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:

“DISGUISE OF MODERNITY!”

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

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

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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.

Tone of voice topicality

“Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice, young lady!”

Anyone remember that from their childhood? (Well, that’s if you were a young lady ever). Every copywriter has to be pretty damn hot at different tones of voices if they want to be successful, because each job requires something unique.

Tone of voice? But you’re writing, not speaking.  Yes, but writing has just as much in the way of tone of voice as speaking. (Not that I’m talking to myself, you understand. Isn’t that the first sign of madness. Okay, I’m WRITING to myself).

Anyway, there’s what you write (the content) and how you write it (the tone of voice). Tone of voice can kill copy, especially if it’s boring, and kill the message you’re trying to convey and potentially destroy the brand, product or service you’re promoting. No pressure then.

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What tone of voice should you use in your writing? (She’s writing to herself again…)

That’s one of those, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ questions.

The answer? Whichever tone of voice is required. That simple. And that challenging.

This blog is written as me. Yours truly. Caroline Coxon. It’s how my mind works. (Scary, eh?)  It has my personality stamped all over it. Now, what adjectives might you use to describe its tone of voice? Nothing offensive please. Errrm, jokey, random, quirky, flippant, a stream of consciousness (Yes, I know that’s not an adjective) readable, funny, insane…whatever…

That’s fine for me, but would it work for a will-writer, a mortgage adviser, an engineer, a web-designer, someone from a different culture?

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When I say probably not, I mean, there just might be an insane will-writer out there…BUT, most people would say, for their own copy…

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Here, I think this is where my history of writing screenplays, novels and theatre pieces helps me so much. I am completely used to writing – and thinking and speaking – in character. Characters who may be light years away from my own.

I am not a burly 30-something male engineer.

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I’m not a diminutive financial adviser.

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I’m not Scottish.

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But it’s possible for me to write as though I am, using appropriate vocabulary and the right tone of voice. And all those things I have done. And being an Italian wine importer. A high-end caterer. A techie nerd. A business coach. A garage owner. A hairdresser in Newcastle. A ski expert. A global traveller. And a whole lot more.

Me and my multiple personalities, eh?

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But it sure helps with tone of voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New word in the morning

Everybody talks about a new word in the morning.

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Well nearly.

My goodness this is 1970 vintage. My salad days, I think they call it. “My salad days, When I was green in judgement.” And that, by the way, was Cleopatra speaking. Oh yeah, you get it all here. Roger Whittaker and Shakespeare. Not often seen together in the same paragraph.

Anyway, on the subject of a new word in the morning, Caroline is upping her game, intellectually speaking.

Be gone Mills & Boon…

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(I have to admit, I have never, ever in the neverever, read anything published by Mills & Boon).

With a view to becoming a student again – an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Sussex, application in, waiting to hear if I’ve been successful – I’ve started studying again.

First foray into the heady heights (or desperate depths) of long dormant grey matter, The Uncanny by Professor Nicholas Royle – he who would be teaching me were I to succeed. He who exchanged a signed copy of aforementioned book with a copy of my Of Night and Light after our meeting, which seemed hardly fair on him, but was his suggestion. Gulp.

I have taken to The Uncanny with alacrity. It’s fascinating. But boy do I have to be firing on all cylinders…

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Sometimes, I may have to read the same paragraph several times.

Sometimes, I discover a new word.

Here is today’s, which gave me pause for thought.

Autobiothanatoheterographical.

Yes, a new word with no fewer than 29 letters.

What does it mean?

Answers on a postcard.

I’ll tell you when I’ve worked it out.

Don’t hold your breath.

Blame Jacques Derrida, if you will.

New word:

gil-head-explode-again

 

 

 

Real writers read a lot!

Do they? DO they? Read a lot, that is, to qualify as real writers, good writers.

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Perhaps, qualify is the wrong word? What I mean to put forward has already been said by Stephen King. (How annoying is that?)

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

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King, much to my shame, also declares he has little patience with people who say they want to be writers but claim they haven’t got any spare time to read.

Note to self: Keep out of Stephen King’s way. I expect he could be vicious when cornered.

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Oh yeah, he looks pretty scary there.

What’s more, my beloved William (well, it’s not so much HE who’s beloved, but two of his books, The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, sorry William, to get your hopes up)  Faulkner said this:

“Read, read, read. Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

So, the importance of a writer taking the time to read a lot cannot be underestimated then?

(But, having said that, I’m not sure how much difference it would make to The Worst Writer In The World to munch his way through Tolstoy and Joyce and King and Blyton and Austen and Frost and Dickens…there has to be something else. SURELY? You know, like, a little natural talent?)

word poetry

Here’s John Dufresne, writing teacher, now sadly departed, from one of his works, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction:

“There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers’ conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers’ magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves.”

