More to Admire

‘Choose me, you English words.’

Edward Thomas

There’s a major difference between being a ‘good’ writer and a copywriter…

We know the terms: ‘he writes well.’ she’s a good writer; ‘that was well written.’

What do they mean?

An impressive use of language: encompassing fine words, melodious words, the right words in the right place and some unusual words you’ll need to look up…

All used with authority and clarity: the writer knows what to say and how to express it in a clear and understandable way.

Easy to read: logical, flowing and carries you along.

Critical Eng Lit pieces or essays are about expression: putting assessments and ideas over in the most felicitious ways and using …  well, those lovely English words.

Now I hear you say: ‘isn’t all writing in English about those words?’  Well, obviously…

But copywriting – which boils down to telling a story about a product or service – is far more than a series of words forming sentences, paragraphs, chapters…

It’s a means of capturing and transforming life so it becomes memorable, informative and educational – and, in the best cases, deepens the level of wisdom.

You can read a piece of ‘fine’ writing and admire it, but nothing changes in you apart from the feeling that it read well or that it was beautiful.

And beauty is just – itself: a landscape, a flower, or an image of a woman.

The story or copy on the other hand has a purpose: to create change in the mind.

To take you from point A where you are up to the point B where you have the mental and cognitive equipment to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed.

In other words, it’s a call to action.

And to make a purchase with regard to the goods or services on offer.

Take the great ad man, David Ogilvy who was commissioned to introduce a new Rolls-Royce.  Perhaps not exactly an impulse buy, so in his very wordy ad he keeps us reading by listing 13 features: from the technical features of the engine to the luxurious picnic table that swings out.

It’s all about context.  When you have less space or need to grab instant attention, a few words – ‘sale starts Friday’ – may suffice.

A copywriter has one overarching job: to get you to buy the product or hire the service…

Without the words getting in the way.

Derek Williams

ps: Edward Thomas was a poet, so found it reasonable to ask the words to choose him.

The rest of us have to do the choosing!

pps:     In his famous ad, Ogilvy came up with the brilliant headline:

‘At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.’

Yep, you remember it already!

Plays for stage and radio

Derek’s plays..

                                    for your entertainment, enlightenment and edification!

 

10 minutes

            A Large Bag of Chips

Two male; one female

Two men come across a 20 pound note in the street.

How do they decide what to do with it?

            Civic Duty

Two male; one female

Two men have differing views on how to respond to a disturbing sight on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

            Mind yer Manners

Two males

A middle-aged man gives an unreceptive younger fellow some lessons in courtship and love.

*****************

15 minutes

            Party Games

Three males

Creepy tales told over a campfire develop into a possible real-life horror story.

            The Road to Timbuktu

Two females

Two friends plan a long-haul motorcycle trip – but there is rather less (and a lot more) than meets the eye..

            Last Drop

Two males

Two brothers have had enough of their necessary nightly search for sustenance.

            Last Bus Home

Two males

Two strangers meet in a bus shelter and react very differently to the game-changing events of the day.

            One Question too Many

Two male; one female

Three old friends come into conflict over their different views of marriage and honesty, reviving buried memories.

            Nothing to Lose

One male; one female

Two old college colleagues venture into dangerous territory while exploring whether the flame still burns.

            Honour among Singles

One male; one female

Two mismatched hopefuls at a singles evening give away more than they’d bargained for.

            Fortune Favours

Two males

Dean asks his old boss for an emergency loan – to receive unwelcome advice and a reminder of old times.

***************** 

Twenty minutes

            A Coveted Position

One female; one male

Two aficionados meet at a controversial pioneer public event – and their attitudes soon begin to colour the occasion.

            Dismembers of the Wedding

One female; two males

Two gatecrashers – each with their own secret agenda – find themselves struggling to keep their cover intact.

***************

Radio plays – 45 minutes

            Lifelines

Two males; two female; many smaller parts

A game at a party leads the unfortunate Robert on a quest for the truth about a possible shocking crime…

            Three in a Bed

Two males; three females

Three roses experience a turbulent growing season: from the New Year to spring budding, summer blooming and the reckonings of autumn..

            The Good Neighbour

Three males; one female; many smaller parts

A young boy in 1970s Latin America is exposed to the savage realities of repression and betrayal.

            The World’s Freest Man

Two males; one female

To the despair of his sister and friend, a playboy’s careless bet puts him in danger of losing his entire fortune and property.

**************

30 minute sitcom

            Fathers in-law:

Two fathers explore their children’s peccadilloes while savouring a break from their allotment.

The Steady Eye

                                                                       

 

One of life’s pleasures is a decent glass of wine.

And during the second glass, I like to do what people do to cornflake packets.

Read the label on the bottle.

Except in this case:

I couldn’t.

The front label was clear white with a star; while the back was a strange orange and green with lots of words in French and English.

But in small point and yes – you’ve guessed it – white type.

Aagh, the dreaded reverse.

