Beware Numpties Bearing Brackets

Want some terrible advice?

I mean, gut-wrenching stuff that’ll cost you sales?

Okay – go hang out in copy forums.

Caveat first: there are some good forums out there. Great ones too, if you know where to look. But most are full of cretins taking advice from semi-cretins…because in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Take yesterday. Some copy blogger posted a piece on “The Power of Parentheses” (or brackets to you and me).

She made an interesting point to start: that they can add a second…more human…voice to your copy. So you can give factual info in regular text, then a quickie aside in brackets.

As in:

You’ll love our quality windows and doors. (Well, maybe ‘love’ is a bit strong, but we think you’ll like them heaps).

Fair enough. That’s a warm little touch…so you get the point across, without plain old cheesy sales talk.

So I thought, “Yep, with you so far”.

But then…she offered this:

We think you’ll love (well maybe not love, but you’ll really like) our quality windows and doors.

And what’s wrong with that?

Bingo! The bracket comes mid-sentence.


So instead of a pleasing aside, we’re now stuck with a whopping great embedded clause. Confusing the hell outa readers, who want to skim through the copy without wasting brain power.

So let’s make this clear:

Your English teacher will have told you, embedded clauses are fine. But they’re not fine. Not in copy, at least.

Because you’re fighting to hold the reader’s attention.

So make reading difficult, and it’s game over.

Embedded clauses are evil. They say, “Hey let me tell you about this thing (no hang on, park that for a minute there’s this other thing) anyway back to that first thing”.

Use brackets or commas to carve up the sentence, it’s all the same – it knackers the easy read.

So you want people to read your stuff? Don’t do this – ever.

On pain of death.


Look, I need to get out a bit more. I know that. But you get my point, yeah?

Or points:

1 – Embed no clauses, capeesh? Or we’re gonna fall out.

2 – I’ve said it before, but choose your sources. There’s crap advice everywhere, disguised as common sense.

This forum numpty did the embedding thing umpteen times in one post. Then in comments, a dozen or so said “Ooh I love that, I’m gonna do it too”.

Numpties multiply.

And crap advice hits epidemic heights.

Scary times we live in. So let’s be careful out there, my little squirrels.

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is...but you've probably read his copy. Through high street clients like Hidden Hearing, or big gun marketers like Jonathan Jay and Chris Cardell. His words are out there, pulling in new business every month. What else? Well his books, Do You Talk Like That at Home? and Direct Mail 101 will help you squeeze out more sales. Oh yeah - and his new book Before You JFDI will help you plan your next campaign. Grab a free copy here.

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