Okay, I’m convinced. Really.

Apart from cereal packets, emails, writing on the sides of buses and similar, at the moment I’m reading the (heart-rending) book by Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch.

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It’s very good.

It also leaves me little spare time for writing!

Discuss.

Love the words, love the words…

Yes, the famous direction Dylan Thomas gave to the actors on the opening night of Under Milk Wood. And I DO love the words.

I wrote a baby’s lullaby story as a tribute, and it was recorded…

More and more, as I’ve been writing poetry for my creative writing class, I simply love THE WORDS – and if there ISN’T a word, I make one up. It’s the sound, to me, that conveys the meaning, WAAAAAY more than a dictionary definition.

There’s even a technical term for one of the devices I (inadvertently) use sometimes, without even realising it was a device.

The transferred epithet.

Good ole’ Dylan Thomas, again – to illustrate:

“though moles see fine tonight in the snouting, velvet dingles.” UH?

Well,  snouting and velvet are adjectives which would usually be used to describe a mole, rather than a dingle (a wooded valley).

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I read a great article called ‘ Twist Words to Surprise Readers,’  by Beth Hill.

Here’s a little extract, which rather sums up my word choice ethos – an ethos at which I sometimes fail – but the THOUGHT is there.

“I’m talking word choices that twist the common, allowing you to see a different side or facet, twists that make words and passages of text shine. Words that crack open a scene, forcing rough edges or raw emotion to protrude. Words used in the wrong context that actually prove to be perfect in that context. Verbs used as nouns, nouns used as verbs. Adjectives used as nouns that get readers nodding their heads or laughing or smiling or pulling your book closer and settling in for another chapter.

Poets seek this kind of phrasing as a matter of course and although you don’t necessarily need to write poetically, do take advantage of this technique.”

That’s one way of saying ‘LOVE THE WORDS!’

Not to mention, onomatopoeia.

On that note, here is a poem, inspired by a piece of music – yes, played (endlessly!) at the writing class until I thought I might scream if I heard it one more time, lovely though it was. It’s Prokofiev’s Clarinet Sonata, 3rd Movement, here played on the flute by James Galway:

And the poem? As I recall, it had to be about a street.

Lowly lull
Left-behind land,
Lightly layered
Living lost in time

Meander, wander
Along the strand
The fragile strand
That binds us to
Forgetful past,
No reminder

Ghost shadows ghost,
Mist and mirrors,
Moping moon
Breath crystal-sharp droplets
Only form in formless future

And drip
And dissolve
Until street
Becomes
Shivering stream
Flowing back
To eternity

Lowly lull,
Lowly lull,
Labile luminiscence

A Street at Night in Wet Weather by Edward Steel Harper II

A Street at Night in Wet Weather by Edward Steel Harper II

Love the words, love the image…

Top tips for writers

Oh, there are so many tips for writers, aren’t there?

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Most useful are those from writers themselves. There was a great article in The Guardian a while back.

Who can beat Neil Gaiman?

I expect it’s Philip Pullman, who said that his main rule is to say no to things like compiling top tips for writers, which tempt him away from his proper work. Touché

The first in Neil Gaiman’s  list:

1. Write

Closely followed by the second:

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

See. Can’t beat it! Pragmatic. Terse.

Richard Ford’s is close to genius:

1. Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea.

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Peter thinks me being a SUCCESSFUL writer who earns LOTS Of MONEY is a good idea. But that’s not the same thing.

Anne Enright:

1. The first twelve years are the worst.

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However, of all the top tips for writers I’ve come across, Roddy Doyle’s really hits home:

1. Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

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DAMN! Is that where I’ve been going wrong all these years?

Misquotes perpetuated by the internet

This blog was going to be all about April but then I got side-tracked, dear readers. Onto the subject of misquotes perpetuated by the internet.

(I can hear the chorus of  ‘Surely not, Caroline?’ all the way from, oh, the end of my study. Surely not that I got side-tracked, not surely there are no misquotes on the internet.)

Misquotes on the internet. So easily done. So pernicious.

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For those without a magnifying glass – “The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can never know if they’re genuine,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway – I was looking for quotations concerning April.

“April is the cruellest month.” Yes, T.S. Eliot, with your glass half empty. On the other hand, “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything,” said Shakespeare, with his glass half full.

So far, so good.

Then I came across this, attributed to Edna St. Vincent Millay. “April comes like an idiot, babbling and stewing flowers.” Strange, I thought. Babbling I can get, but STEWING flowers? Why would April be stewing flowers?

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Mmmmm, flower stew. Nom nom nom.

“Perhaps it’s a mistake?” my super-fast brain calculated.

I researched.

