Full Stop Copy

The official notebook of Full Stop Copy, an Atlanta-based web shop specializing in copywriting and content strategy. Enjoy.

 

Steve Zissou, Captain of the Bellafonte, on bad form copy:

If you’re not against me, don’t cross this line. If yes, do.

I think this joke falls into the “it’s funny because it’s true” category. Some people really do talk and write this way, especially on the web. Just the other day I encountered the following form:

So how do I tell them that I definitely do not want them selling my information? I think I know the answer, but I can’t be entirely sure.
Bad writing is frustrating for the user, but in cases like this, it erodes whatever trust may have existed between user and site. As the user in this scenario, I suspected that they wanted this to be ambiguous; after all, why would anyone want their information to be sold? If they make this question confusing, then more people will answer it incorrectly, and they’ll make more money selling information.
End result: I bailed on this form. I don’t want my information to be sold, and while I appreciate that they asked me about it, I don’t appreciate the subtle complexity of their form. I can’t tell if they are being tricky or if they’re just bad writers. Either way, I didn’t send the form, so their copy resulted in at least one failed conversion.
Note to writers: avoid double negatives and question marks in form copy. When it comes to yes/no questions, there’s absolutely no excuse for ambiguity. 

Steve Zissou, Captain of the Bellafonte, on bad form copy:

If you’re not against me, don’t cross this line. If yes, do.

I think this joke falls into the “it’s funny because it’s true” category. Some people really do talk and write this way, especially on the web. Just the other day I encountered the following form:

A bad form with an ambiguous check box.

So how do I tell them that I definitely do not want them selling my information? I think I know the answer, but I can’t be entirely sure.

Bad writing is frustrating for the user, but in cases like this, it erodes whatever trust may have existed between user and site. As the user in this scenario, I suspected that they wanted this to be ambiguous; after all, why would anyone want their information to be sold? If they make this question confusing, then more people will answer it incorrectly, and they’ll make more money selling information.

End result: I bailed on this form. I don’t want my information to be sold, and while I appreciate that they asked me about it, I don’t appreciate the subtle complexity of their form. I can’t tell if they are being tricky or if they’re just bad writers. Either way, I didn’t send the form, so their copy resulted in at least one failed conversion.

Note to writers: avoid double negatives and question marks in form copy. When it comes to yes/no questions, there’s absolutely no excuse for ambiguity.