How to keep your copywriting short and snappy – and still say all you need to
Guest post by PR student and Best Words intern Cristina Alexe
Sometimes useful to know what ‘bad’ is, so we can actually see what ‘good’ looks like. Let’s look at the copywriting on those websites, for instance, which either waste valuable space greeting their readers/ visitors with a half-a-page wide ‘WELCOME TO OUR WEBSITE’, or simply put many different ideas in the same sentence, making their visitors read the text more than twice to understand what it’s all about. We’re all busy. The time we have is precious, so why rob people of it with pointless messages which don’t clarify the purpose of the conversation?
An old Romanian story tells of two islands – Ontoolong and Brevity – living peacefully, one next to the other, in a friendly and kind relationship. One year, a severe famine hits Ontoolong and all the wise, old leaders go together to Brevity Island to ask for help. The group of Ontoolong locals start to describe in great detail the big trouble they are in:
How the elder ones have to skip meals just so the children can eat,
how the waters have flooded all the barns and not even one of them is usable again,
how although everything has to be rebuilt, all the wood is soaked wet and people are too tired,
how everyone has to rationalize their meals so not even a bite of food is wasted…
They speak about the heartbreaking consequences of starvation and
how many Ontoolong locals are already planning to move to the Brevity Island.
All in all, this story lasts for 2 hours.
At the end of the monologue, the Brevity leaders scratch their heads. They have not understood anything, so they send the old men back to their island, with a message to send someone able to communicate quickly and clearly.
After some days, Ontoolong Island send another group of people to Brevity. They show how the bags they are carrying are empty, they say that Ontoolong Island is suffering from starvation, and they ask the Brevity leaders to fill up their bags.
Brevity leaders immediately order their people to fill up their guests’ bags. They tell their visitors to come and ask for help any time they need it. Before the Ontoolong residents leave the island, the Brevity leaders say:
” It was not necessary to tell us your bags were empty. We could see that ourselves. Asking us to fill them up was not essential either, we could see we needed to do that. It was only necessary to tell us that your people were starving .”
This story illustrates the importance of that well-worn acronym, KISS:
- Keep it short and simple
- Keep it short, stupid!
- Keep it simple and straightforward
- Keep it super simple
Communication is not only about telling whatever we need to tell. It is also about making sure your message is to the point and easily understandable. In terms of how a message is most effectively transmitted, ‘less’ really is ‘more’.
It’s one thing to know the value and importance of a brief message but quite another to write in a sharp and concise manner yet still convey all that you need to. That’s probably ‘the’ most important reason for using a copywriter. Great business writing is about striking that balance between ‘punch’ and effective communication of a message. One of the things I’ve learnt more than anything while I’ve been an intern here at Best Words is to edit and edit. It’s a real skill and it takes a long time to learn. And I’m getting a lot better at it, but I’m still learning.
If you’d like Best Words to do an appraisal of any of your marketing writing, call the office on 01582 761 212 – they will do that at no charge, and believe me, they know what they are talking about. Or take a look the copy check tool on the Best Words contact page.
With best wishes,