Now this was a modern ‘blend of several grapes’-type wine so presumably the maker wanted a hip designer-type label.

No objection to that, in itself, but why load it with words I couldn’t read – in any language?

For information on this very wine, I was forced to turn to my mini bible – Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book – where it merited its own entry.

Now the type in this so-handy little book was the same size as on the label.

With one important difference.

Yep, black on a white page.

So I could read it in the same light and even under increasing alcohol…

Now lest you are thinking I’m flogging this baby too much, I’m not anti-reverse.

It’s a striking and impressive design tool for headlines; and to make a point elsewhere – but only when in large-enough type to enable you to read it.

Why produce anything that a customer can’t read?  It’s not only a waste of effort in the writing and production but, far worse, annoying and alienating.  One exception may be on food labels – when listing the dodgy ingredients that few will read closely if at all…

So why not take a hard look at your own stuff?  Ask for an objective response and find out if it’s fit for human eyes.  If not, how about a word with your designer..

Derek Williams

 

Ps: the wine was ‘Clos de los Siete’ from Argentina.  A Bordeaux-inspired creation from Michel Rolland, a wine guru who advises on the production of these modern ‘international’-type wines.

It was certainly enjoyable – big, opulent and jam-packed with fruit.  But a little manufactured and artificial.   And earning 91 points on the Parker Scale.  Just the kind of initially impressive but soulless wine Robert Junior advocates.

Joy of Nothing

 

                                    The Joy of Nothing…   very much!

 

What is it about those great American sitcoms of the 90s..?

Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier…

A group of people chatting about their everyday lives; full of snappy one liners; with  flawed but basically decent characters who like one another and play against their  foibles and weaknesses.

An admission here: I’ve never ‘watched’ any of these – in the sense of deciding to sit down and devote 30 minutes of my life to their company.

There was no need: I was aware of their immense popularity and simply caught snatches from the repeats that were on when switching channels in the past ten years or so.

The writing and performances are so good, that only watching for a few seconds is enough to suck you in – easy when a gag’s discharged every twenty or thirty seconds.

The characters are so well-defined that they soon become familiar and – yes, lovable – in the way that they react and relate to one another.

Some achievement from a bunch of trivial fictional creations on TV.

And what actually happens in each show?  Very little.  One character has a crisis (to them) about work or relationships or just being alive…

And the others have to decide how to comfort or placate them, or deliver bad news.  And this is never really serious, just low level everyday stuff with no East Ender-like social significance storylines..

The audience continues to laugh and is predisposed to hang around to see what’s on offer – after the frequent commercial breaks.

And will keep coming back for more next week or year.. or however many hundreds of episodes they finally racked up…

So this got me thinking…

Copy in a blog or website doesn’t have to be useful: ie full of facts and solid information.

Have a chat with your customers about anything of interest, current or past…

And then drop in a mention of some new product, service or free trial offer…

Or not… on this occasion.

Why not wait till next time when your readers come back for another instalment?

Grab someone’s attention.

Give them a good time in your company.

Long enough, but not too long..

And, being in a receptive and positive mood… they may well come back for more.

 Derek Williams

ps: Jerry Seinfeld was paid a million dollars per show at its peak.  OK, the US is a big country with a large and affluent population but that’s not bad for thirty minutes of er.. chat.  The networks and advertisers obviously thought it a bargain!

Doing the job

How we’ll work together

 Doing the job

(part three of three)

 

The first step is for me to get to know about your business, so that I can write about it in a way that appeals to your customers.

So we have to talk – preferably in person.  If we live within striking distance, great, I can come to you or we’ll meet halfway.

We’ll have a chat and I’ll ask questions – direct and oblique – to draw you out.

You know your business better than anyone.  What you don’t know – or don’t have the time for – is establishing the best way to convey its strengths and benefits.  As a disinterested – but seriously interested! – third party, I’m in the right place to do just that.

If meeting isn’t practical or necessary (eg for a relatively simple job) we can exchange info by email and talk on the phone.  This is no obstacle to a successful outcome: I have worked this way with numerous clients whom I’ve never met.

Perhaps your current unsatisfactory copy is fundamentally sound in content but simply needs a little tweaking…  A ‘rewrite’ may simply involve rearranging or even breaking up overlong sentences and paragraphs – to make the text more immediate and immediate.

And if you are wondering…  My initial notes and draft are in longhand and then I put it on screen.

So this means that every word goes through a rigorous rewriting process.  This helps me to tighten the text up, eliminate the inessentials and concentrate on the message.

When is the copy ready for release to the world?  When we are both satisfied it will do the job you want.

As partners in the communication business, it’s vital we understand what we aim to achieve.

That common goal is the guiding light toward a satisfactory job all round.

Derek Williams

Working together two

 

HOW WE’LL WORK TOGETHER

(part two of three)

 

Making contact

You may choose to email me via this site

Or phone on 01935 509366

Why not?  We have to talk eventually.

I’ll tell you my availability and ask about the scope of your project.

Who you are.

What the job is?

