While we’ve come to trust the G rating as a good decision tool for families, we also know it’s usually synonymous with the bland and boring. That’s not the way I’m defining a G rating in terms of copywriting. To me, copy needs to win the general approval of any audience.
Prompted by the question, “What makes a writer great?”, Lee Odden, CEO of Top Rank Online Marketing, recently provided this remarkable insight: “I think great business writers are excellent at ‘info-taining’ readers and using stories to relate business topics that both inform and help the reader feel what the writer is conveying.”
This definition doesn’t allow for a pedestrian or jargon-driven approach. Rather, it encourages enhancing readability across a more widely accepted spectrum. Even if what you’re asked to write is only intended to be understood and used by a small audience, that’s no excuse to merely talk directly to it by going into “auto-copy” mode. The content may be dizzyingly complex on one level or another, but that doesn’t mean your words should be.
- If the reader doesn’t understand it, the writer doesn’t know it well enough. The people who work in tech converse in ways that sound alien to any layperson, but even they appreciate word combinations that add up in logical ways. If you write exactly like a “techie” talks, somehow you’ll get it wrong. Eventually people need to speak English. Your interpretations might as well be in the same language.
- Develop a story and stick to it. Every writing project is essentially a story problem. In some regard, two trains are always leaving two destinations at the same time traveling at different speeds. As a writer, you get to decide when they arrive or if they derail. Think of yourself as the engineer. The conductor (client, creative director, or CEO) may tell you to push on at full speed, but ultimately, you have the responsibility to put the brakes on a bad direction.
- Treat every project differently, but the same. Some form of narrative should be present no matter what the subject or the delivery method. I strongly believe in having a beginning, middle, and end to everything I write. The critics may not always respond favorably at first, but unlike in the movies, the sequels usually improve on the originals.
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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