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Avoid Lawsuits: Choose Your Words Wisely

Across the globe, copy editors and designers collaborate efficiently to create detailed marketing pieces for projects and events. Whether you need a simple flyer for a birthday party, invitations for your wedding, or engaging emails and websites for your business, they work together diligently to create eye-catching, error-free collateral that will effectively reach your audience.  However, copy editors will quickly recognize that the copy you’ve provided may be misleading to any audience, ultimately placing you in a possible (and unpleasant) legal situation. Below are three ways you can protect yourself and the ideas you are marketing, while successfully reaching your desired audience. 

Deliver What You Promise

If you are offering a service, make sure that the ad you have created does not guarantee something that it cannot. If you have a carpet cleaning business, for instance, and you state in your ad that you use “top-of-the-line cleaning materials that will get rid of stains — guaranteed,” your customers will expect your business to use those types of cleaning products AND remove the stains completely. “Top of the line” implies that the cleaning materials are the best on the market, and “will” means “expected or required to,”  implying that no matter what — whether a stain has been there for 10 days or 10 years — your carpet cleaning service will be able to remove the stain.

If you know that the cleaning service you offer may vary slightly depending on the client’s needs, you can use  “can” instead of “will,” since “can” means “to have the possibility to”; as a result, you are not necessarily promising customers that every single stain will be removed. There’s almost always an exception to guarantees. Changing the copy in this way could ultimately protect you. Additionally, mention your website and social media pages on your ad so your audience can be directed to more information about your services (and those possible exceptions). These same principles can be applied to marketing events and products as well.

Add Disclaimers for Reference 

Now that your potential customers know your carpet cleaning service uses “top-of-the-line cleaning materials that can get rid of stains,” let’s give them a little more information before they contact you. That’s where disclaimers come in. Disclaimers are often referred to as the “fine print” that’s printed or listed at the bottom of an ad. Most people don’t read them unless they want to know more about the product or service they desire to purchase or the event they plan to attend. If there are certain conditions that apply, place an asterisk (*) or superscripted numeral (2) after the word or phrase that needs further explanation. For the carpet cleaning service scenario, you can add an asterisk or superscripted number after “stains” and place a disclaimer in the footer:

Ad copy:

Our carpet cleaning company uses top-of-the-line cleaning materials that can get rid of stains.*

Footer of ad:

*Depending on the type of stain and the length of time the stain has remained on the carpet, the stain may not be removed completely. Inform us of the history of the stain before services begin.

Legally, the disclaimer can protect you and the business to a certain extent, while letting customers know up front that there are conditions that they need to consider before moving forward.

Seek Legal Advice

Now that the copy has been revised and disclaimers have been added, consult with a lawyer or a business owner who has experience adding legal content to ads. Have them look it over to make sure your bases are covered, and you will mostly likely avoid lawsuits in the future.

#seekinglegaladvice #usingdisclaimers

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