Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

Archive for the ‘Writing Tips’ Category

An Example of Good Copywriting

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A lot of the best writing for marketing and advertising never wins any awards. Oh, there are tons of awards copywriters and advertising folks in general can win, and those awards often go to clever, funny ads.

But some great writing just helps drive sales. It’s inconspicuous, but actually communicates with the audience.

Here’s an example:


Why is this such good copywriting? Well, let me tell you:

  • It’s short. It gets the point across in 15 seconds.
  • It’s focused. There’s no rambling about the 27 benefits of going to Men’s Wearhouse. It chooses a succinct message and delivers it.
  • The benefit is clear: buy one get one free. Everyone loves free, right?
  • It shows they know their audience and plays off specific desires.

That last point is probably the most important—knowing your audience is paramount. I’m making an educated guess in saying that the majority of Men’s Wearhouse customers are professional men. And if that’s who they’re trying to entice, connecting the ideas of tall, powerful CEOs with their brand is a deft play on men’s desires while still keeping the obvious benefit of savings.

Sometimes the best copy is the least copy. And sometimes that’s the hardest to write. Finding the key message and just delivering the benefits, the emotional timbre you want, and doing it briefly can be exceedingly hard.

But this ad does just that. Nice work.

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Written by Nathanael Green

October 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Absolutes: Some Very Unique Words

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Can something be more than perfect? A little bit perfect? Or, if something’s one of a kind, can it be more one of a kind?

If you’re taking these ideas literally, the answer is no. Perfect, by definition, means there’s nothing better to be had. It’s as good as it can possibly be.

Perfect is what’s known as an absolute. Perfect is perfect; it doesn’t come in degrees of perfectness.

But what gets tricky, is that in everyday speech, absolutes like perfect get modified all the time. So, you may ask, is it ok to say “more perfect?”
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nathanael Green

August 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Using “Over” with Numbers is More Than Acceptable

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bridge in mexicoEarly in my copywriting career, I got into a heated debate with an editor about using the word over to mean more than.

I had drafted a headline on a flyer saying something along the lines of “over 5,000 whatsits” on a promotion for one of the magazines my company produced. The editor took issue with my copy, saying that it should be “more than 5,000.”

I thought that that was total crap.

Either is fine in most instances, and in the promotional piece I was working on — fewer words worked much better. But the editor was insistent on her point, trying to tell me that it’s not just a matter of style, but that using over is blatantly ungrammatical.

Why is using over before a number ungrammatical?

It’s not. But here’s why some people think it is: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nathanael Green

May 21, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Quick Thoughts on Rejections

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rejectedFriend and fellow Rosemont writer Shawn Proctor posted a blog entry about the reality of rejections almost all writers must endure. Check out his blog here.

That got me thinking: I don’t imagine that many non-writers think about the heaps of rejections (usually pre-printed and written to politely say “get lost”) that most writers accumulate before finally seeing their work in print.

Writers will toil over a story for weeks, months, or years until we decide to abandon it (for it’s never really finished), then package it up and send it to a publisher, hoping that they’ll put our words in print for all to see.

And more often than not (much more often), we don’t hear anything for months. Then in the mail appears our self-addressed, stamped envelope with a rejection letter: “Thanks, but no thanks.” Like Shawn says, the supposed average is one publication of a story for every hundred times it’s submitted.

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In Defense of the $10 Word

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The quintessential cantankerous old man.

The quintessential cantankerous old man.

Ever heard the saying that you shouldn’t use a ten-dollar word when a two-cent one will do?

I agree. There’s no point in tossing giant Latinate words into your writing when a simple, single-syllable will do.

He masticated the tuna? Nah. He just chewed it.

Using big words needlessly can be a turnoff for your readers. It can muddy your meaning while making your writing sound stilted at best, possibly irritating and pompous. Plus, you have to be careful because sometimes that giant word you think means one thing really means something else and could be a big embarrassment. (Insert mastication jokes here.)

So sure, it’s often wise to avoid the big words when a little one will do.

But notice the qualifier on that statement: “when a little one will do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nathanael Green

April 13, 2009 at 8:39 am

5 Questions For Writing Better Promotions

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Whether you’re working on web copy, a direct mailer, ads or email marketing, taking a minute to answer a few questions before you write will go a long way to sharpening your promotion.

Here are a few key things to consider before writing any promotion:

1.    What’s the point?

Too often people begin writing a promotion and their only direction is “We need an ad.” They don’t think much about what they want that ad to say. Or they think it has to say everything and they try to say too much. And in both cases, it ends up saying nothing much at all.

Pretend you’re telling a friend about the piece you’re working on and he asks, “What’s the point? Sum up what you’re trying to say in one sentence.”

Mac does a great job of this with the Mac/PC ads – there’s usually one key message in each ad. Read on for the rest of the questions

Written by Nathanael Green

April 8, 2009 at 7:25 am

The Two Strategies for Using Whom

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fwtbtIt’s a tricky little word, folks, and a lot of people aren’t sure when or how to use it. So, consciously or not, most of us adopt one of two strategies for whom:

Strategy One:

I don’t know what the heck this whom is all about, so I’m going to avoid it. Besides, it sounds pretentious and awkward, so screw it. I’m sticking with who all the time.

Strategy Two:

I’m not sure when to use it, but when in doubt, whom seems more formal and has to be right. So I’m going to just tack that little m on wherever it feels right.

So which is the best strategy? And what really is the right way to use whom?

Let me put it clearly – Strategy Two is bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nathanael Green

March 19, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Common Mistakes, Grammar, Writing Tips

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