How do I become a medical copywriter

Effective promise in texts: How to deal with it correctly

The majority of Germans now look for information on the Internet before going to the doctor or pharmacy. With the help of Dr. Google diagnoses yourself or searches for symptoms, medications, and therapies. Product descriptions, guides and lexicon articles on the subject of medicine and health are therefore increasingly in demand. These texts are not only a challenge due to the complex topic and the research, because usually there are customer instructions, Avoid promises of action. But what exactly do you understand by a promise and how do you deal with it correctly when writing? What do you have to pay particular attention to? Are there any pitfalls? You will learn all of that in this tutorial. We provide you with the tools you need to successfully write texts in the medical field.

Real promise: why are they so important?

A promise of action is quite literally an effect that is attributed to a product. Most of the time, texts in which these promises are relevant are commissioned by manufacturers or sellers such as internet pharmacies for their portals. They should provide the reader with well-founded information and create a positive impression. However, that does not mean that advertising language is desired - on the contrary.
The handling of advertising and promises in the field of health and medicine is strictly governed by the Medicines Advertising Act regulated. Because a reader who suffers physically or mentally and is looking for relief or simply has little idea of ​​the matter can be easily influenced. In order to protect the consumer from unfair advertising, there are therefore legally precise limits to what such advertising texts can promise. Would you like to write advice, write product descriptions in the medical field or describe the latest anti-aging cream in the cosmetic field? Then you should deal more intensively with the topic of “promise of effectiveness” in order to be on the safe side. We have briefly summarized the most important points of the law for copywriters:

  • Avoid misleading advertising: The text must not promise any effect that the product cannot be proven to have.
  • Don't play with the reader's fears: The text must not persuade the reader to buy a product by, for example, suggesting that not using the product is harmful to health.
  • Avoid non-verifiable or factually incorrect information: If a mode of action has not yet been proven or even refuted, it must not be suggested in the text.
  • Make no promises of success: Do not create the impression that using the product will always be successful.

In summary, it is important that the reader receives correct information and is not confused. Carelessly formulated promises can quickly turn into misleading advertising. This in turn leads to warnings or injunctions. In the case of advertising texts on medicines, food supplements, wellness and, in some cases, cosmetics, you should therefore generally exercise caution with regard to promises of any kind. Food or household products that have an impact on health are also affected by these regulations. The reader must not be misled by the statements made in the text.

What exactly does that mean for my texts?

The work begins with the research: Gather serious, well-founded information trusted sources. Anyone who does not own or cannot borrow books can be found online on portals such as the Pharmacy magazine, NetDoctor or similar websites useful articles. When it comes to the exact effect of a product, it is best to refer to the manufacturer's information if in doubt.
When composing the text, always assume the understanding of the average consumer. It must not be wrongly given the impression that a certain effect is certain to occur. If an effect is promised in the text, it should also be able to or have been proven using recognized scientific methods. In such a case, it is best to refer directly to a corresponding study or to the manufacturer's information. Be careful not to use outdated test results or studies as they can be considered misleading. There is no precise regulation here, but as a rule of thumb: If there is a more recent study, reference must be made to it - even if its results may be less advantageous.

Alternative formulations - how to avoid promises of effectiveness

To be on the safe side, be open about the truth. If an effect has not been proven with certainty, a corresponding, clearly formulated note is sufficient. There are also three other ways of avoiding promises or putting them into perspective in such a way that they cannot be classified as misleading or unfair advertising.
Addressing the desired effect of a product can hardly be avoided in an advertising text. Such statements should always be accompanied by certain descriptive keywords be put into perspective. For example, instead of writing "The product burns fat faster," you could say that "the product was designed to burn fat faster". These formulations do not promise a real effect, but suggest an intention or an impression. These keywords include expressions such as:

  • "The product contributes to this"
  • "The product supports"
  • "The product was developed to ..."
  • "The product is mostly used to ..."

Weaken promises of action by using Subjunctive or modal verbs from. Constructions with “can”, “should” and similar words are stylistically not very appealing. In moderation, however, they can be used to soften such formulations. The promise “The product stops the urge to cough” becomes the much more harmless sentence “The product can help to alleviate the urge to cough”.
Avoid those often used in advertising language Exaggerations and superlatives: In advertising, one would like to put the product in the right light and present it as well as possible. Ultimately, the reader should be encouraged to buy. In medical texts, however, this quickly leads to promises that the product cannot deliver. Therefore, make sure not to fall into the typical advertising language.


So much for theory. A few text examples will show you what these cautious phrases look like in practice. In example number one, the first sentence promises a clear, in any case to be expected effect. That would be a clear promise of effectiveness and must therefore be toned down by an alternative formulation. The second sentence describes the purpose for which the product was developed. However, no statement is made as to whether and in what probability the effect will occur - because you as a copywriter cannot know that in case of doubt and therefore cannot promise:
Not like that:"The spray penetrates the skin quickly and protects the skin from sunburn."
But as:"The spray was developed to penetrate the skin as quickly as possible and thus protect the skin from sunburn."
In example 2, too, a definite effect is promised in the first sentence. In the second formulation, the promise is weakened:
Not like that:"Thanks to the high-quality preparations, the remedy provides rapid pain relief."
But as:"Thanks to the high-quality preparations, the remedy can relieve pain faster."
The use of the modal verb “can” clearly delimits this promise. The product is not assigned a safe effect, only a possible one. Similar in the next example: In the first - inadmissible - sentence it suggests to the reader that taking the product described will in any case relieve the symptoms and end the illness.
Not like that:"The extract not only alleviates the symptoms, but also combats the cause of the disease."
But as:"The extract should not only alleviate the symptoms, but also fight the cause of the disease."
Just the word “shall” changed the meaning of the sentence. Now it is just a declaration of intent and no longer a promise. You will drive particularly safely if you combine the following methods:
Not like that:"The product prevents a heart attack."
But as:"The product can help reduce the risk of a heart attack."
A clear claim is made in the first sentence. The reader is clearly told that by taking the product he will definitely prevent a heart attack - a statement whose truthfulness would at least have to be proven with a scientific study in order to be allowed to make it. In the second variant, the paraphrase and the modal verb make it clearer that there is no guarantee for this.

In order to avoid effective promises, you have several options in order to move on legally safe terrain. Only use information from trustworthy sources, for example verified (consumer) portals or information from the manufacturer himself. Check whether the described effect of the product has actually been proven by the most recent studies or tests possible. If such results are available, refer to them. You can avoid effective promises with the following tips:
  • Attenuation with subjunctive and modal verbs: Using auxiliary words such as "can" or "should" make it easy to put effective statements into perspective.
  • Descriptive formulations: By using expressions like “it helps”, “it supports”, “it makes it appear” and “it was developed to ...” you avoid direct promises.
  • No exaggerations and superlatives: Avoid phrases and formulations from the usual advertising copy.

In this way, you will be well prepared for the next jobs in the medical and cosmetic categories. We hope you enjoy the implementation and are happy to help if you have any questions.

  • 20.06.2018
  • 25.06.2020

  • Francisca Wachler
  • Successful copywriting, for authors, tutorials
  • 1 comment