Say it loud

Copywriting tip no. 92

When you’re writing, say your words out loud before settling on a final draft.

Everyone knows this, right? Whether we want to be known as the office loon, is another matter. In a busy work environment, you might feel a bit foolish suddenly speaking what you’re writing, but it is hugely helpful when sense checking and proofreading what you’ve written.

Mumble it, mutter it or splutter it.

Far better to seem like madness is setting in than make a mistake. Remember, grammar is there to be respected but sometimes the vernacular is necessary when writing good copy. If your copy is too stilted, it won’t sound natural or conversational and will actually turn customers off.

Good English or good copy? 

Grammar pedants aren’t always right when it comes to critiquing the written word. This is where a good copywriter can bridge the gap between writing compelling sales copy and correct use of English. For example, in spite of what your teacher may have said, starting sentences with ‘and’ or ‘so’ is permissible. But we all know this, right?

So if we know so much, why is writing great copy, so difficult? Unfortunately, some things can’t be taught. You’ve either got a knack for it, or you haven’t. When it comes to your business, it’s this knack that brings results. And that’s where I come in.

Get in touch if you need a copywriter to bring some copy magic to your communications. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year

Nothing says ‘Happy New Year’ like a good grammar debate about syntax. I’m sure other copywriters will agree, the use of the term New Year can be a total room 101 moment.

So, should it be new year or New Year when it comes to good grammar? Should you capitalise New Year or should you keep it in lower case?

The answer is in the context.

If you use a greeting, followed by the downtrodden exclamation mark – yes, it is still good grammar to use one! – then you should use uppercase lettering.

For example: “Hi Jane, Happy New Year!”

But if you are talking generally about the new year, it should be lower case. Do not mix your cases! I’ve seen this a lot on Twitter recently and it’s guaranteed to turn every grammar pedant purple. No ‘Happy new Year’, please!

It’s a Proper Noun, dude…

The reason is that the New Year in ‘Happy New Year!’ acts as a proper noun and as such should be capitalised. When it is a common noun (usually preceded by an indefinite article or ‘a’) it is lower case, just like every other common noun.

…but it’s not always proper

But if you’re talking about ‘the new year’, this is where it gets a bit more tricky. Because you’re using the definite article. If the reference is talking about the actual event of New Year’s, it should be upper case, e.g. “The New Year’s performance was given by Robbie Williams.”

When common, think lower case

However, if you’re saying “Spend over £50 in the new year and earn more points”, it should be lower case, because it’s talking about the new year in general and includes more than one day in the reference.

And there we have it. Your copywriting new year lesson in how to suck eggs in 2017. Have a happy, healthy new year and remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss. So tap me up for some freelance copywriting. Or if you need any freelance tea making, I can handle that too.

 

You want to sound like who?

Oh if we had a pound for every client who wants to sound more like ‘Innocent’. All the country’s copywriters would now be installed on a sun lounger in Jamaica, sipping freshly squeezed tropical fruit drinks from a coconut. Take that Innocent Towers, now owned by Coke!

When brands talk the talk

When a brand is strong enough to know exactly who its audience is and where they want to be, they don’t have to try to mimic their competitors. Today’s audiences want disruption: they’re hungry for it – hell, they expect it. With media clutter at an all time high, it’s going to be a strong voice that cuts through the chatter. So if you sound just like everybody else, how can you make sure your marketing spend is being heard?

When a brand knows what it wants to say and how it wants to act, its tone of voice is a pleasure to devise. The hard part is standing out from the pack as you implement it. Consistency and a well thought out application is key. A great ad campaign needs to be supported at every channel with the same approach to well-thought-through messaging. For example, there’s no point being the no-nonsense supermarket in town if your website is completely baffling and beyond user friendly.

Nice words, but is anyone listening?

