I bought a new mobile handset. Shopping around online my search was momentarily halted as I stood, slack jawed with distress, staring at this entry on the Virgin Mobile website.

“This is every social butterfly’s dream phone. Whatever you’re into, it’s already stuffed with apps for things like Facebook and Bebo, to help keep your world in check. There’s also a full QWERTY keyboard, expandable memory for your photos and music, and a 2 megapixel camera to stock up your snaps.”

First of all I have to admit I may not be their target market. Because reading this product descriptor they clearly have a teenage girl in mind. Like, I get the thing, right, when you do that thing, when you try and be down with the yoof, right. Which would be OK, if it worked. But it doesn’t. And, as someone who’s written her fair share of product descriptors (I’m responsible for the green knitted dinosaur amongst others at Ollieandforbes.com) I have little sympathy for such sloppy copy. Here’s where I think they’ve got it wrong:

  • Weasel words: ‘Whatever you’re into’. Really? OK if I use it to download images of child abuse? Be a bit more specific. And stop patronising your audience. Even a 12-year-old can cope with a few facts e.g. instead of ‘stuffed with apps for things…’ how about ‘Pre-loaded with apps to let you tap into social networking sites’?
  • Assumptions: ‘Expandable memory’ might be a familiar term to mobile phone manufacturers but not your average buyer. Sell the benefits not the feature. If you mean you can take the memory chip out and put in one with greater storage capability, say so.
  • Too cool for school: ‘Help keep your world in check.’ No idea what this could mean, or how a phone could have this power. Accusation: Overselling its features into God-like claims.Verdict: Guilty.
  • Wrong meaning: ‘Stock up your snaps.’ Great, I’d like to stock up. Point me in the direction of the shop. Oh there isn’t one? Perhaps you meant ‘store ‘ not ‘stock up’?

Of course, it’s easy to criticise. I’m putting my words where my mouth is. Here’s my new improved version, and it’s a whole one word shorter:

“A social butterfly’s dream phone. Pre-loaded with apps to let you tap into social networking sites. Full QWERTY keyboard for easy emailing, a 2 megapixel camera and if you run out of space to store all your photos and music the memory chip can be replaced for a larger one.”