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Article on how to avoid boring in copy

     
4:30 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This was in Direct Magazine this month. INteresting read.

[directmag.com...]

4:36 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Every word HGL writes should be read and digested as often as possible. Then when you have a minute, read his words again. He's one of the few people I consider a guru. Great read, thanks for the link.
3:35 am on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I read the paper version of this, and made a mental note to see if it was online. My mental note went wherever those things go... Thanks for the link, hannamyluv!

I particularly liked the "gardener's hat" variations. Such a small difference, such a big impact!

11:52 am on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I'm sorry, but I disagree. I didn't like the writing in this article at all. It really didn't flow for me. I felt like I had arrived in the middle of a conversation and I didn't know what he/she was talking about.

The lessons and example might have been good, but my brain couldn't get pass the fifth paragraph. Perhaps this guru should re-read his own writing before trying to show people how to write.

No disrespect to any of you who enjoy his/her work.

1:49 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Harry. What a pile of poo! This guy was so busy squeezing as many adjectives and adverbs into his piece, presumably to make himself seem like a guru, that he wasted ten minutes of my life.

He could have written that whole thing in about one third the number of words. I forced myself to read the whole thing even though I recognized it as bull poo right away. How painful it was! Ack!

The piece is aptly named. "Blah, blah, blah" is exactly what I was thinking while reading the darned thing!

Ten paragraphs about the article "the"?!? Didn't anyone tell him the value of being clear and consise? Brevity is the soul of wit? Something!

Of course he prefaces all this crap with "Everybody reading this is a professional." So if I think he's full of it, I must not be professional enough. Right?

This guy has delusions of grandeur to be sure!

1:50 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Harry. What a pile of poo! This guy was so busy squeezing as many adjectives and adverbs into his piece, presumably to make himself seem like a guru, that he wasted ten minutes of my life.

He could have written that whole thing in about one third the number of words. I forced myself to read the whole thing even though I recognized it as bull poo right away. How painful it was! Ack!

The piece is aptly named. "Blah, blah, blah" is exactly what I was thinking while reading the darned thing!

Ten paragraphs about the article "the"?!? Didn't anyone tell him the value of being clear and consise? Brevity is the soul of wit? Something!

Of course he prefaces all this crap with "Everybody reading this is a professional." So if I think he's full of it, I must not be professional enough. Right?

This guy has delusions of grandeur to be sure!

1:51 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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How'd that happen? Har, Har...
3:13 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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For a minute I thought this was a parody. Personally, I find this kind of copy to be the textual equivalent of a used-car salesman with white shoes and a comb-over. I guess I'm not the target audience.
3:58 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Bit US orientated. Some of his advice is (IMHO) too OTT for the UK market.

(We need the qualifier “helps” because we don't want the FDA breathing down our necks.)
. I see that, contary to rumour, the "truth in marketing" campaign is still alive :s
8:32 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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As someone who works in the direct marketing business, I can say, this guy is WELL RESPECTED in these parts.

I mean, yes it sounds silly that one or two words in a thirty - fifty word peice of copy could make that much difference, but it does. I have seen things here at the company I work for that you would not believe. I carried a lot of that into adwords copy (where you have like 10 - 15 words or less) and have seen it work there too.

The power of a single word or even the layout of a picture can make or break sales on an item. I once saw an entire catalog lose a lot of money simply because the cover of the catalog was too "posh" for the audience.

Catalogs pay big bucks for these guys to write their copy. Trust me, if it was garbage, they would have figured it out and wouldn't waste their time. Say what you like about direct marketers, but the one thing they know is testing and they will test anything, copy included, to death.

Call it garbage, call it phony. But I have seen it work time and time again.

10:32 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hanna, I don't care how many people respect this guy. I was incapable of reading his article completely. It gave me a headache. That's the only evaluation I need.

The examples I could read were not bad, but their presentation suck. Noticing his form instead of his message is a warning that something's wrong.

He's not supposed to convince fellow copy writers like you. He's supposed to convince regular guys like me.

11:33 pm on May 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Aside from the glaring error that the is not the three most common words in our lexican, I found this document very interesting!
11:57 am on June 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I don't do much reading about copy and it's principles, probably why my grammar aint so good, like. But I think he made some interesting points especially where the definative article has the ability to change the perception of an object. I thought it was very interesting.
12:38 pm on June 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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While he makes some valid (if not exactly surprising) points, his desperate attempts to be witty result in a horrible reading experience.
2:46 pm on June 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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While he makes some valid (if not exactly surprising) points, his desperate attempts to be witty result in a horrible reading experience.

Amen, bird! This is exactly my point! I'm still having nightmares...

2:53 pm on June 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I take on board what he said but found the article difficult to read, it just did not seem to flow.

I have saved it though.

8:11 am on June 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Genius lies in simplicity.

Compare his "painful" writing to the easy style of Roald Dahl or JK Rowling for example.

No wonder people need to read and re-read his articles...

1:12 pm on June 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, his prose writing in this article isn't great, but it points out the fact that different styles of writing are appropriate for different purposes. If you're reading a novel, beautiful, flowing prose that's not necessarily direct can improve the experience. If you're reading a catalog, you probably want something more practical and direct.
2:26 pm on June 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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He's not supposed to convince fellow copy writers like you. He's supposed to convince regular guys like me.

Actually, HGL writes for DM pros, e.g., copy writers, editors, and people like catalog managers who have ultimate responsibility for copy.

The direct marketing world is remarkably subtle. Before the web, it was the only kind of marketing where you could get great statistics and test different copy, different offers, etc. with a high degree of accuracy. One rather surprising test showed that placing the stamp (on a direct mail letter) at a weird angle improved response rate by fifteen percent. (Presumably, this was a reproducible result, but of limited use since the effect would be lost if the practice became common.)

As a veteran of many split-run tests, I've learned that common sense and marketing savvy often point you in the right direction, but you can't argue with the numbers - sometimes, specific approaches work better for unexpected reasons, or even for reasons you can't explain. Really savvy DM pros develop a pretty good sense about what works, but even they test and retest.

This is the world that HGL comes from, and he knows that very subtle differences in copy can indeed make a big difference in response/conversion rates. He does have a curmudgeonly approach to commentary, but that's part of his charm. :)

2:43 pm on June 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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No matter how much I've learned from reading Lewis in the past this, to me, is simply a very poorly structured article.

What's the subject? Is it: Blah words damaging your response? Or might it be: Match your rhetoric to your target individual? Or is it the use of "the"? Or just a slapdash list of copyrighting foibles?

He's ignored one Copywriting 101 imperative: Focus.