November, 2013

Does some writing go out of its way to be obscure? Artist, Grayson Perry suggests it might

I’m just catching up with the excellent Grayson Perry Reith Lectures on Radio Four (why am I always one step behind?).

The first in the series – ‘Democracy has bad taste’ – is about the complexity of judging quality in contemporary art. At one point Grayson talks about how impenetrable the art world can be at times for outsiders, particularly because of its seriousness, which he says is protected by language.

He uses a quote from the editor of a highbrow arts magazine to illustrate this. Talking about a previous editor, she said, “English wasn’t her first language so during her tenure as the editor, the magazine suffered from the wrong kind of unreadability.”

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Forming Words – exhibition at Flow Gallery, Notting Hill

Anyone who’s read this blog before will know how much I love art that incorporates text.

So I was very excited to find out about Forming Words – an exhibition at Flow Gallery in Notting Hill.

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Client of the month – Evoke bespoke furniture

I do love my job – especially when I get to work with clients like Evoke – a bespoke furniture maker based in west London.

Evoke is a small company that likes to keep business local to make sure each client gets a truly personal service. I love their ethos and of course their stunningly beautiful products which are a joy to write about.

Each piece of Evoke furniture is made for a particular space and to fit with the client’s taste and lifestyle. There are no sales people. One of the team, usually head designer, Tom, will visit each client to find out exactly what they want, and to see the space.

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Put your writing on a diet

Slimming down what you write needn’t mean your copy loses weight – it actually makes it stronger. Important points will stand out more and people will be more likely to read it.

We all cave into temptations now and again such as stuffing our copy with redundant words. But just as you might choose an apple instead of a cupcake (yeah, right) try to choose less flabby words and phrases for your writing.

The word ‘that’ is a good place to start.

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Choosing key words… with Peter and Jane

keyword_imgAh. Information.  Sometimes it comes from the unlikeliest of places. Like this gem about Ladybird books from, ahem, the BBC TV show, Flog It!

Its groan out loud, pun-strewn format is the last place I’d imagine discovering interesting wordy things. But in an old episode re-shown recently, presenter Paul Martin visited the Ladybird HQ in Loughborough and revealed this fascinating fact about one of its famous series of books.

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Spot the solution – a riveting new take on motorway Eye-Spy

Just in time solutionsHere’s a new way to relieve motorway boredom – Spot the Solution! It’s not difficult: you’ll see lots of them painted proudly onto the side of lorries as companies deliver their solutions up and down the country. Because adding the word ‘solutions’ to a strapline, or in some cases, the company name, sounds so professional and dynamic doesn’t it?

You could spice up the game by choosing the best worst use of the dreaded word or the most baffling. Here is just a selection of  the ones I’ve spotted recently:


The General Category

Total Water Solutions from Good Water (complete with hazard and poison signs just underneath)

Independent Workwear Solutions (that would be clothes then)

Environmental Consultants Sustainable Solutions

The ‘Works Without Solutions’ Category

Vehicle Solutions Vehicle Hire and Rental (What’s wrong with Vehicle Hire and Rental?)

Medical Gas Solutions

EON smarter metering solutions

Star prize in this category goes to ‘Vehicle Solutions’.

The ‘So What Do You Do?’categoryTop Solution

Warberer’s Optimum Solution (sounds rather sinister…)

Sustainable Group Energy Solutions

Maningly Co Product Solutions

CBES Constructive Solutions (go figure)

Delivering Retail Solutions (“Hello, here’s the consignment of retail solutions you ordered…”)

Specialist Access Solutions

Lifting Solutions (for lifting what?)

Just in Time Solutions

Total Engineered Solutions

Top Solution

Warberer's Optimum SolutionAh. Too many beauties in this category to choose an outright winner. The star prize is shared between Warberer’s, CBES, Top Solutions and Just in Time Solutions. Why waste ink on something so esoteric?






Here are a couple without solutions. They’re just silly:

Delivering Sustainable Distribution (Uh?)

Excellence. Simply delivered

Support that works as hard as a cat (Hello – have you ever observed a cat? Below are some pictures of our cat hard at work)

Monty sleeping on the sill

Monty snoozingMonty in his basket
















So, over to you but please play this game safely and responsibly! I should stress that I do have a passenger to do the scribbling and photography for me… honest officer.



Client of the Month – New Era Internet




Copywriting can be a lonely occupation so it’s great to collaborate with other creatives such as design agencies.

And it’s doubly nice when the team is as great to work with as Croydon-based web development and online marketing agency, New Era Internet

Our first project together was a large and complex website for Camstage an established, well-respected supplier of screens and stage curtains to cinemas and theatres. The complexity and scale made it a real relationship tester but we worked well together and had some fun along the way!

Since then we’ve worked on several other websites including Connect Hair and Ian Allan Travel.

New Era Internet is a division of UK internet service provider, Tollon, established in 1997,  which provides a range of services from shared to dedicated cloud based hosting.

The New Era division offers a complete service from initial planning and design, to deployment, management and marketing. Services include web design, development, SEO, marketing, social media and website hosting.

New Era’s clients are mix of large, medium and small businesses across the UK and abroad. And they’ve also built a loyal base of local customers in Croydon and South London.

