I approach my written work much in the same way I approach playing the guitar. Edward Van Halen said it best: “If it sounds good, it is good.” I happen to think the same holds true for most B2C and B2B copy. As a writer, you need to cultivate the ability to read your work back to yourself. It takes practice and a lot of it. Sometimes aloud; most times not, but if you’re verbally or silently tripping over yourself time and time again, it’s time to go back to the woodshed.
A breakdown is just the last point before a breakthrough. Very few of us are so talented, so gifted, that copy just flows without persistent effort. As you write, you encounter plenty of peaks and valleys — moments when you make remarkably quick progress and others when you can’t put two words together without second-guessing yourself. Here are a few suggestions that will help make your copy “worthy” of reading:
I strongly believe there should be a meter and a specific cadence to copy. The reader should be able to sense a particular rhythm and timing. If it sounds good, it is good.
- Hit ‘em with the chorus first. For the record (pun inteded), the most memorable progressive rock tracks often started with meandering motifs that slowly built their way toward the main structure. No reader (or listener for that matter) has the time or the patience for that any longer. When you come up with a clever passage, use it up front.
- The days of the “eight-minute epic” are over. Readers just don’t have the attention span. In most advertising and marketing platforms, it’s no secret that you’ve got to get to the point, and quickly. Keep your copy humming along, but don’t settle for ho-hum.
- And now the bass solo. Overused words like “innovative” and modern euphemistic terms like “robust” are throwaways. For musicians, this is akin to playing “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Freebird.” You’ll get requests for them. And they do have purpose. But try to avoid leaning on them. If the rest of your writing is superb, the old chestnuts won’t get in the way. In fact, they’ll sound and read better because they’re used more sparingly.
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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