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Nuts and Bolts: Don’t Mean to Deceive

September 19, 2012

So by now, every artist should be including a product description in their Artist’s Notes field to help maximize their chances of attracting customers and making sales. If you aren’t doing this or don’t know how, check out previous Nuts & Bolts articles on these same topics.

Today we’re going to focus on descriptions (and card titles and keywords) that don’t mean to deceive customers, but are accidentally giving the wrong impression, and how to correct this problem.

As many of you are aware, customers return purchased cards to GCU all the time and for many reasons, some of which can’t be helped (such as a technical printing issue). However, one of the causes of returns can be caught by artists before it becomes a reason to take revenue out of our pockets. I’ll show you what causes accidentally deceptive descriptions, and then I’ll teach you how to word your description to avoid customer misunderstandings.

Please note that the examples I’ll be giving you are only examples. I’m not criticizing or singling them out. I did a search on GCU for certain words and phrases, and randomly chose examples from the results.

Why do customers think that GCU sells cards ornamented with genuine special embellishments? Because they don’t know the business. Because they’re used to seeing handmade cards with all of these things and more, some for sale at places like Etsy or even at the grocery and drug stores in the racks. Because they go by card titles, keywords, and yes, product descriptions to tell them what they’re buying.

Why should you bother helping customers understand exactly what they’re getting? Here’s what we learned in the long-ago days when I was given marketing training: if a shopper is dissatisfied with their purchase, they will typically do one of two things. The minority will return the product for a refund. The majority of dissatisfied customers don’t return the product, but instead try not to shop at the store again, and tell at least 10 friends about their bad experience.

Here’s an example of a description that doesn’t mean to deceive, but does:

“Purple background with silver glitter and white feathers features a 3D image of an angel with gold halo, pearls, and diamonds.”

Now you and I know the artist is using digital effects, but customers don’t necessarily understand. When they order this card, they expect to get actual silver glitter, real feathers, 3D images, etc. And when the card comes, what do they find? A flat printed card with none of the special elements they were expecting.

Just be careful how you phrase your titles, what keywords you use, and how your product descriptions are stated to avoid causing the wrong impression with customers. Problematic words and phrases may need additional explanation to be clear.


  • Metallic, Gold, Silver, Copper, Brass, Bronze – Any Metal including Gold or Silver Leaf
  • Embossed
  • Satin, Silk, Gingham, Check, Lace – Any Fabric
  • Ribbon, Bow
  • Thread, Twine, String, Rope, Knot
  • Gemstone, Pearl, Crystal, Jewel, Rhinestone, Mother of Pearl – Any Gem
  • 3D, Three Dimensional, Pop Up, Cut Out
  • Embellishment
  • Feather
  • Embroidery, Stitching, Quilted, Knitted, Crocheted – Any Stitch
  • Glitter, Sparkles
  • Button
  • Bead
  • Shiny, Sparkling, Glowing, Shimmer, Pearlized

This isn’t a definitive list. I’m sure you can think of other words and phrases which might cause customers to become muddled. The point is, be careful what you say since you could be taken at your literal word. The picture – even now that we have these lovely 3D images – doesn’t always tell the whole story. Here’s an example:

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an explanation to shoppers that the “gems” visible on the image aren’t real but digitally rendered.


1) A blanket statement at the beginning or end of a description such as: “All embellishments digitally rendered” or “All embellishments digital, not tangible” will work as long as you exercise care with your keywords or title.

For example, if the card title is “Shiny Metal Surprise Birthday with 3D Text” it’s likely potential buyers might not see your caveat in the description and buy the card thinking it’s been printed with metallic inks and has actual three dimensional text on the front. Be cautious of using blanket statements. A one size fits all approach may not fit every situation.

2) You can also clarify what you mean by adding modifiers to your problematic words and phrases.


  • Look (as in, silver look)
  • Render (as in, digitally rendered glitter)
  • Like (as in, diamond-like)
  • Effect (as in, rhinestone effect)
  • Digital (as in, digital embellishment)
  • Style (as in, scrapbook style)
  • Texture (as in, pearlized texture)

Bottom line? Use your common sense. Read your title, keywords, and product description. Ask yourself, “Is my meaning clear? Does the shopper know exactly what they’re buying when they purchase my card?” And if you need to make it clearer, do so. Below is an example of a very effective use of a description that gives a clear, concise explanation of what the shopper will receive, and leaves no room for misunderstandings.

Artist’s Notes reads: “This is a lovely card, perfect for framing! An Easter card for a grandson, soft lace textures, scrapbook style papers, looking like a real cut-out egg with floral embellishments. Pretty background, too, textured with paisley and eggs. Original digital art by Cherie.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2012 6:38 pm

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have to wonder about the term “texture”. In the context of graphics programs and designing it refers, of course, to effects that can be applied, but I believe more commonly it means “not smooth”. I was once put in the position of having to explain to a potential customer that, no, the paper would not be textured, but rather,completely smooth. It was my fault for having mentioned parchment in the description, and the lesson learned stayed with me. What thoughts do you have about this, Corrie (and anyone else)? I think the above card is exquisite, but I would say “soft lace patterns” and “patterned with paisley and eggs” so that there can be no expectations of an extra dimension due to the “texture” question.

  2. September 20, 2012 6:57 am

    Great post and wonderful advice. Thank You!

  3. Inkflo @ Chez Inkflo permalink
    September 22, 2012 1:06 pm

    Hey, it’s a word minefield out there, but this post helps enormously.

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