One Simple Trick to Improve your Writing

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One simple trick to improve your writing, your marketing, maybe even your life

Sorry. I couldn’t resist the hyperbole – and I couldn’t come up with five tips for this blog. I’m only doing one. If you want to make your writing useful, give it purpose and infuse it with energy that will keep your audience reading, here’s all you need to do:

Have something to say.

That’s the big one. If you want pointed prose, just make a point.

Let’s buy a bike.

It’s spring. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new bicycle.

Which of the following three items would make your wallet jump?

  1. A list of product benefits
  2. A cool slogan
  3. Proof that this bike is so durable it will take you to hell and back

I’ll bet you picked three.

 I might not be playing fair, because number three contains both a product benefit and a bit of sloganeering – but here is my point. Number three – our case for durability – has a reason to exist, so it’s innately more appealing for a reader.

Most companies will start with one and two. It’s surprising how often I am asked to write a website or an ad without a lot of direction on what to say.

So, what’s the point?

Having a point can add power beyond the writing. It can fuel your entire marketing campaign. If you make a good argument, people who didn’t even know they wanted a durable bicycle will want it. For example:

  • People who want to save money will reason that a more durable bike will save them money over time, because they won’t need to replace it later.
  • People who just want to go fast will be more confident going fast, because the wheels won’t fall off the durable bike.

The great thing is that you can actually make a good argument for durability. It makes the writing easier. A list of benefits is just … a list of benefits.

Don’t get me wrong. Benefits and slogans aren’t bad. A list of benefits is perfect support for a claim of durability. A slogan about durability – or whatever it is you’ve set out to communicate – can be a great way to get attention.

Find your special purpose.

You can make a point, but only if you have one. Defining what it is you have to say is an important part of writing a piece of content, a creative brief or marketing strategy.

Start with a simple mission. It doesn’t hurt to just write it out like this.

                We need to convince people that our bicycle is durable.

You can replace “bicycle” with your whatever you’re selling and “durable” with whatever point you want to make. Maybe you save people time. Maybe you help them enjoy life. Maybe your employees care a little more. Boom! Now you’ve got it.

But our product does so much more than that!

Me know. Me smart … but when me have too much to think, me lizard brain shut down.

Here is an idea that is attributed to advertising legend, David Ogilvy:

If I throw you a tennis ball, you’ll probably catch it. If I throw 12 tennis balls to you at once, you won’t catch any of them.

Today, we have a big, multichannel, multi-touch landscape in which to orchestrate our marketing. There is room for more than one approach but pick a time and place for each of them. Pitch one ball at a time, so people can catch your message.

If the purpose behind your communication is clear, then you will communicate more clearly. Try it!

Life is better with a sense of purpose.

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Phil Hunt

The process of copywriting is a kind of a controlled, focused daydream. Phil used to get in trouble for daydreaming in class, so being allowed to do it while paying the bills is one of life's sweet victories. (Take that, 3rd grade teacher!) When you get down to it, Phil just loves to write. He enjoys hearing the music in a finely crafted sentence and making the words do what you want them to do. (What do you want your words to do?) Over more than 20 years, Phil has worked for big global brands, small startups, and just about everything in between. He has a special affection for loud, left-of-the-dial music like Ramones, Guided By Voices, Cheater Slicks, Teengenerate, etc. Thrash metal, like Slayer or Exodus, is great music to write to when concentration is a must.

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