A good copywriter must be an acrobat

A good copywriter? I suppose copywriters come in many guises. One of these is that they stick to a particular niche in the market and become very knowledgeable about it. Another – and I think this is me – is the copywriter who simply loves words, playing with words and is always curious.

That’s curious like this:

Curious (Pronunciation: /ˈkjʊərɪəs/): Adjective

  1. Eager to know or learn something

Not this:

    2. Strange, unusual

Although probably 2 applies as well  (but that’s no bad thing in my opinion. Who wants ordinary?)

This sort of copywriter is in possession of many minds

©2014-2016 sawarahh

©2014-2016 sawarahh

or is at least able to make one mind perform acrobatics, as we don’t necessarily want to enter into the realm of insanity…

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So, here are the acrobatics my mind was performing last week, or those acrobatics relating to my job as a copywriter. (Let’s draw a veil over the Creative and Critical Writing Masters).

  • Researching highly technical data about WiFi solutions, cloud systems, BDR and the like – see, I know that BDR means backup disaster recovery now – and turning it into language that, well, people like me can understand. From nerd to, errm, tech dummy?
  • Revising a website for which the intended audience was high-society, aristocracy, royalty. From Joe Public to Upper-Upper Class
  • Creating a poster for a supermarket on the lower end of the retail spectrum for which the guidelines were, frankly, on the high end of the patronising spectrum. While not actually saying ‘use no long words’ they might as well have… From Joe Public to…some marketing department’s perception of a certain shopping demographic. Duh!

Oscar Wilde made me feel less slimy on the last point.

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And so did this…

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THAT’S what good copywriters do. Make things easy to understand, entertaining to read, compelling – using the vocabulary, tone and layout which will most appeal to whoever it is they’ve been asked to address.

I find it FUN copywriting though sometimes challenging. I love my job. All those acrobatics keep me mind agile.

Next week?

Keyboard skills for guinea pigs.

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NOOOOO problem for a polymath copywriter…

 

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.

I beg your pardon? Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet?

Somebody said that. Nobody wanted to own up, though. And I would disagree – not that I’m not distracted by the internet, (excuse the double negative) by the way. Oh, hang on a sec…

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I AM sometimes distracted by the internet when I’m working but, here and now, I’m going to justify my position in a way that only an aficionado can. An aficionado who is also very skilled at finding euphemisms for uncomfortable words like addict and fanatic.

First – distracted or not, I don’t miss deadlines. EVER.

Second – writing is a solitary pursuit (I work on my own at home) and it takes up much less (work) time to have a quick interaction with someone on Facebook/by email/FaceTime/WhatsApp/SMS, or whatever your weapon of choice, than it does to meet up face-to-face.  Virtual chats are sometimes necessary when I’m up to my eyes in copywriting, just to remind me that there are people out there in the Big Bad World beyond the four walls of my study.

Third – when I’ve been writing for a long stretch on some mind-bogglingly dull or complex subject (yes, those do exist) I feel as though my head might explode. Very often, I’ll go out into the garden for a breath of fresh air, or make myself a cup of tea, or do some housework – all to give my brain a break. But SOMETIMES, it’s just as relaxing to surf the net for a while, watching silly YouTube videos about kittens startled by cucumbers. We all need a break occasionally, purrrrlease.

Fourth – I USE the internet quite extensively in my work – for research purposes. (My husband laughs hollowly when I tell him this – but I DO).

SO, the internet may have its pitfalls…

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BUT, it also has its uses for me, a writer.

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I’m now trying to assess whether writing this blog = being distracted by the internet. Don’t think so.

However, maybe you reading it is…

 

Amazon-sized annoyance

The River Amazon is about 4000 miles long and that’s about the length of my annoyance…today

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Plus meanders…

Having said that, I must add that the Amazon (online retailer, not river) Customer Service response via email was speedy and comprehensive, even if the answers given were not what I wanted to hear.

The trouble is that, as an author who wants to sell her books, I’m kind of hamstrung. I could bitch and moan for an eternity – but Amazon is where many people go to purchase books unless they’re lucky enough to have a local independent book store, like me. (Hoorah for East Grinstead Bookshop!)

The Amazon-sized annoyance is about the synergy between their sites – that’s to say Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Synergy? Seems there ISN’T synergy.

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(That’s the River Amazon running right down that chasm, naturally).

I spent a long time creating an Author Page at Amazon.com – follow the link at the end of this blog.  You won’t be disappointed. Much.

I assumed that Amazon.com was the mother site and material would be shared with its satellites.

WRONG!

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If I want an Author Page on .co.uk I have to create ANOTHER one.

Then, customer reviews…

You would think (wouldn’t you?) that when people post reviews about a book on Amazon, those reviews would be LINKED TO THE BOOK.

WRONG AGAIN.

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I have a set of great reviews on .co.uk, but NOTHING on .com

In the email – “Our Customer Reviews feature doesn’t link reviews across Amazon.com and the International Amazon sites.”

