The Copywriting Maven has another great landing page makeover posted. While much of her advice focuses on design and selling, she also had this to say about being clever:
“Writing clever [sic] is all about drawing attention to the writer. Writing for clarity, on the other hand, is all about respecting your reader. Clever in small doses in an excerpt or pull-quote can add a nice zestiness to ad copy, but your reader can’t and won’t digest a whole meal of it.”Many writers (including me, alas) lose sight of these points while attempting to engage their readers. That fine line between being clever and getting cute divides decent writers from skilled craftspeople.
Happily, you can move from one side of the line to the other through learning and practice. Write things that you would like to read, get feedback from others, and set your pieces aside when you can to edit after a perspective break. Often something that cracks you up when you write it sounds silly or excessive after a cooling-off period.
Remember that, unless you blog about yourself, your writing should draw your reader's attention to your subject instead of you. Inject some personality, by all means, but don't do so much of that that you detract from the points you are making.
Your reader might want to go out for coffee or a drink with you after reading a cleverly written piece, but if that's not what you (or your client) are after then you've failed in writing that piece. Remember that the next time that you are tempted to quip.