If marketers can apply a consistently strong tone of voice, consumers will take notice. One false step however, and it could all blow up in your face. So attention to detail is key, and now that everyone is a commentator, it’s more important than ever to ensure your copywriter is on it – all over it, in fact. We all write tweets and compose Facebook updates. But when it comes to your copy, let’s ponder on a wise marketer’s words: ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

With the right mix of creative strategy and strong writing, there’s no reason why a brand can’t take bold steps to stand out from the pack. It just has to be brave and ditch the obsession with Fruit Towers. Who’s doing it well? Aldi, Lurpak, First Direct and Virgin spring to mind, but there are a host of startups getting in on the act, like Propercorn popcorn and Fever-Tree, a premium drinks brand. I could go on. I won’t.

 

 

Copywriting tip no. 93

As a copywriter in London, it’s likely you’ll get to work all over the shop – especially if you choose to go freelance. It’s good for the soul to have a change of scene, and is also great for getting those creative juices going. So charge your phone and sat nav your way to copywriting glory.

The bulk of ad agencies used to be primarily based in and around Soho, Bloomsbury and Covent Garden. But there are branding and design agencies, digital shops and integrated agencies popping up all over the place. Everywhere is up and coming.

Here’s a little snapshot of my latest foray into Shoreditch where I’ve been working with some lovely, clever people. A descent into the madness of the new hipster generation…

 

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Copywriting is changing. Or is it?

Anyone remember when senior creatives used to stress out about the rise of ‘the digital’? I do. I used to wonder what they were going on about. It’s all ideas, right? Just another way of delivering them.

Well, now I’m that senior creative and I get it. A bit. A creative director recently admitted that he doesn’t know which jobs to go for anymore. “Am I a Managing Director, a CD, a Senior Designer or a Social Media Director? What’s the bloody difference?!” For him, he could do it all, and continues to.

I’ve been working at home a fair bit in recent years. But when I’m not, I’m back in an agency, witnessing ‘the digital’ becoming ‘the social’ and listening to account handlers read word for word from their briefing documents with limited pizzazz. Some things may never change.

And then, in true ‘freddy freelance’ fashion, I’m online scouring the job pages, having typed in ‘copywriter’ and turning up ads with all sorts of titles like ‘content writers’ and ‘SEO writers’. And you know what? It all feels a bit dirty.

Demeaned. Diluted. Dishwater-like.

If any employer wants a good copywriter, they need to embrace that. A good writer will be able to turn their hand to anything. Any client. Any industry. Any format. Whether it’s ‘the digital’, ‘the social’ or ‘the future innovation that hasn’t happened yet’.

Sure, copywriters write blogs. But if we’re worth hiring at all, that will be only a tiny part of what we can do. It takes years to hone a craft in any walk of life, no matter what you do, and you can only get better with experience. It’s why we’ll cost more than a person who just writes blogs for a living. It’s why we do this. Because otherwise, we wouldn’t have a title in the first place.

Not tired, past it or dulled, but shiny and enthused with added zing.

So go on, test me. Like Fairy Liquid, I promise to deliver twice as much value as rival brands.

Copywriting tip no. 94

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

A copywriter once said this to me. It was about the way account managers were changing copy internally, without running it by the creative department first. Someone had even gone so far as to play with the punctuation. They were junior and it was a forgivable offence. But the line has stayed with me ever since.

Because people will rewrite your copy. They won’t sneakily move a logo or change a colourway, but they will alter your copy. And it’s possible it won’t be for the best. But copywriting is subjective. Damn it.

So how much pushing back can you do, and what happens if your account team aren’t prepared to get on side? I don’t have the answers. But as long as you flag your intentions and your concerns when it’s appropriate, then it won’t come back to bite you on the bum. A supportive account team is crucial for your happiness though. I know that much.

A good way to tackle this age-old copy problem is to get in front of your client at every opportunity. If a client sees a living, breathing copywriter, they are faced with someone whose job is solely that – to write good copy. Sometimes I think clients put us up there with pink unicorns and the like. But if they can see a face to go with that name, it might make them think twice about altering work for the sake of it.

That’s it for now. I have internal amends to do. Oh.