Frequent flyers

Frequent flyers? Ha! That fooled you. No, I’m not going to write about air-miles, or people who spend a load of time travelling on aeroplanes. I’m going to write about flyers and how to write them. Flyers as in leaflets, not as in things with wings that zoom about in the sky.

Here’s the thing about flyers, admirably summed up by Mitch Hedberg, that famous American comedian I’ve never heard of—or, of whom I’ve never heard, if you’re having a pedantic moment. He says, ‘When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying,  “Here you. Throw this away!” (I did correct his punctuation.)As a copywriter of many years’ experience, I know how to create flyers. Yes, I do. Even if my clients don’t always. How often have I been told, ‘Oh, just use the same copy you wrote for the website’? (That was a rhetorical question. But the answer is—a lot.)

Here are some top tips for flyers:

DON’T use too much text

Here’s a flyer I found at random on the internet. It’s from Finland, and no, I didn’t write it. Would I read it, assuming I was fluent in Finnish? No, I don’t think I could be bothered. Too many words. Font too small. Not to mention, unattractive to look at, but that’s not my domain of expertise. By the way, it’s information about courses and events for young photographers, which, to me, isn’t immediately apparent.

Any positives? An interesting image. Text, at least, is divided up into paragraphs.

Here’s another flyer about a photography course:

Less information, for sure, but I would be tempted to read this and find out more. Obvious what it’s about at first glance. Eye-catching. Clear. Good straplines. Not much text.

Interesting fact: it’s harder to write less than it is to write more. It takes longer to distil what you want to say into fewer words. Please note, potential clients.

DON’T use time-limiting phrases

That doesn’t matter on a website, because it can be changed in an instant – but if you’re doing a huge print run, DON’T say things like, ‘I’ve been self-employed for the last 13 years,’ or ‘I’m halfway through a course on augmentative communication,’ – because in a few short months, your leaflet will be past its use-by date.

DO proofread and proofread again and then get a proofreader to proofread

As above, if you have a typo or incorrect information on a website, it’s not really that much of an issue, but on a flyer…it could cost you Big Money if you have to withdraw,or are unable to hand out thousands of copies and have to re-print.

Well, that’s my Public Service Broadcast about flyers.

You’re welcome.

Lost in Translation – Izgubljen v Prevodu

Writing copy using documents and website material in translation for reference? I am, at the moment—and while it’s cause for some amusement, it’s not always the easiest thing in the world.

Lost in Translation

To be noted:

  1. I’m not having to translate from Chinese (it’s an English translation of Slovenian.)
  2. I’m not pretending I can translate accurately (especially not from Slovenian!) or that translation is easy—it’s just that if you represent a company wanting to market something in another country, why not make sure that the words you use actually make sense in their language?

Just to illustrate my lack of linguistic ability, when my dear son, Laurie, was in hospital in Grenoble, after a catastrophic snowboarding accident (broken neck) – I caused some bemusement and amusement to the medical staff there, after the operation to fix his shattered vertebrae, by informing them that Laurie was also suffering from ‘douleur terrible dans sa poignée’… terrible pain in his doorhandle… What I MEANT to say, was ‘douleur terrible dans son poignet’… terrible pain in his wrist. See, lost in translation.

187962 Pain_Swallower






So – back to Slovenian. Some of the notable phrases used to entice us to buy the product (a sort of resin-based worksurface) were:


wala-eh“Warmly hugging your customers and never letting them indifferent.”


“Various stains of food and cleaners you can easily wipe.”


While I can make sense of some of it…errrm, disguise of modernity? DEFINITELY lost in translation.

In other work I’ve encountered, this time English from Italian, apparently one farmhouse had three bedrooms for guests to dispose of. That was comparitively easy to work out. And did you know that, in China, CocaCola in translation came out rather bizarrely as Bite The Wax Tadpole?

It can be appealing, and sometimes, when I’m editing copy, I let quirky syntax and off-beat translations remain, as long as the sense is clear.  It adds character, and makes for interesting reading when copy can sometimes be so very DULL. Not when I write it myself, of course, she adds hastily.

Let me finish with my favourite YouTube clip, to illustrate the point that SOMETIMES it’s important to translate accurately.

(Other language schools are available!)

Now, in my very best Slovenian, let me say, ‘Bodite previdni pri prevodih!’ which I THINK means ‘Be careful with translations!’

But it might not.

Copywriting – the joy of rewriting other people’s work

Rewriting a joy?

Or not.

