Copywriting 101: Repetition is Not a Bad Thing
Some copywriters may be under the mistaken impression that repetition is an unwritten taboo, or that it panders to the lowest common denominator for one reason or another. The truth is that well placed repetition can actually help tie together an article in a way that few other tools can. The trick is knowing when and how to insert repetition in a good way and how to remove ‘bad’ repetition. In order to make these changes possible, one should start by creating a working definition of what constitutes ‘bad’ and ‘good’ forms of repetition.
Bad repetition is when sentences all use the same sentence structure without any justifiable reason. For example: ‘Apple makes great products. Apple makes laptops. Apple makes desktops. Apple makes media players. Apple makes…’ oh my god stop already!! This is bad repetition. Simple sentences are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but this could have been made into a simple sentence such as: Apple makes great laptops, desktops, media players…’ and so on. Readers see this kind of repetition and it becomes boring incredibly fast.
A good copywriter will never forget that the attention span of their audience may not be as long as they would like it to be. Here are some solid pieces of advice to live by:
- Sentence structures should never be repeated, especially one after another, without very good reason.
- Look at the first word in each paragraph for repetition as well. Large-scale repetition is just as bad as sentence by sentence repetition.
- Use tools to find words and phrases that are used too frequently as well, and a thesaurus to fix this particular type of problem.
Good repetition can work something like this: I love Apple. Apple Loves me. Apple gave me a new iSomething-or-other to review. Apple loves you too…because they didn’t make me sign an NDA!!!’ The repetition is less obvious and it moves the narrative forward in a slightly silly way that also increases the pace initially and then slows it down. Readers can feel that pacing and are likely to respond accordingly.
This is not the only great example of good repetition. For example, if one was reviewing the latest iSomething-or-other from Apple and had a constant theme or narrative that was worth following, then returning that narrative time and again is a good idea. Perhaps the device is an early pre-release prototype or there is some other important caveat worth mentioning, feel free to mention it whenever relevant to other points being made. Perhaps the item being reviewed does not perform as expected….but that is probably because it is a production model. It would have been nice to see this feature or that feature…hopefully the production model will have this or that tweak made before it hits the salesroom floors.
This kind of repetition is perfectly acceptable, and even a good idea if one were to go on a diatribe about some critical flaw or exception. Going off on a somewhat-related tangent can often be a great way to create unique content and thus add some value to a site, but that tangent should be returned to the core issue. Repetition to bring the audience back after a tangent in a manner that feels organic and natural. The same can be said for pieces that will go off on multiple tangents to explore different ideas and concepts more thoroughly.
Signs of ‘good’ repetition:
- The repetition is moving the piece forward, perhaps towards a joke or gag.
- Each sentence is a piece of logic to a larger puzzle. For example: Adam loves Sue. Sue loves Joe. Joe loves Adam…LOVE TRIANGLE!
- Certain similarities or trends need to be illustrated or exceptions to trends. For example: Bob went to the convention at 8:15, and was ready to work at 9. Sue arrived at 8:15 and was ready to work at 9. Joe arrived at 9 and got fired
So, a little repetition of our own here: remember that not all repetition is bad, and not all repetition is good. Learning to tell which is which is a great skill that will keep readers interested and help one construct stronger articles that are more coherent.
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