Say something, already!

by Joanne Wallace

Advice to "be specific" not just for fiction writers

Fiction writers are used to hearing this piece of advice: be specific.

Snoopy at typewriter, deep in thoughtDon't, for instance, write "it was a dark and stormy night." (Really. Please don't.)

Why not? Because dark and stormy are just adjectives. The brain glides over them. Instead, put your reader right in the scene. Tell her about the wind tearing her hair, the icy rain stinging her face - maybe the distant moan of thunder. Give her something to hang onto.

Blah-blah-blah
So how does this lesson apply to marketing writing, where (usually) there is no wind or rain or thunder? Well, yesterday I was researching advertising agencies, and ran across this on the front page of an agency's website:

"We generate Business Results for North American corporations through sales and marketing communications solutions."

Wow. My eyes are glazing over before I get to the end of the sentence. What the heck are "business results?" Who wants to be lumped into a huge non-specific category like "North American corporations?" And what on earth are "marketing communications solutions?"

Tell exactly how you can help
Meanwhile, over at Hall Associates in London Ontario, their copywriters really know their stuff. A ½-inch-high headline screams "You don't need a website," but before you can go "huh?" you're reading this:

"You need a communication tool that works 24/7/365 to champion your brand. You need a multi-lingual sales executive to find new customers and build rapport. You need information architecture to keep you in sync with a planet that's moving at 1,000 miles per hour."

Now that's specific. (In fact, it's so specific you'll notice I stole the idea.)

So take a lesson from fiction writing 101. Make sure every sentence you write says something specific. About your product. About your customer. And, most importantly, about how (really, how) your product can help your customer.

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