Strong writing is vigorous! Check out how you can achieve this style in your copies! [Tuesdays: “Write with the Pen of the Masters”]
Everywhere we go, we see different kinds of content from various businesses and organizations.
―billboard ads, posters, flyers, books, direct mails, emails, etc.
According to an article published by Forbes.com, most people encounter around 4,000 to 10,000 of these kinds of content every day that they can’t absorb all the information they receive!
As a copywriter, how can you make sure your ads or copies will stand out and attract your target market?
One way is by using definite, specific, and concrete language!
According to William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White in the book, “The Elements of Style,” you must always prefer “the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, and the concrete to the abstract.”
The authors believe this is one of the surest ways to catch and hold your readers’ attention.
Think about some of the greatest writers in history like Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare. If you read some of their written works, you’ll notice that their novels, sonnets, epics, etc. are effective because they deal with particulars and write about details that matter. They also paint a really good picture of a scenario or topic using words.
Simply said, their writing style is vivid and definite.
Just like these writers, you also have to know how to make your content as appealing and engaging as possible to be able to paint a picture in your target market’s minds.
This will help you appeal to your readers through more conversational, easy-to-understand, and vivid content.
In the short story, “In The Zoo,” author Jean Stafford demonstrated how prose is made vivid by using words that evoke images and emotions.
Let’s look at an excerpt from her story:
“… Daisy and I in time found asylum in a small menagerie down by the railroad tracks. It belonged to a gentle alcoholic ne’er-do-well, who did nothing all day long but drink bathtub gin in rickeys and play solitaire and smile to himself and talk to his animals. He had a little, stunted red vixen and a deodorized skunk, a parrot from Tahiti that spoke Parisian French, a woebegone coyote, and two capuchin monkeys, so serious and humanized, so small and sad and sweet, and so religious-looking with their tonsured heads that it was impossible not to think their gibberish was really an ordered language with a grammar that someday some philologist would understand.
Gran knew about our visits to Mr. Murphy and she did not object, for it gave her keen pleasure to excoriate him when we came home. His vice was not a matter of guesswork; it was an established fact that he was half-seas over from dawn till midnight. ‘With the black Irish,’ said Gran, ‘the taste for drink is taken in with the mother’s milk and is never mastered. Oh, I know all about those promises to join the temperance movement and not to touch another drop. The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.’”
See? By using words such as “stunted red vixen,” “deodorized skunk,” “gentle alcoholic,” and many more, Stafford was able to paint a clear picture of her story in the minds of readers.
Here are other examples from different authors and writers…
In the “Philosophy of Style” book, author Herbert Spencer wrote two versions of the same message to show how the vague and general can be turned into the vivid and particular:
Vague and General
“In proportion as the manners, customs, and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, the regulations of its penal code will be severe.”
Vivid and Particular
“In proportion as men delight in battles, bullfights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack.”
Likewise, English novelist George Orwell once took a passage from the Bible and “drained it of its blood” to show aspiring writers what happens when strong writing is deprived of its vigor:
“Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.”
Original Passage From The Bible (King James Version)
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Clearly, those versions that are specific, definite, and concrete are more effective and engaging to read because they evoke certain images and emotions in the minds of readers.
In writing content, you must strive to make your copies as appealing and compelling as possible to attract and sustain your target market’s attention.
You must also assess whether or not word pictures are appropriate for the context of what you’re writing. If you’re writing a thesis, term paper, case study, annual report, etc., then you must lean on the formal side of writing. If you’re writing a novel, short story, poem, or marketing copies, then vivid and engaging content is the way to go.
Strunk Jr. and White said that if a lot of readers enjoy reading your copies, that’s because you’ve done a good job in using definite details and concrete terms.
―this doesn’t mean that every detail is given in your content, but that significant details are included with vigor so readers can project themselves into the scenario you’re trying to build in their minds.
Apply this copywriting principle in your drafts!
Remember: If you want your brand to appeal to your target market, being specific, definite, and concrete in your copies is a good way to start.
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Write with the Pen of the Masters”
Who doesn’t find content writing to be a skill that requires a lot of practice and effort?
In fact, many people may even find copywriting very intimidating.
However, you can be a good writer as long as you have the right tools. You won’t always get things right the first time, but with enough time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it!
When you write a copy for any brand or for your company, your aim is to make an impact and…
…to get people to remember.
Getting people to remember means getting consumers to buy your product or to avail of your service.
And when you get your content to deliver the results you want, THAT is a great copy!
Every Tuesday, we publish content based on tips and insights from the masters of content writing, copywriting, and storytelling.
Become more familiar with ways to write great copy that helps you gain ROI from your efforts, drive profitability, and achieve your business goals.
Learn time-tested tactics that better capture the attention of your target audience, and maximize the benefits of great copywriting.
Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Write with the Pen of the Masters!”
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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