June, 2011

Sign of the times?

A bemused friend thought she’d stumbled on an interesting new service from Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Andy Burham, the other day. “I genuinely stopped to work it out before it dawned on me that my angle of view cut out the first two letters,” she told me. “Mind you, I suppose these MPs do need to make some extra money any way they can now the expenses loopholes have been closed! He’s got his apostrophe in the right place, though…” It reminded me of ‘Lost Consonants’ those wonderful Graham Rawle play on word illustrations that ran in The Guardian newspaper.

The baking dog example below makes me smile.

However, my particular favourites are ‘He left the hospital with his arm in a plaster cat’, and ‘Sir Christopher had called a meeting of the hareholders’ – a particularly bizarre image of three businessmen holding hares!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing confessions of a shy, retiring copywriter

When I saw Jupiter Jasper Marketing’s blogging competition, http://bit.ly/lpyv7p, I thought I’d give it a go and enter. For one it gives me a topic for a blog post – not always easy to find when you’re busy. And it’s a chance to share some of the things I’ve learnt in business. The topic for the competition is ‘My biggest lesson in marketing so far’, so here’s mine: consistency.

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Is ‘solutions’ the most over-used word in the dictionary?

It may only comprise eight letters but the word ‘solution’ can drive me to hysterical rants. I really do loathe it. It’s just so over-used in marketing copy, and worse still, as part of a company name.

Businesses seem to think it makes them sound dynamic and professional. Well it doesn’t. It makes them seem dull, unimaginative, dated, and as a PR friend of mine suggested – ‘lazy-brained’.

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Wedlock by Wendy Moore – a true story that’s as thrilling as any novel

If you think, as I did, that newspapers’ lust for juicy gossip about celebrities is a modern phenomenon, think again. The heroine, Mary Eleanor Bowes, kept an ever eager Georgian press in titillating stories for much of her life.

I just couldn’t put this book down! It’s a fabulous story from start to finish, really well-written and must have taken an enormous amount of diligent research.

The blurb on the back claims it’s as thrilling as a novel and so it is.

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Why choosing the right words is essential if you want to engage your audience

A lesson in subtlety from World War ll

courage-300px_1Writing copy for marketing materials is about much more than describing your business. In my post ‘Let me tell you a story’,  I wrote about the power of painting a picture for your audience and the importance of choosing words that will engage them.  Well, I’ve just come across a great example from the Second World War of why you need to keep your audience in mind all the time you’re writing.

The Home Publicity Division of The Ministry of Information managed to alienate its target audience with its first poster. Created to boost morale, the poster had the opposite affect because it read:

your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us Victory.’ Not surprisingly, it prompted people to wonder who exactly you and we were in that equation!

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Let me tell you a story

current_issue_summer2011I’ve just read a great article in Intelligent Life – The Economist’s quarterly magazine – by Robert Butler an arts and environmentalist blogger.

Basically it’s about getting your message across, and Butler uses environmentalists to make his point. Now, I’ve no idea whether or not this is true but he claims they have a tendency to hit people with stats, results and conclusions.

He says this closes the subject down and doesn’t allow the other person’s mind anywhere to go. His recommendation to Greens is to ditch information overload, “in favour of suggesting details that actually catch people’s interest and allow the other person to get involved.”

It’s good advice that also applies to our marketing materials.

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Naughty Bunny – one girl’s quest to be reunited with her favourite childhood book

Naughty BunnyFollowing my post yesterday on the lack of reading skills among London’s children, and my own love of books, I thought I’d start a regular ‘column’ on my favourites.

And here’s where it all began. The very first book I remember, and my favourite childhood book, was Naughty Bunny by American author, Richard Scarry.

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Shocking lack of reading skills among London’s children

I was a shocked by the Evening Standard’s front-page headline last night – City of Children Who Can’t Read.It doesn’t refer to a city in a developing country but to London. And that’s a disgrace.

One of the facts in the report is that 1 in 3 children say they don’t own a book. I can’t imagine having grown up without books. My parents read to me every night, and Mum patiently taught me to read before I started school. The love of words and reading they encouraged has stayed with me: in fact it’s now how I earn my keep.

OK, I realise I’m very lucky they devoted that time to me (and that they were able to do so of course.) But being able to read isn’t just about loving books and writing. According to The Standard ‘The conveyor belt from illiteracy to exclusion to unemployment and, all too often criminality, is well documented.’  It also quotes that 40% of London firms say their employees have poor literacy skills and report it has a negative impact on their business.

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Jargon alert: mid-weight copywriter needed

Imagine my bewilderment when this turned up in my inbox earlier:

Seeking a mid-weight copywriter

Our client, a well-established beauty retailer, is looking for a mid-weight copywriter…

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

Word Alchemy Blog