copywriting

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Client of the month: The Green Cornwall

OK. I admit it. Client of the month isn’t an original idea. I’ve pinched it from friend and frequent collaborator, Robert Games of Padmedia.  Thanks Rob!

I think it’s a great way to let you know what I do, and at the same time, tell you about some of the lovely, inspiring people I work with. And no prizes for guessing how often I’ll be posting it ..

First up is The Green Cornwall - luxury house and holiday cottages on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

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A cornucopia of collective nouns

I love Woop Studio’s collective noun posters.

These limited edition prints are visual depictions of some of the wonderful terms we use to name groups of things. They’re beautiful to look at as well as revealing quite often charming and evocative words such as:
a zeal of zebras
a blessing of unicorns (which I’m convinced are real by the way. I mean, why bother giving them a collective noun if they don’t exist?)
an aurora of polar bears (yes, really!)
a murder of crows
a murmuration of starlings (what a lovely word!). And my favourite if only because I’ve was privileged to see two of these rare Cornish birds in flight: a chattering or clattering of choughs

I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll just direct you to Woop’s website so you can become obsessed too.


Woop Studios was founded by Miraphora Mina, Eduardo Lima, Harriet Logan, and Mark Faulkner. United by a love of graphic design, words and images they set up Woop to showcase the fascinating and quirky world of collective nouns.

They aim to be the definitive website for anyone who shares their fascination, and who enjoy words, images and learning.

I hope you enjoy them too.

Coast magazine feature on Dungeness artist

In my post of I September, ‘Painting with Words at Dungeness’ I wrote about the work of Dungeness artist, Paddy Hamilton who is working on series of paintings that use words. Well, more correctly, they use letters because Paddy is developing a new font called Dungeness.

There’s a fabulous six-page spread in this month’s Coast magazine on Paddy and his partner and fellow artist, Helen Gillian. And there, in the background of one of the photos is the piece of work I bought from Paddy on our last visit!

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Grabbing the headlines

Grabbing the headlines

Whatever we think of the reporting standards in our national newspapers, they have given us some great headlines over the years.

One of my personal favourites is The Sun’s “Super Cally go ballasitc, Celtic are atrocious” following Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s 3-1 win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 2000.

I spotted one of a slightly more sophisticated nature on the front page of The Guardian in April and have been meaning to write a post based on it ever since. It accompanied a front-page story by the paper’s Paris correspondent, Angelique Chrisafis. She was writing about the alleged outrage of notorious French riot police – the Compagnie Repulicaines de Securite (CRS) on hearing they would no longer be allowed to drink alcohol with their lunch.

Apparently, up until now, even packed lunches provided to the CRS out of riot vans while they were patrolling demos, came with a can of beer or glass of wine. And the headline?

“Riot squad sees rouge as police vin gets bottled.”

It’s tempting to think that good headlines are the result of a flash of inspiration (an old stalwart, by the way, when I was Head of Press and PR for Nikon UK and writing about the company’s flashlights – yes I know, I know). But the majority of strong, memorable, and more importantly, effective headlines take time and a great deal of hard work.

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What’s the connection between beekeeping and a literary figure? It’s elementary!

I’m working on a project at the moment that makes me feel very lucky to be doing what I do to earn my crust. I’m editing a book on beekeeping for novices by a talented photographer, David Wootton. And it reminded me about something my beekeeping friend, Jules, told me about a connection with Sherlock Holmes.

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A lesson in clear, succinct copy… from an estate agent

I’m sure I’m not the only one to be inundated with leaflets from local estate agents clamouring to sell my house. And I’m sure I’m not alone in consigning the majority of them to the bin without reading beyond the headline. Especially the one with the headline that read ‘Recent Let’s Agreed’. Sadly, I kid you not.

Anyway, one day last week a leaflet dropped through the letterbox that really broke the mould. It was from the Surbiton office of Hawes & Co and it grabbed my attention immediately.

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Wimbledon tennis commentators serve faulty phrase

So Wimbledon is over for another year and I’m trying to adjust to tennis-free days. One thing I won’t miss though is that horrible phrase ‘the business end’ that too many of the match commentators used too often.

I got tired of hearing, ‘well, we’re at the business end of the set now.’ Ugh. Not only is it plain ugly, but like all phrases that become over-used, it jars. You have to be very careful, in writing as well as in speech, about becoming reliant on certain distinctive words, phrases, and devices.

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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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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