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.



A copywriting lesson from a children’s book

I bought the most beautiful book the other day – ‘On a Beam of Light – A Story of Albert Einstein’. It’s by Jennifer Berne  with pictures by Vladimir Radunksy.

It’s that lovely combination of just the right words set against gorgeous illustrations that make the best children’s books so enchanting and memorable.

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Apostrophe atrocity – even museums make mistakes

Go on admit it. I bet when you see those chalk boards outside shops and cafes, with their incorrectly placed or missing apostrophes, you’re  tempted to do something about it aren’t you? I know I am. But I don’t think I’d ever go as far as this museum visitor who whipped out their ballpoint to correct an error on an information board.

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So you think English is complex? Try getting to grips with regional dialects

“Could a new phonetic alphabet promote world peace?” asked a recent BBC online article. Apparently backers of the idea believe it will ‘make pronunciation easy and foster international understanding.’

Well,l I don’t know that simplifying language would promote world peace but I’d be the first to admit that the English language can be a nightmare. I have no idea how people from other countries ever get to grips with its quirkiness and complexity. And then there’s our rich and varied regional dialects…

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Five things you should know before dealing with the media

Guest post by Nicky Rudd, MD, Padua Communications

Dealing with journalists can be tricky – especially if you’re not used to it. I asked Nicky Rudd, seasoned PR practitioner and managing director of Padua Communications, to share her experience. 

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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