One Copywriter's Pet Peeve: Lazy Copy

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Every writer has pet peeves that make him or her cringe. I actually have two.

The first one is “I want to thank…” It must just be me, because I see it and hear it all the time. Every time I do, my instant reaction is “Well, then why don’t you do it if you want to?”

The other pet peeve, however, I believe is simply the sign of a lazy writer. It marks someone who can’t be bothered to tell the whole story. It’s also generally an untruth.

What is the word? “Needs.”

Everywhere you look you can find ads that say “Call on us for all your (whatever) needs.”

Why can’t the writer take time to tell what the business or person actually has to offer? Especially since no one business or person can take care of all of anyone’s “needs.”

I specialize in writing marketing copy for the real estate industry. If I wrote an ad that said “I’ll take care of all your copywriting needs,” I would be offering a false statement.

For instance, if someone called on me to write a newsletter about the stock market, I’d say no. Ditto for a technical manual about an electronics product – or about how to do coding on the Internet. And, there are some subjects I wouldn’t write about for any amount of money.

I also don't write product inserts or catalog copy - or government pamphlets!

When a Realtor says “Call me for all your real estate needs,” that’s probably just as false. Some agents handle residential real estate and some are experts at commercial and business transactions. Some sell farm and ranch land while others wouldn’t have a clue about how to do it. Some do property management and some do not.

And, aren't mortgage loans "real estate needs?" Few agents provide those.

Even if someone can handle almost anything that comes up, it’s more effective to spell it out and let those potential customers see what he or she has to offer. Why make them guess, especially since the “needs” word is so often ill-used?

We’re all busy today, and often in a hurry. So when we go in search of someone to do a job for us, we’re more apt to at least begin the search with someone who says they do what we want done. Not someone who will simply take care of all of our “needs.”

For instance, a residential plumber may be available to plumb an entire house from start to finish, or to make repairs – or both. He or she may or may not be available for emergency service in the middle of the night.

A graphic designer may specialize in creating posters or book jackets or headers for web pages – but also be willing to design your business card or the logo for your letterhead.

No one said it was easy not to be lazy...

If you offer many services, it can be a trick to convey all you offer in the space of a business card or a small ad. But work at it. Use your creativity to at least categorize your offerings. And if you have space in an ad, at least mention the tasks you most enjoy performing.


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Comments (35)

Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Marte Cliff - I am sure people just copy what they see. If someone uses 'needs', few others would do the same.

Lazy? Maybe not. Perhaps the lack of creativity. And who wants to spend money on creating something new?

May 25, 2017 09:17 PM
Marte Cliff

Only those with confidence and a determination to succeed, Praful Thakkar.

May 25, 2017 09:55 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

The claim to do "all" of anything is usually not true. 

May 26, 2017 03:58 AM
Marte Cliff

Kat Palmiotti - Exactly. I have yet to meet anyone who has the knowledge and skills to do "everything" in any given field.

May 26, 2017 06:42 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Yes, those lazy need statement are annoying, and they certainly don't communicate much.  It's better if you can actually explain what you do.

One of my pet peeves is "we specialize in..." and then they say everything (e.g we specialize in residential and commercial real estate. )  That basically tells me a) they don't specialize at all (master of none) and they need to improve their language skills (and perhaps not very well educated).  Drives me bonkers.

May 26, 2017 04:09 AM
Marte Cliff

Debbie Gartner Perhaps they sometimes forget that the purpose of using words is to communicate something.

May 26, 2017 06:44 AM
Janelle Ancillotti
Seneca Home Staging - Syracuse, NY
HSR Certified Home Stager, Syracuse, NY

"Any and All Needs" was the name of a one-person business my husband hired to do some handyman work. He soon realized the name should have been "Jack of all Trades, Master of None".

May 26, 2017 04:22 AM
Marte Cliff

Janelle Ancillotti - That's generally the way of it when you know a little bit about a lot of things. Master of none.

May 26, 2017 06:45 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
& Host of Postcards From Success Podcast

Marte Cliff I want to thank you for pointing this out, especially about any needs.

You reminded me of my pet peeve of speakers: "I just wanted to say..."

Then say it!

Great post and thanks for the kick in the pants to leave lazy out of my posts!

May 26, 2017 04:30 AM
Marte Cliff

I agree Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor, CRS " I just wanted to say..." is much akin to "I'd like to thank..."

If you want to, and no one is stopping you, then just do it!

May 26, 2017 06:47 AM
Chris Lima
Turtle Reef Realty - Port St Lucie, FL
Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you.

Thanks for a great post, Marte.

May 26, 2017 04:37 AM
Marte Cliff

Thanks for reading it, Chris Lima 

May 26, 2017 06:47 AM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty

Marte Cliff "Even if someone can handle almost anything that comes up, it’s more effective to spell it out and let those potential customers see what he or she has to offer."

Right on target - and - re-blog!

May 26, 2017 05:16 AM
Marte Cliff

Thank you Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers!

May 26, 2017 06:48 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

This is why we often have multiple attachments to our listings...MLS does not allow enough room to explain the WHOLE house !