Quite a lot of my work as a copywriter involves rewriting. A company decides to re-brand and wants existing copy to be refreshed. A new website?  My remit – to phrase the same facts in a different and more engaging way, usually more informal. Sometimes, to rework a piece in numerous different ways so it can be used across the internet without compromising SEO. Death by duplication

images (1)

It’s not exactly editing. There, the tone and the essence of a piece is to be preserved. Rewriting copy is, essentially, usually, breathing new life into something that’s near to death, past its sell-by-date. Often, it would be far more effective to start from scratch.

images (3)

Sometimes it’s easy. I’ll let you into a secret: it’s easy rewriting when the existing copy is so poor that it would be difficult to avoid improving it. That’s quick to do, fun and rewarding. It also makes the copywriter (me) look as if she does possess a bag of fairy dust and can perform magic.

At the moment, I’m working on a rewrite that is NOT easy. Why? The original’s well-written enough so that it’s not straightforward for me to add value to it.

images (2)

It’s doing my head in, to be honest – the wrestling with words to produce something original and full of zest, matched by the determination not to be defeated by this and risk damaging my professional reputation. Or should that be professional pride?

I took it on.

I produced TWO pieces for every one required so that the client could choose.

I questioned my sanity.

I’m waiting for feedback.

With a headache.


Managing priorities for copywriters #2

Where was I?

Ah yes.  Suggestion # 8  Yesterday’s blog.

head spinning 3

Frankly, I think we’ll dispense with Suggestion # 8.  (Sorry, men!)

So, prioritising…

On my current list of things to do are eight separate projects – four websites, two brochures, one blog and a flyer – all with much the same deadline. So where are my priorities?


My tendency? My inclination? To do the small-scale jobs so I can cross them off the list – then my list looks smaller.

I’m not sure how effective this is. It means that when more small jobs come in, I still have a backlog of large scale projects to complete. I say to myself ‘I’ll just do THAT little job and THEN…’ but it keeps on happening.

By the way, I don’t miss deadlines, whatever strategy I use – I’m just interested in making my working life more…well…workable. By better managing priorities.

I was thinking I might do well to fit the small jobs into little windows in my schedule – because that’s  manageable – and concentrate on large jobs when I have bigger blocks of time.

(Schedule? What schedule? I have fixed points like meetings and conference calls – then there are the bits in between…amorphous, undefined oceans of unscheduled time.)

download (5)

To try out Plan 37 B, this morning I had a hospital appointment. I was confident I’d be waiting…and waiting…in the waiting room. Which is called that for a very good reason.

I was. The clinic was running 45 minutes late.

With magnificent and quite uncharacteristic forethought, I had taken the flyer task with me. On PAPER, and I was using a PEN.

Job done! Waiting time well spent instead of being a cause of frustration.

I don’t know if that counts as managing priorities. More…being efficient with my time?

images (4)

Managing priorities as a function of blocks of time available in the course of a day? Accuracy of choices.

Well, it worked this morning.


A good editor doesn’t rewrite words

…he rewires synapses.

download (2)

In this blog, I’m talking about a good editor of fiction, not a copy editor. A good copy editor DOES rewrite words. It’s in the job description.

(Ironically, I edited the quotation from S. Kelley Harrell by rewriting the word ‘she’ to ‘he.’ Hah!)

I submitted a short story for publication in a collection yesterday and heard back from the editor by return. Always a good sign or always a bad sign, delete where applicable.

images (1)

He is a good editor. Let me tell you why.

No, he DIDN’T say my story was so good that he couldn’t possibly improve on perfection. I wouldn’t have believed him if he had. I knew the story wasn’t quite working. (Actually, maybe that’s why I didn’t find the editing process so painful?)

He DID make some suggestions which in no way made me feel inadequate/a useless writer/that the story was a waste of space/that I should give up immediately/that I’d be better off wielding a sledge-hammer than a pen since I lacked so much in the subtlety department.

images (2)

Constructive criticism good. Self-esteem assassination bad.

In the past, I’ve had editors review work and I’ve lost the will to carry on.

By the way, I’m NOT of the opinion that my work is beyond reproach, that it can’t be developed. If it were either of these things, I wouldn’t be here today still submitting to agents and publishers.

Neither am I of the opinion that I’m the writing equivalent of a delusional X-Factor contestant who really believes she’s the next Tina Turner, an undiscovered genius, but her voice is cat-stranglingly, ear-assaultingly woeful …and that’s being generous.

I’m somewhere in between.

So – this editor has succeeded in igniting the passion I feel about my work. He’s made me excited about the prospect of amending the first draft. He’s rewired my synapses.

A good editor.










The old-fashioned art of politeness

Yes, it does seem I’m fixated on politeness at the moment. It’s a function of having to deal with some people who lack civility. A euphemistic way of saying they are downright rude.


