Actual copywriting (and no a sensational headline doesn’t count)

28 Feb
2007

If there is one weakness I have, it is my ability to ramble. I ramble on like no one I have ever met – ideas and thoughts and what not just spew out, often times incoherently.

I’m sure regular readers know what I’m talking about :)

So amidst the recent surge in ‘copywriting’ posts, its been odd that very few have actually tackled on the meat of the issue. Almost every single one talks about using bullet points, how to ‘engage’ the reader, how to use the word ‘you‘, and what not. Over and over we hear about engagement, conversation, persuasion, and other multi-syllable words that will take you to riches.

And yet none explicitly deal with the fundamental issue: too many damn words.

Blogging can be a very narcissistic exercise. And while in regular correspondence people love to ‘hear themselves speak’, online (and in blogs) people love to throw out lengthy posts that could be summarized in roughly 1/10th the time.

I’m not picking on personal blogs. Those are exempt. Me too – this blog is more about my ramblings than any effort in creating money. But ‘professional’ blogs – those are ripe with excessive words. Dean (link above) was right in characterizing these words as ‘lazy.’ The education ‘system’ (I use that word lightly) has, over the years, shoved long essays down our throats. Write 15 pages on why Dr. Faustus was an idiot. Give me a 20 page essay on catharsis found in King Lear. Spend 10 pages explaining to me how hubris and MacBeth did not mingle well. It was rather odd – we were never told to focus on our argument, or on a number of points to argue … oh dear no, the damn exercise of writing was simply to get to X number of pages.

If you need X words instead of Y words (where X < Y) to get your point across - then bloody do it.


UPDATE: About 15 minutes later, I decided to test myself. Re-write what I just wrote. Prove my point. The results:

I ramble. Its what I do. My thoughts and ideas just spew out unfiltered.

I’m sure regular readers know what I’m talking about :)

Recently there has been a surge in conversation about ‘copywriting’. Heavy on fat and light on substance, they all recommend the same things: use bullet points, engage the reader, make it about ‘you’ (the reader), and so forth. Buzzwords like engagement, conversation, and persuasion fly around like a magic-bullet to riches.

None deal with the fundamental problem: too many damn words.

Blogging can be very narcissistic. Classic narcissm involved people who loved to ‘hear themselves speak’. The blog world replaces that with ‘love to write excessive text.’ 90% bloat comes free.

Personal blogs are exempt. Mine included – this blog is for rambling, not to make money. But professional blogs – they consist of excessive word usage. Dean (linked above) was correct in calling them ‘lazy words’. The education ‘system’ has conditioned us on writing pages, not content. From why Dr. Faustus was an idiot to catharsis experienced by King Lear to Macbeth’s hubris, our only requirement was the nubmer of pages we wrote. Forget the actual argument or points being argued – it was all about the page count. And that has translated to blogging.

If you need X words instead of Y words (where X < Y), only lazy people go with Y.


The above ended up with 229 words. The original was 326 words. 97 less words, or ~30% less than the original.

Comments?

7 Responses to Actual copywriting (and no a sensational headline doesn’t count)

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Fred Dentello

February 28th, 2007 at 2:19 pm

It seems that “writing is human, editing is divine”, as they say.

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Peter

February 28th, 2007 at 6:16 pm

I love it. As you say “get to the point”.

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Michael

March 1st, 2007 at 12:32 pm

I agree completely. There is nothing worse than reading a blog post that is 5 paragraphs long, searching through all of it just to find the one sentence of actual news that you’re looking for (I’m looking at YOU, Apple Insider!).

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Keeping It Short And Simple » Jack Of All Blogs

March 1st, 2007 at 1:58 pm

[...] Here’s a good example. AhmedF has a case study at TechSoapbox. He rambles and rambles, and 15 minutes after, he edits his ramblings and came up with a shorter (although not significantly so) article, but a better read at that! [...]

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ia

March 2nd, 2007 at 1:09 am

One of the basic tenets of “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. ;) That book(let) proves their points.

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Ahmed

March 2nd, 2007 at 1:54 am

Yep I own that book :)

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Are You A Lazy Blogger? » The J Spot

March 7th, 2007 at 10:59 am

[...] AhmedF says bloggers tend to ramble a lot, and oftentimes it’s easier to go on rambling instead of going back to edit your material to make sure it’s organized and sensible. [...]

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