No, it CAN’T be a mistake, because it appears in that form on:

  • thinkexist
  • darienlibrary
  • quotesdaddy
  • quotecosmos
  • classiclit
  • quotestree
  • hypequote

Even in a book available on Amazon – Jabbers: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases.

It’s also been used as the title for countless blogs and images…

Where does it come from, anyway? (None of the above cited the source.)

It wasn’t that easy to find (it being incorrect and all!)

HERE IT IS…

Spring
TO what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

STREWING flowers. STREWING…

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I expect Edna St. Vincent Millay is revolving in her grave. Or chuckling.

The joy of misquotes!

And every time I put ‘misquotes’ into Google,  it asks ‘Are you sure you don’t mean mosquitoes?’ Ironic, eh?

Copywriting – to hyphen or not to hyphen?

Yesterday, I was proof-reading a piece of work and put in several missing hyphens, (Well, I thought they were missing!) in compound adjectives.

A compound adjective is one adjective that’s made up of two or more words, joined together, I have always asserted, with a hyphen to make it clear that they’re linked.

Like…a short-sighted man.

However, my client came back to me, saying, that in his own copywriting style guide, he’s stated:

“Don’t hyphenate words, e.g. online NOT on-line, and website NOT web-site. On a side note, there is a search engine marketing benefit in not hyphenating words as most people don’t use hyphens within their search terms.”

He went on to say that he had been advised not to use a hyphen anywhere as it’s difficult to be consistent with their usage.

Oh…

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Research required for cutting-edge copywriter/proofreader (Or should that be copy-writer/proof-reader, or indeed, copy writer/proof reader?)

Here is what it says in Grammar Monster:

 In the UK, your readers will expect you to use hyphens in compound adjectives. Americans are more lenient. The US ruling is: Use a hyphen if it eliminates ambiguity or helps your reader, else don’t bother. If you’re unsure, use hyphens. You won’t be marked down for using hyphens.

Ah! Eliminating ambuguity. Note my example above: a short-sighted man. A man who can’t see very well. As opposed to a short sighted man. A man who isn’t very tall and isn’t visually impaired.

Here are some more:

‘Heavy-metal detector’ and ‘Heavy metal detector’

‘I saw a man-eating alligator’ and ‘I saw a man eating alligator.’

Hmmmm.

hyphen

From the American Psychological Association style guide:

Also use hyphens for

Compounds in which the base word is

  • capitalized: pro-Freudian
  • a number: post-1970
  • an abbreviation: pre-UCS trial
  • more than one word: non-achievement-oriented students

All “self-” compounds whether they are adjectives or nouns

  • self-report
  • self-esteem
  • the test was self-paced

Exception: self psychology

Words that could be misunderstood

  • re-pair [pair again]
  • re-form [form again]
  • un-ionized

Words in which the prefix ends and the base word begins with the same vowel

  • meta-analysis
  • anti-intellectual
  • co-occur

THANK YOU APA!

I think I have guidelines now. Go further down the American path, using hyphens to avoid ambiguity, with the above exceptions.

As a P.S. In the course of my research, I came across a sight which made me laugh A LOT! I won’t be so mean as to add a link.

Using Hyphen’s

“As we have said, it’s very important to appear intelligent in your writing. Whether you are starting your own business or working for the man, you must be able to communicate in a way that instills confidence and trust.”

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New copywriting horror revealed – article spinning

Can it get any worse than yesterday’s recycled, stolen  and uncredited articles?

Surely not?

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You have got to be joking!

I’ve found something MUCH worse. Article spinning. Article rewriting. Call it what you will.

You can employ someone to do it for you. Very often, sadly for you and for them, it turns out to be someone for whom English isn’t the first language – so caveat emptor. (Latin: My first language?)

You get what you pay for. You pay exploitative peanuts. You get…something that will probably take you longer to rewrite than if you’d written an article yourself in the first place.

You can buy software to do it for you. Oh yes you can!

” Create 100s of Unique content from just ONE in under 1 Minute.”

Hundreds of unique content?

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From Indieberries

You can even indulge in article spinning online. You are guaranteed the tools to “create another version of an article that is unique enough to pass a plagiarism checker.” The tool “will scan through your content for words that can be replaced with a synonym.”

All words can be replaced with synonyms, surely?

ANYWAY, here is an extract from a well-known pop song, spun by yours truly.

“You are the terpsichore sovereign, juvenile and uncontaminated, solely seventeen
Gyrating sovereign, feel the smack from the membranophone
You have the necessary ability to gyrate, you’ll be able to jive, having the phase of your existence
See that lady, observe that location, excavating the terpsichore sovereign”

Love it!

I’m going to give up copywriting and turn to article spinning instead.

The meaning comes across SO WELL, doesn’t it?