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Freelance Writing for Greeting Cards:
Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes to avoid

  • Poetry - With poetry, the writer uses her own words to express her own feelings or thoughts. With greeting card sentiments, the writer gives her words to everyone else so they can express their feelings or thoughts. Editors rarely use poetry so avoid trying to be a poet.
  • A rhyme needs a clear message - When composing a rhyme, it can be easy to forget that the copy needs a clear me-to-you message.
  • Cliche - When writing conventional prose, be careful you don't fall into the cliche trap. Well-worn phrases are usually avoided by editors. A book on cliches can show you what to avoid. Conversely, cliches in humor often work well. Browse card racks to get a better idea of what works and what doesn't.
  • Not following guidelines - This can include a bunch of mistakes, such as not sending enough sentiments, sending too many sentiments, not submitting in the requested time frame, not including a SASE. Read and follow the publisher's guidelines carefully.

Why sentiments don't sell

  • The sentiments need to have a clear message - in the context of a me-to-you relationship. Jokes, facts, or prose may be funny or true, but if it's not personal communication, it won't work.
  • Humor that isn't - Your idea of humor may be too offbeat or narrow for the general consumer. What you've written may be outrageously funny to your circle of friends but not to the wider audience. Humor is subjective and can be difficult to judge. This is where experience pays off.
  • Limited idea - Your sentiment may be good, but not fit the company's lines. For example, you have composed a very clever Grounhog Day verse but the company has focused on major holidays.
  • Old idea - It's just been done too many times.
  • Are the sentiments appropriate for the company? - Sending risque copy to a religious greeting card company won't work. Many companies have specific needs and are in a particular genre. Pay attention to the company's guidelines.
  • Clumsy wording - The idea may be great but it doesn't flow well. Use your thesaurus.
  • Too suggestive, mean-spirited, or uncouth - Sometimes what passes for humor can be downright mean. And something too sexy or gross won't make it.

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