The agency covers everything from start-ups wanting a new website to complete website redesigns for established companies such as Camstage and Ian Allan Travel.

The New Era team is always looking for the best platforms and products to give clients exactly what they want and need to make them successful. For example, they specialise in WordPress development because it provides clients with excellent content management features.

But choosing the best products is just one way which New Era excels at customer service. They’re on the client’s side from the word go, quickly getting to understand the business and advising them on the best route to achieve their goals.  The result is a great looking, user-friendly site that gets found by the search engines too.

And here’s what they think of me!

“We have worked with Elaine on a number of projects and it has been an absolute pleasure. She produces some fantastic copy, with an excellent attention to detail and a thoroughly engaging writing style. Elaine is also able to adapt her tone of writing effectively to communicate and convey brand messages to a variety of different audiences.

As we’re a web development and online marketing agency, search engine optimisation is a high priority for us and our clients. Great copy makes for great SEO and Elaine understands this very well. She is brilliant at producing optimised website copy with SEO in mind that gets the balance between keywords and readability just right.

Thank you very much Elaine, we look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.”





What’s in a name? Choosing the right name for your business

Last week most of the papers and the TV were awash with speculation over baby names. That no doubt will turn into weeks of stories about the origin of names, the meaning of names, in fact anything to do with names.

Well, names are important. A good one can set you up for life, and according to an article in The Week from March 2012  they can even affect our personalities and the choices we make. Apparently, this belief goes back to the Romans who had a phrase – nomen est omen, or ‘name is destiny.’ Just look at how many actors and performers have changed their given names for something a tad more exotic or memorable.

It’s the same with businesses too. Naming your fledging company is just as important as naming your baby – you’re going to have to live with it for a long time. So you want it to be memorable for the right reasons, and for it to have positive connotations. You need to spend time on it and do your research. But where do you start?

Bronwyn Durand of JupiterJasper is a marketing mentor for small businesses, and as The Brand Whisperer, she  has a special interest in using what makes a business differentto develop its commercial identity. Here’s what Bronwyn has to share on naming a business…

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Just an observ-ation

The other day I ordered something online and immediately received an email from the delivery company. The email contained a link to a website where I was able to track my parcel’s progress, change the delivery day and time, or ask for it to be left with a neighbour. Very impressive.

I clicked through to a very clear, easy to read table charting my parcel’s status: 1) Collected. 2) At Sortation Facility…  woah – hold on a second. Sortation Facility? It had me giggling and hooting with derision in equal measure. Sortation Facility. Purleeeese.

What’s wrong with sorting office all of a sudden? Does using a made up word make it more important? Do people who work in ‘sortation facilities’ (sortation facilitators?) feel more valued than their counterparts in mere sorting offices?  I doubt it.

The suffix ‘ation’ seems to have attached itself to other words as well in a rather mistletoe-like, parasitic sort of way (but without mistletoe’s prettiness or usefulness).

‘Expiration date’ is another mind-boggler. Why the need for the suffix? Why not good old-fashioned ‘expiry’?

Don’t get me wrong – I like new words. But only if they express or describe something better than the original word, or if they represent something new.

I like the way ‘random’ became used to describe something that was a little odd or unexpected. And I particularly love ‘earworm’. It perfectly describes that irritatingly catchy tune that rattles around in your head all day until something else equally irritating and catchy replaces it. (And why is it always just one line? Over and over and over.)

I digress. Back to ‘ation’. Adding this suffix seems to be adding for adding’s sake. It’s not useful. It doesn’t give clarity. It doesn’t tell us something we didn’t know about the thing it’s representing, so why do it? It just makes a word five letters too long.

Sortation facility aside, the service was great. I even got an email giving me the name of the driver… or should that be deliveration facilitator?








The new language of tennis

Aside from John McEnroe’s relentless mispronunciation of players’ names (Jokeavitch, del Porcho) another element seems to have crept into the language of tennis this Wimbledon. War terminology.

I know it’s been there for a while in lots of sports but somehow it seems more prevalent at this year’s Championships. This player uses his big serve as ‘ammunition’. Another uses her forehand as a ‘weapon of choice’. I even heard one commentator describe Steffi Graff’s serve as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.

Other words of war that have been banded around the commentary box this week include ‘firepower’ and ‘big guns’ – used to describe a big serve.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive but I don’t like it. Neither war terminology in business either – I particularly loathe ‘mission critical’.

The language of war has become very sanitised over the years, disguising to a large extent what’s really going on. Pretty much like a lot of business-speak – probably why it’s attractive.

War is unpleasant: people get killed and injured. Sport is entertainment, and while it gets tough at times, and players do get injured, it’s rarely life threatening. Same with business.

Business people in particular seem to think they need to use what they imagine are ‘dynamic’ or ‘strong’ words to give themselves credibility. Many end up sounding like incoherent idiots.

At a time when service men and women are in genuinely dangerous situations, receiving horrific injuries, some losing their lives, using the language of war in sport and business seems wrong. It devalues the true meaning of these words so they no longer have the impact they should. We no longer think about the horrors they really describe.

To quote Boris Becker after he lost in the second round at the 1987 Wimbledon Championships, “Of course I am disappointed, but I didn’t lose a war. There is no one dead. It was just a tennis match.”



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