But here’s the problem – your audience doesn’t have to deal with those complex problems and concepts; you do. They do care that you are smart, and part of a special group of problem solvers – but there are better ways to convey that.

Don’t let jargon poison your copy by presenting it without context – that’s a very cheap trick.

Instead, introduce your jargon and explain what it means – that’s a lovely trick. It will also give you the opportunity to create your own definitions that will help your audience better understand your business.

My best