Yes, I know that NOW!

WHY NOT?

“Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback about Author Central. We appreciate your ideas; we’re always looking for ways to make our service more useful to authors.”

I’m not holding my breath on this one.

Oh, and here’s the link, now you’ve been good enough to get to the bottom of the page.

Caroline’s very individual and largely unloved Author Page

 

 

Pay Per Click – a potential customer speaks out!

(A customer of products and services, not a customer of Pay Per Click!)

At a meeting yesterday, with a new client, website content, blog writing, SEO and Pay Per Click were discussed.

Pay Per Click? Not my area of expertise AT ALL.

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Let me tell you the effect is has on me, as a potential customer, when I’m searching for a product or service online, using Google:

I AVOID all the search results at the very top of the page with the little yellow icon telling me it’s an ad.

I AVOID the column of search results on the right hand side of the page which I assume are also ads.

I choose the sites at the top of the rankings that are NOT (apparently) driven by Pay Per Click.

My client, though he uses PPC campaigns sporadically – trying them out for a while then turning them off for a couple of months, then trying again – was of exactly the same opinion as me.

Don’t even get me started on Facebook ads…

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(I don’t!)

SO – out of my comprehensive poll of two people – that’s 100% completely ANTI pay per click, from a customer perspective.

The psychology of it? I’ve been trying to analyse it, from my own opinions. I think it’s because I object to being manipulated (ha ha ha in this day and age!) and I don’t like the idea that big players who can afford the allegedly outrageous costs for PPC seem to have an unfair advantage over the little people. This sort of search engine ranking, it seems to me, is nothing to do with the quality of the product or the service but simply a function of a marketing budget (or lack of one).

It’s like paying (or begging) for votes in a contest – so that the result is generated from a popularity contest not a reflection of merit.

Me and my innate love of the level playing field…

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But it must work for businesses, mustn’t it? Why else has it become a business in itself?

I began to wonder if I really understand PPC at all, from a business perspective, so I started reading up about it and I must say I glazed over in the first twenty seconds – until I found a website with a section entitled PPC University. NOW it begins to make sense!

However, even this site admits, “Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically.”

I’m sure this is why MY business isn’t busting out all over – doing well but could do weller!

But I’m comfortable with how I go about promoting myself.

And I’m not comfortable with the idea of PPC.

Good luck to me.

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It’s a jungle out there.

 

 

 

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?

Creativity – software and apps for writers

Writing apps? Dedicated writing software? Some people swear by them, some people treat them with utter contempt. I’m somewhere in the middle, I suppose.

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Yesterday, I was listening to Open Book, on Radio 4, where authors Stella Duffy and Julian Gough discussed whether the new apps for writers can really get the creative juices flowing, while A L Kennedy bravely road-tested a few of the most popular.

As a screenplay writer, I’ve been a long time fan of Final Draft – especially since yesterday when I discovered it has a profanity report facility to log the number of swear words you use!  Here’s an example – not mine, I hasten to add:

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Made me laugh!

I reckon I use about 10% of all the fine facilities the software has to offer. It’s a time thing, I tell myself. But does Final Draft  get the creative juices flowing?

Not at all.

What it does do is allow you to concentrate on the creative side of writing a screenplay without having to think about formatting it correctly. That happens automatically. Not having to worry about the technicalities really helps me not to get stuck. (And yes, I know there are other bits of kit like this, but Final Draft is the only one I can talk about through experience. )

The writers on Open Book both raved enthusiastically about Scrivener, advertised as a manuscript and script-writing tool. Techie Tim has also been badgering me about this. It’s the same old story for me – I get confronted by the thought of having to devote a lot of time to learning new technology and navigating my way through a whole different program. I can appreciate that, in the long run, it would probably be super-duper but, just at the moment…

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I’m an old-fashioned girl…

What about apps for writers?

The trending one of the moment is called Write or Die 2, created by someone called Dr. Wicked. Of course it is.

This app “aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination and, new to this version, rewards for accomplishment…Instead of just writing to avoid annoying sounds and alarm warning colours you can now customise your stimulus. If you like to see a cute puppy after you’ve reached a certain number of words, you can. If you’d like to write in fear of a jiggling spider, you can do that too.”

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Fun, yes! I imagine so. Helpful? Maybe. Julian Gough described how it made him churn out material with less inhibition, sometimes a surprise even to himself, which he could then edit. Stella Duffy said it was great when she was stuck, as a way of getting started.

Maybe I’ll try it.

In the meantime, here’s a clip of AL Kennedy, doing just that!

On the other hand…apps for writers? Maybe not.

Technology – Artificial intelligence

…is no match for natural stupidity.

Technology? Pah!

See, Albert Einstein knew what he was talking about!

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It’s all relative though, isn’t it?

(Excuse my hollow laugh – whoever wrote down the quotation spelled ‘intelligence’  like this: INTELLEGANCE. As always, I’m left wondering whether this was irony or simply gross inability to spell.)

