The worst copywriting in Britain

If you had to vote, who would you say were the worst business writers in Britain? Who writes the words that are hardest to understand, the most ingratiating, the inappropriately chatty, or the seriously cringeworthy?

We’d put estate agents up there as strong contenders for the prize.

They have a bad case of ‘But this is how we all do it!’ Followed by, ‘No one will take us seriously if we don’t do it properly.’

There are a few who decide to be funny about it, and put some jokes in. That rarely works.

We all know what they mean:

  • bijou = tiny
  • generously proportioned = it takes more than three paces to cross the room
  • an up and coming area = don’t go out after dark
  • in need of some modernisation = a right dump

And the worst thing is that it doesn’t help to advise them to write the way they would speak to someone, because they’ve started to talk like that too.

It’s not a property, it’s a flat, or a house, an office or maybe a barn. But no one outside the industry talks uses property in everyday conversation.

‘I can’t wait to get back to my property and put my feet up.’

‘Come over to my property and I’ll make you a coffee.’

A different language

Here’s one from this week’s newspaper:

Located on the borders of Ealing, situated in a sought after area, a substantial Victorian double-fronted residence, extensively refurbished, remodelled and restored, offering flexible accommodation over three floors. A family residence of considerable charm and character. Elegant hall, cellar, smart well-fitted kitchen / breakfast room with designer French doors, rear sitting room with designer French doors onto garden, dining room, reception room and cloakroom / utility room. The property has four bedrooms suites, all en suite. There are two balconies (1st and 2nd floors) overlooking the well established, beautiful south-west facing rear lawned garden of approx 82’which has paved terraces, borders with a profusion of mature plants, shrubs & trees and with a feature ornamental pond. Former garage and forecourt paving. Total approx. floor area of 3257 sq ft / 303.5 sq M.

Questions you could ask:

What happened to the garage? Is it paved? How many sets of designer French doors does the rear sitting room have?  What’s the difference between refurbishing, remodelling and restoring? How does it work with all three together? How elegant is the cellar? How many reception rooms are there, really?

Imagine you’re in the market for a large house in West London, what do you really want to know? You might rewrite it like this.

Lovely detached Victorian house in West Acton. The owners have done a lot of work on its restoration and remodelling, and kept its period charm. All four bedrooms have their own bathrooms; two have balconies that overlook the sunny garden. On the ground floor there’s a large sitting room at the front, two more reception rooms with French doors leading to the garden, plus a nicely designed fitted kitchen/breakfast room.

The beautiful 82’ south west facing back garden has a lawn, paving, well planted borders, trees, shrubs and a pond.

You also get a cellar, a utility and storage room, a garage and a paved front garden for parking. The house has its original porch and a large elegant hallway.

We’d love to run workshops for estate agents, to help them write like people again, but we fear that they’re actually quite proud of their art.

What do you think?

Are there better contenders for the prize of worst copywriting? If you know of one, let us know…