Category Archives: Business writing tips

The Gloucestershire Copywriter goes back in time. Here’s why…

There’s inspiration out there, not necessarily in ‘them thar hills’, but in the writings of the good and great of copywriting and journalistic writing from bygone days. And I’ve been reminded of a couple of gems that can help everyone who writes for business – including you.

With the fast-pace of technological change, we’ve become used to computers and phones being out of date the day we buy them. But in the world of business writing, the pace of change isn’t so fast and loads of advice that worked decades (or even a century) ago still holds good today.

The timeless wisdom of Claude C. Hopkins

You only need to read Claude C. HopkinsMy Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising to get this. Amongst other things, Hopkins was the brain behind the famous, and still influential, Schlitz Beer ads that are always being quoted in advertising texts.

I’ve been reading these two books recently and was struck by how simply relevant his thoughts on letter writing, testing and other advertising matters remain some 82 years after his death. No wonder David Ogilvy wrote:

Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book (Scientific Advertising) seven times. It changed the course of my life.

You can read Scientific Advertising online for free (or buy the combined books in hard copy).

More recent inspiration for any business writer

Another, more recent gem that I’ve been reading is Donald M. Murray’s Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work – my copy was published in 2000. In the book, Murray, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, covers topics as diverse as the journalist’s craft, writing before writing and development of journalistic pieces. As well as a healthy dose of experience-based advice, the book also includes a fascinating selection of interviews with journalists where they talk about writing.

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Though the book is primarily aimed at professional journalists, there are gems that will transform the way anyone writes for business. In particular, I was struck by the chapter titled ‘DEVELOP: Work on What Works’ where Murray discusses the process of developing a draft document.

If there was one thing that jumped out from this chapter, it was Murray’s assertion that writing will take a huge leap forward if, when revising a draft, you focus not on what is wrong, but what is working – what is right. By doing so, the improvement on an original draft is accelerated and, interestingly, most of the problems of early drafts  will solve themselves. Those that aren’t can be more easily isolated and worked on. It’s a radical change from the idea of focusing on what’s wrong with a document. Murray also advocates thinking about revision, not as a punishment for failure, but as an opportunity. Sounds a bit like the old ‘challenges, not problems’ thing, doesn’t it.

Is this for real? I guess it is.

And here’s one last thing which I took away from reading Murray; it resonates with me as someone who regularly has to transform clients’ drafts from ‘we orientated’ to ‘you-oriented’ when writing for website or brochure readers. Here’s what Murray writes:

It is print journalist tradition to avoid the first person (in fact, the capital letter I had been filed off all the Royal typewriters in the old Boston Herald city room when I arrived in 1948).

Although Murray then goes on to state that there is an occasional place for the first person in journalistic writing, I just liked this anecdote and it is a great reminder of the importance of writing directly to your reader – and talking about them much more than about you!

A worthwhile read – even if it’s only Chapter 7

So there you go, a few thoughts prompted by a trip back in time into my copywriting library. If you have to develop draft documents, you could do worse than invest in a copy – even if you only read Chapter 7, it will be worthwhile.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve ever learned about copywriting or editing? feel free to comment below.

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

SEO copywriting tips that you can use today…

Inspired by last week’s valuable content marketing blog, I thought I’d share some SEO copywriting tips based on my experience as a Gloucestershire SEO copywriter. In this article I deconstruct the process of writing an SEO page, suggest some tools to help you, and offer practical advice if you decide that you don’t have the time to do your own SEO writing.

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Feel free to try writing your own SEO copy. But be warned, because I regularly see prospective clients who couldn’t find the time to do this – or burned lots of expensive management hours trying unsuccessfully to save a few pounds by writing their own SEO copy. In the case of recent client Arden Construction, their new website had stood ‘completed’ for months while they tried to write their own SEO copy…

 

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There are plenty of different approaches to writing SEO copy and I’m sure many of them work. The methodology that I take you through in the article is one that I’ve used successfully in conjunction with respected SEO consultants for several years.

If you fancy a go at SEO copywriting, please read on. I hope you find the article useful.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

 

Simplify your business writing with the madman, architect, carpenter and judge…

They say it takes a while to get into your stride as a blogger and that your mission in the blogosphere gradually evolves. The more I blog, the more I believe I can use blogging to share my skills and insights as a Cheltenham copywriter with you.

Maybe  you’ re thinking of hiring a freelance copywriter or perhaps you could use a few professional tips for your own business writing. If so, I hope that I can help. And here’s a great one to be getting on with…

I was listening to a Harvard Business Review Ideacast podcast the other day when I heard writer Bryan Garner talking about the idea of the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge when you’re doing a piece of writing. It’s a cracker, and simple as all the best ideas should be.

The four personas represent four different stages to go through when you are writing anything. You might be putting together a report or an email, or drafting a page of website copy. In each case, you adopt the four personas in sequence.

The madman

Just get down your ideas. Don’t edit or critique them. Just throw them down on the page as you think of them. Like a madman (or woman!).

The architect

Next, adopt the persona of the architect. Add some structure to your ideas, form them into paragraphs. You are creating the master plan for your writing, bringing order to the mad person’s brainstorm, setting out your main points… By now you have an outline for your piece.

The carpenter

Then, just as skilled craftsmen and women come onto site and add detail and finish to the building structure, it’s time to be the carpenter. Following the architectural specification, you develop your ideas more completely – but still briskly, because the judge still has to play a vital role…

The judge

Adopting the persona of the judge, you go back over the work, look at it objectively and critically and edit. This is where you ask yourself whether you could write something better. You polish and craft until your piece is complete.

I told you this was a simple, easily remembered idea. The person we have to thank for this bit of inspired writing wisdom is Professor Betty Sue Flowers of the University of Texas.  If you want to explore her work on what Bryan Garner calls the Flowers paradigm, there’s more information online.

Alternatively, just remember the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge next time you have to write something and see what a difference they make.

And if you don’t have the time, the specialist skills or the inclination to do a piece of business writing such as SEO website content, brochure copywriting or a client case study? I’m always here to help organisations like yours in Gloucestershire, surrounding counties and elsewhere in the UK.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.