Anyway – after yesterday’s battle with restraint over installing the new computer – excitement got the better of me (Tim) and I (he) threw caution to the wind…or you could stay, caution to the dust storm…and installed the new, super fast computer. Even though the office is still not clean and tidy. Ask the dust bunnies.

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When I say ‘I installed, ‘ of course that means ‘Tim installed.’ He was more excited than I was. Me and technology…we’ve never hit it off very well.

I then went into partial meltdown because IT WASN’T THE SAME AS MY OLD COMPUTER.

I couldn’t understand what the pretty icons meant, or see where all my precious files were stored, or work out the navigation, or remember user-names or passwords of sites I’ve been logged on to forever, or work out how to put iTunes back or find the piece of paper with my Final Draft account details or locate the Microsoft Office disks. And the mouse moved too fast.

It felt like my fragile house of cards was toppling before my very eyes.

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Tim was quite patient in the circumstances.

A good night’s sleep and WHOOPEE! I LOVE new technology.

This used to be my morning routine. I would turn on my computer then do a few jobs while I was waiting for it to drag itself into functionality – tidy the kitchen, unload the dishwasher, make myself a coffee.

Today? Turned it on and WHAM – there was everything, all raring to go, almost in the blink of an eye.

EVERYTHING goes at the speed of light.

Except my brain.

My office is protected by killer dust bunnies

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Dust bunnies are my friends. They keep the Clean People out of my office. The Clean People who want to organise my life.

My theory? It’s my office, my mess.

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My computer’s much the same as my office.

My bedroom’s much the same as my office.

My brain’s much the same as my office.

My LIFE’S…

SO…today I received, by courier,  a spanking  brand new computer. I’ve become increasingly weary of working with a machine that grinds along slower than a snail.

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It’s inefficient. (Note the irony of a person who lives in chaos complaining that something’s inefficient.)

My current computer, by the way, is third-hand and the processor thingy doesn’t have enough of those byte wotsits or whatever they’re called – is it something to do with sheep or rams? –  or anyway that stuff which makes computers slow if you haven’t enough of it. A technical description of a common problem.

HOWEVER, does my spanking brand new computer wish to come into my office environment to dwell in harmony with the dust bunnies?

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Computer says ‘I am NOT emerging from the safety of my cardboard box until you have cleaned and tidied your poor excuse for an office.’

I wonder how long it’ll take me to get round to it?

The computer is humanity’s attempt to replicate the human brain.

The first part of a quote by Ammar Shaukat Reshi.

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Yesterday, I had computer problems or, more accurately, my computer had problems with me.

I was minded of another quote, by Dani Harper (neglecting to acknowledge that the computer was fine, it was just me being idiotic.)

“Computers are heaven-sent when they work and hell-spawn when they don’t. There’s just not much middle ground when it comes to technology.”

Yes, indeedy. On Wednesday, being very efficient, I cracked on with a website re-write. What I now know about double glazing matters is…a lot.

(I do love my job. I’m given a task and I think…Well, THAT’S interesting (not) – but by the time I’ve finished, I’m always enthusiastic about the subject, full of random facts.)

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So many subjects, so little time…

On Thursday, I opened up Word to find the revision doc and it was… GONE. I know I didn’t shut down my computer properly the night before, but come ON…

At least an hour spent searching for the document, working out how to use auto-recovery by means of Google instructions. Only I think I’d deleted the auto-recovery task pane, convinced that the document was properly saved.

Grrrrrrrr! Tear hair out.

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The computer is humanity’s attempt to replicate the human brain? It was doing a pretty damn good job of that, by my techie brain standards.

The second part of the quote:

“This is perhaps an unattainable goal. However, unattainable goals often lead to outstanding accomplishment.”

So…I had to re-write the re-write FROM MEMORY.

I did it. In about a quarter of the time I spent searching for the original.

Go figure, as they say.

Copywriting and the internet

Fact is, I rely on the internet for my copywriting.

Today, thanks to our pesky squirrels’ taste for cable insulation…nom nom nom…

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and the  non-appearance of BT Openreach (phone and broadband engineers)

AGAIN

I have no landline, and broadband that’s working as slowly as a semi-conscious snail.

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By Karl Addison

Hence, unusual lateness of this blog. I gave up in disgust. Eventually.

For copywriting purposes, without the internet, I can’t:

  • download emails and attachments to read briefs, instructions and working documents
  • do any research
  • source images
  • send finished copy to clients

What’s more, I find it hard to settle. I feel the need to keep on trying the wretched thing, just in case it’s working again.

What a time-wasting waste of time THAT is!

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Copywriting is my job. I need the internet. BT Openreach don’t seem to share my sense of urgency. The fault was reported on December 4th and has got steadily worse.

Still, this is very much a first world problem.

I have warmth, my health, light, a roof over my head, clear running water, a good source of income.

Suggestion to self:

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