SO…Politeness is OLD-FASHIONED? Discuss.

One view, from C. JoyBell C.”Politeness is okay, but it gets old and boring. You want to attack life with a passion, not a politeness, you want people to think about you and remember you and say “she is so passionate” you don’t want people to think about you and remember you and say “she is so polite,” because, who cares about polite?”

Excuse me,  C. JoyBell C…surely it’s possible to be passionate AND polite? And yes, I DO care about polite. Are you seriously telling me that someone being rude to you – and here, I’m talking about in a work situation-  has no negative impact?


There’s an interesting article called The Price of Incivility by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, in the Harvard Business Review.

Here are a few choice extracts:

In one poll of 800 workers, it was found that found that among those who’d been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • Four in five lost work time worrying about the incident, or were less committed to the organisation.
  • Two thirds said they lost work time avoiding the offender, or that their performance declined.
  • Almost half intentionally decreased their work efforts or the time they spent at work.
  • Over a third intentionally decreased the quality of their work.

I wouldn’t EVER deliberately turn in work of lesser quality, because it’s my reputation at stake and I’m proud of it. I always strive to produce the very best, no matter who it’s for.


However, my enjoyment and satisfaction is CERTAINLY greater when I encounter a client who is polite, accommodating and grateful.

The annoying thing is, that the other sort of client (the rude, demanding and ungrateful one) couldn’t give a flying fig about my feelings as long as I produce the goods.

For me, it’s long live Arthur Schopenhauer!

“It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude. To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility, is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire. For politeness is like a counter–an avowedly false coin, with which it is foolish to be stingy.”

And perhaps I should set up a scale of charges, something along these lines:




The trouble with being efficient

“One trouble with being efficient is that it makes everybody hate you so,” said author, Bob Edwards.

images (5)

I wouldn’t want everybody to hate me, so I’ll just stick with not being efficient, shall I?

I have to say, my efficiency is legendary.  Here is a definition of a legend:  “An unverified story handed down from earlier times.”

In all seriousness, work-wise, from a client’s point of view, I am known for being efficient. I meet deadlines, or am well in advance. I answer emails. I phone EXACTLY when I say I will. I’m not late for meetings.

(Oh no! Perhaps everybody DOES hate me?)

The thing is, me being efficient looks something like this:

download (1)

Does it matter?

To my clients,  possibly not. They get what they’ve been promised, when I’ve promised it, of a quality that matches or exceeds their expectations.

To my ironing pile? Perhaps it does.


I’m good at being efficient in SOME areas of my life, at least.

Editing fiction:Kill your darlings…

“…kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings,” says Stephen King, about editing fiction.

Yes, I’ve heard of tough love.



N.B. Talking about editing fiction here, not infanticide. Even though sometimes the two seem interchangeable.

I do a lot of editing, these days – of other people’s writing. Somehow that’s easier than working on my own material.

Oh – here’s a useful tip for people like me:

“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it,” says author, Don Roff. Harsh but true, but then, he does write zombie horror stories.

Baby Micah is a BRILLIANT editor, don’t you think? A lesson for every writer.

My favourite description of fiction editing, however, comes from author Stephanie Roberts

“Editing fiction is like using your fingers to untangle the hair of someone you love.”


By Mary Stevenson Cassatt



Editing Part 2: The enemy within


“Some people have a way with words and other people…oh, uh, not have way.”  Thanks once more, Steve Martin, for the quote.

Take the word, WITHIN. Somebody. Please.

Hard-working Caroline (sad Caroline?) yesterday,  editing on a Sunday.  I should adhere to the Nana Mouskouri School of Working


Anyway – I once wrote a post about a Pet Editing Peeve – using the word utilise instead of use

Perhaps it was something to do with slight Sunday begrudgements, but another of my editing peeves was severely exacerbated yesterday.

Why use the word WITHIN when you mean IN?


Yes. Within. The enemy of concise writing.

From the Free Dictionary – a definition of WITHIN

1. In the inner part or parts of; inside: resentment seething within him.

a. Inside the limits or extent of in time or distance: arrived within two days; stayed within earshot; within ten miles of home.
b. Inside the fixed limits of; not beyond: lived within her income.
c. In the scope or sphere of: acted within the law; within the medical profession.
d. Inside a specified amount or degree: The team had pulled to within five points of winning.
NOT…”they practise their cooking skills within the kitchen.”
NOT…”the house she lives within.”
NOT…”he works within the media.”
NOT…”it is not within his best interests.”
NOT…”I drove to work within my car.”
Oh look! It’s a Jack-Within-A-Box…
Within a few minutes, I will self-combust.