Who it’s for?

How will I assess whether I can do the job?

Perhaps you can send me some copy in progress (or that’s stalled..)

Or the copy on your current website – or other marketing materials that need revision and updating.

If it’s a straightforward project, we can come to an agreement there and then.

How much?

You’ll want to know much I charge.  Well, I’ll tell you when I know the scope of the job!

Some writers charge a daily rate.  This is useful when you have a number of jobs that need a degree of rewriting and tidying up.

For a new job written from scratch, I’ll give you a quote with an upper and lower limit based on my assessment of the work involved.

There are certainly cheap copywriters around – I’ve come across quite absurd quotes for pieces of work.

As in all of life, you get what you pay for.  Either writer x is so desperate to get a first job, they don’t dare ask for a higher rate.

Or they value their work so low that it may well be a fair price – that is all they are worth!

And if that really is all, do you want to work with them?  You won’t outlay much money, but you’ll gain in frustration what you waste in time.

 

All the above has more in common with the work of any contractor than may be initially apparent.

A job, a standard, a price, a delivery date.

 

Derek Williams

HOW WE’LL WORK TOGETHER

 

HOW WE’LL WORK TOGETHER

(Part one of three)

 

Hiring a copywriter is like hiring any other professional to do a job.  You select someone most suited to your needs;make sure they understand the job; agree on a price;

and leave them to get on with it!

Yet taking on a specialist writer may be something new to you.  These creatures called writers have a reputation for being a little…  if not exactly strange but certainly out of the ordinary.  How do they work?  How well will they work with you?  How can you be sure that you’re getting someone who can do the job you want them to do?

Well, you can’t be 100% certain – but you can improve your chances of making the right choice.

  • you can ask to see examples of their work.
  • ask for testimonials from satisfied customers.
  • assess writing style and content from their website –

and, dare I say, from any blogs they have dared to pen…

Copywriters, as a breed (and is the collective noun a ‘promotion’? Perhaps not, as it’s a job that lends itself to individual pursuit) have widely differing backgrounds.  Some may have come from other writing disciplines; others from any kind of career or life experience.

Incidentally, some copywriters have managed to progress onto grander things.  Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon and Dorothy L Sayers all served time in advertising agencies before moving on to their novelistic pursuits and success.

All copywriters have stronger and weaker points.  Myself?  With a journalistic/ editorial background, I am happy with descriptive writing or longer copy such as articles, features and interviews.  I also write stories and plays, so quotes and dialogue come easily.

As for content, I can turn my hand to most areas and have written on subjects about which I knew practically nothing.  Until I was briefed.

But we all have our limits…  I do have a scientific (biological) background but anything to do with IT leaves me cold, so please don’t approach me for any heavy computer stuff and work concerning mobiles and apps

As for undertaking the work itself, I’m based at home and so overheads are low.

You get a personal relationship with me: no outsourcing, no partners. I do the writing.

So simply phone or email: if I don’t answer immediately, I’ll get back to you.

Derek

(Coming up next: making contact)

 

Keeping it simple

 

KEEPING IT SIMPLE

When writing for your website, it’s essential to make every word count.  Reading webcopy is not like reading a book or magazine article: you can’t skip to assess the whole piece, so short sentences and paragraphs are key.

The essential question to ask is: who will read it?

What do you want your readers to understand and – most important – want them to do once they’ve read your invitation or exhortation?

How much and how long?  Again, it’s all in context.  A Chinese takeaway can afford a brief description on its menu: chicken chowmein in black bean sauce.  Unless it’s angling for Michelin stars, that’s all anyone needs to know (along with the price and delivery time).

If you’re selling a book or report, then you expect a customer to be willing to read a lot of words – so you can put a lot of words into your sales piece.

You can elucidate the benefits, build up slowly, provide a number of examples and establish your credentials.

If you’re selling something simple and obvious, then describe it in the same way.

Here’s a homely example of getting to the point:

A fishmonger (yes, it was that long ago…) chalked a board outside his shop:

                                                      FRESH FISH SOLD HERE

Later that day, he looked at it and thought: ‘I’m obviously not in the business of buying fish, am I?’

So he cut it down to:

                                                      FRESH FISH HERE

Then he realised: ‘I’m not selling fish anywhere else.’

He cut it down to:

                                                              FRESH FISH

Next morning, he looked and thought: ‘I’m not selling any fish that isn’t fresh.’

And so he got to:

                                                                        FISH

We see the same principle at work on roadside signs for strawberries, vegetables and flowers.

One simple word is enough.  The passing motorist knows what’s on offer.

Is it clear what’s on offer from you?  Don’t be afraid to put it in plain, simple language – at least for starters.  You can always elaborate once you’ve got someone’s attention.

Derek

PS: there’s nothing modern about using superfluous words.  On the front of Christchurch, Spitalfields, a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street in London, is a sign:

                                                On Ash Wednesday February 17 1836

                                                This Tower was burnt in fire.

What else could have burnt it?!