|Stretching the T-r-u-t-h.
By: Jerry Northup
Before readers will “buy-into” what you write, the brand promise must be plausible. Copy that over-hypes or over-sells will do serious damage to otherwise good products, while wiping bad ones off the face of the earth. Consumers are now being blasted by messages on their mobile devices faster than they can learn how to use them. So, it’s incumbent on the writer to keep copy realistic within a certain framework. And just what is that framework?
If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance. “Baffle them with BS” used to be the answer. But in most circles, being deliberately euphemistic doesn’t equate to clarity. Here are a few suggestions of things not to do—on purpose.
• Don’t be too smart for your own good. Terms like “hybrid thinkers” and “multi-disciplinarian skill sets” are used to strong-arm the reader into the conclusion that the author is in possession of brainpower so advanced it can bend time and space itself. Many creative professionals and account executives—outside the copywriters circle—can sport impressive vocabularies but that doesn’t mean they can communicate in clear, concise and persuasive ways to readers.
• Don’t be afraid to use the delete key. Frankly, some copy needs to be euthanized as soon as it is written. This very humane action continues to be in short supply, particularly online as I’ve read pieces that are so full of puffy words they can almost levitate. Even though it may be tough to do (and even if you’ve developed an attachment to it), don’t be afraid to pull the plug on bad copy.
• Don’t lose the point by trying to make it. I read an ad for a copywriter position that described the company itself as being something like “a haven for creative alchemists, strategic artisans and tenacious leaders.” Really? Is that part of a job description or a line of copy from Ancient Aliens on basic cable? This company proudly claimed to “not only take ideas to the next level, but past the stars.” In my opinion, they left Earth at some point.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.
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