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Give Us the Parts to Build the Plane
By: Jerry Northup
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A written piece is the product of a general assembly of individual parts, each stamped out of specific sources. The job of the writer is to mold all of those elements into copy that flies. When done poorly, the result is rarely air-worthy.

“Ohhhh, the humanity!”

You can always do something about what you do. Writers are often asked to make “something out of nothing.” But it’s far better when you’re building copy with the right parts to begin with. There is “push/pull” effort required to accumulate information, and it does not always go smoothly. At the risk of appearing “difficult,” it’s the only way to earn your wings.
  • There is such a thing as a “stupid question.” Usually, a stupid question results from not paying close enough attention to what is being said. If a product benefit really isn’t a benefit. If a sales incentive does not have any practical application. If the actual truth is too far removed from the one you’re trying to communicate. All these scenarios should kick off red flags. If you only throw “softball” questions back, you won’t merely be thought of as stupid. You’ll confirm it.
  • If the plane goes down, we all go down. This is very different from when a writer presents an idea and has it shot out of the sky. The writer is the pilot and if he or she doesn’t know where the flight is headed, no amount of picturesque landscape from the artist is going to save the plane. We write the plan. If it doesn’t make sense to us, it’s our responsibility to ground any takeoff until every loose idea is in its secure, upright position.
  • The words are the engine of the aircraft. Pictures don’t sputter, but sentences that drift and wander will break up upon liftoff. Think of yourself as the mechanic of any communication vehicle. If you’re not on top of the details, it’s unlikely that anyone else will be.
If a concept looks like a wounded duck on the ground, it will appear even worse in the air. Don’t let it fly without passing your best inspection. Your readers (passengers) aren’t going anywhere without it.

* Artwork by David Northup

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About the Author
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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