“Don’t think your English degree makes you a better writer. It’s f-ing useless. In fact, I’d better not see any f-ing Shakespeare in your copy.”
Just something I was told a moments into a meeting with a new CD. Thankfully it was another time and place, far, far away from SLG. But those words will always stay with me. Not because they hurt (they did), and not because it was nasty (it was), but because it was downright wrong.
Loud office music while writing, I can do. Changing briefs, I get. Tight deadlines, part of the job. But anyone who knows me knows my tolerance threshold for ‘wrong’ is pretty low.
So from that day on, I decided to stay on the right side of writing by continuing to do the things I learned by studying the work of legends (like Shakespeare). And my CD was none the wiser because he didn’t have a clue his worst nightmare was already happening in broad daylight.
Alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, puns, oxymorons – they’re just some of those ‘useless’ things we learn at school which some of us go on to study at uni. But it’s no accident that fiction writers, poets and songwriters use these literary devices. And it’s the same reason copywriters should keep a few in their back pocket too.
Not only does it make people want to read what you write, it makes your copy work.
As copywriters, we want our messages to affect the way people think and feel (typically about a product or service). We want to challenge perceptions and change behaviours. We want to be provocative and persuasive. We want to draw people in, just like a good book does. We want them to come along on our journey. We want their buy-in.
We don’t do it by ‘just writing’. We do it by being purposeful so that every word, every full stop, every comma has a reason for being on the page.
You only have to look closer at some of the best copy ads in the world to see why they stand out. The language isn’t overworked. It’s effortless to read – even pleasurable. And if it really hits the mark, it gets the reader feeling, thinking and doing exactly what the writer intended.
Now, I’m not saying all writers knowingly use literary devices. But I think all good writers know exactly what they’re doing. A knack, an instinct, tricks of the trade – whatever you like to call it – it’s the difference between filling ad space and filling people’s minds and hearts with something inspiring, provocative, and memorable.
For me, that’s the craft of copywriting. And although I’m not suggesting for one minute that my copy reaches the heights of literary greats, you’d better believe it’s got f-ing Shakespeare written all over it.
“A knack, an instinct, tricks of the trade – whatever you like to call it – it’s the difference between filling ad space and filling people’s minds and hearts with something inspiring, provocative, and memorable.”