May 26, 2017 05:20 AM
Marte Cliff

Sally K. & David L. Hanson - Since MLS is now on line rather than printed in big books, I wish they'd all get smart and allow you both the space to write what needs to be written AND the ability to create paragraphs for easier reading.

It's just silly to cram 1,000 characters (or whatever they allow) all into one long paragrah.

May 26, 2017 06:50 AM
Matthew O'Hare
Osterville, MA

Lazy communication seems to run rampant in today's society.

May 26, 2017 05:54 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes it does, Matthew O'Hare - there are a whole lot of words running around that don't communicate a darn thing.

May 26, 2017 06:51 AM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Your pet peeve of people being lazy is a common one. Many agents are copy cats and have never been shown how that affects their results.

Thanks for a good reminder.

May 26, 2017 06:41 AM
Marte Cliff

John Wiley I don't suppose too many agents are into split testing, so they'll probably never know how it affects them.

That's kind of like knowing the cost of NOT writing a thank you note or NOT staying in touch with past clients. You can't know unless you have a means of comparison.

May 26, 2017 09:08 AM
Dave Halpern
Dave Halpern Real Estate Agent, Inc., Louisville, KY (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Very well said. The more you tell the more you sell.

However, I wouldn't call agents lazy. Writing copy is generally not our expertise and for many of us we just need to collaborate with third-party experts when crafting important marketing material.

Personally, I find it very difficult to write good property descriptions for the MLS public remarks field. 

Could you create a tool that would help us convert dry technical descriptions of property features into an exciting and inviting description?



May 26, 2017 06:57 AM
Marte Cliff

Dave Halpern That's an interesting question. My task for this morning is to write a property description for a high-end home in California. As I'm doing so I'll pay attention and see if I can think of a way to create a tool for that.

The big problem for most people is that the description needs to go into MLS and the space is so severely limited.

May 26, 2017 09:10 AM
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Broker
Elizabeth Anne Weintraub, Broker - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Can't say I've ever tried that approach but I've certainly seen it, Marte. Generally I close blogs if you're interested in selling a home, call Elizabeth. If I'm writing about investment properties, I might change it to if you're interested in selling a rental home. I don't want people to wonder what I do.

May 26, 2017 07:21 AM
Marte Cliff

No, Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents - you sure don't want them wondering what you do. You want them to know what you do - and that you do it well!

May 26, 2017 09:11 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Nothing to argue about here, Marte. All great points to make us think about what we say and write. Nothing like clarity about our calls to action.

May 26, 2017 04:11 PM
Marte Cliff

Nina Hollander If we'd strive for clarity in all we say and write, there would be far fewer misunderstandings - even with friends and family.

May 27, 2017 09:25 AM
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty and Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

Nice blog, Marte Cliff . I learned a few things and will try to imlement them immediately in my writing. Congratulations on being featured!

May 27, 2017 05:35 AM
Marte Cliff

Thank you Nathan Gesner - I appreciate your sentiments.

May 27, 2017 09:26 AM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

It's easy to slip into commonly used copy and phrases. YOu bring up a good point about 'needs'.  The focus should be on what you can do for the customer, perhaps something like "I can help with finding that special older home in X area' or "Do you know a senior who plans to downsize? That's one of my specialities"

May 28, 2017 03:34 PM
Marte Cliff

That's it exactly, Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR.

May 28, 2017 03:37 PM
Thomas McCombs
Century 21 HomeStar - Akron, OH

Well said! I see so many blurbs written by Realtors which actually impart no information whatsoever, but do make claims that you know can't be accurate.

May 30, 2017 04:23 AM
Marte Cliff

Thomas McCombs - I think they teach that kind of writing in schools. When my firstborn was in high school he used to laugh about how easy it was to write a thousand word report and get an A - without saying a darn thing.

May 30, 2017 09:17 AM
Mick Michaud
Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107 - Granbury, TX
Your Texas Lifestyle is Here!

I want to thank you for an insightful article.  I may get around to it some day.  :)

I totally agree with that one.  And the "Call me . . . " (I'm a door mat, use me, abuse me, whatever).  I hate that. 

Be selective and focused. 

And seriously, thanks for putting words to the frustration.

May 30, 2017 11:05 AM
Marte Cliff

I thank YOU, Mick Michaud - for reading my ramblings!

May 30, 2017 11:16 AM
Thomas McCombs
Century 21 HomeStar - Akron, OH

Well said! I see so many blurbs written by Realtors which actually impart no information whatsoever, but do make claims that you know can't be accurate.

May 31, 2017 05:18 AM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

It is true, we often do not think what exactly we write.

No more "I want to thank'' and needs from me. 

Thanks Marte! 


May 21, 2019 10:23 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Inna Ivchenko I may be one of only a handful of people who think "Then why don't you do it?" when people say they want to thank...

As for "needs," sometimes it is really difficult to avoid, but I try.

Meanwhile - I like that photo! Is it new, or have I just not been hanging out on AR enough lately?

May 22, 2019 09:58 AM