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Blank Page Spacer Prepare To Write By Michael Dongilli

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Laziness begets bad copy. If two words can define "writing well," they most certainly would include "preparation" and "information." Makes sense doesn't it? The more you know about a topic, the crisper, clearer, cleaner and more powerful your writing can become.

Sadly, too many corporate promotional writers wing it. They use redundant phrasing, cliché, and tired analogy to fill space, mimicking old pieces or those of similar industry types. Rather than inform and convince, paragraphs pound home pedantic prose that fails to differentiate [what most marketing writing should do] and detracts from what a company really has to offer.

And, it's dull! Even with the Internet at desktop disposal for background and resources, the glut of sales/marketing copy is merely "same story, new package" jargon. With overuse, words that could once stand alone as strong benefits-quality, trust, service-have become mild descriptors offering little distinction to the confused prospect begging to be swayed.

Add to that hackneyed phrases [cost effective, leading edge, state-of-the-art], too many present participle [-ing] verbs and few, if any, strong benefit statements and "boring story" permeates the pages.

Here's the twist. While slothful writing flows faster and seems easier on you, it forces the reader to work harder. Instead of lively and inviting words of distinction resonating in your prospect's mind, he must now search for your unique benefits. Rarely does he find any because the generic language used to communicate simply doesn't register.

9 Remedies for the Common Copy Syndrome!
  • Do your homework-industries change and so do customer needs. Study your market, know a prospect's "hot buttons" at the time and how your product addresses them.
  • Take the risk out of reading-prospects will loosely scan a piece [focus on the headlines] before choosing to read it. pack your headlines with strong benefit statements to prove your story is worth their time. Follow it with words that demonstrate a command of their problems.
  • Get off your high horse-a diverse vocabulary is great [see below] but don't try to impress prospects with arcane word usage. Clear writing is simple and exact. Drawn out sentences of superfluous text may convey intelligent writing to you, but readers drown in the babble.
  • Use the language-conversely, say it with style and difference. Who wants to read the same words, identical sentence structure paragraph after paragraph? Emotions elicit responses. Put some feeling into it...make it pertinent with precise lingo, relevant metaphor and smart word choices.
  • Arouse curiosity-ask questions when appropriate, call-out statistics and facts to support your claims...and to really grab your reader's eye-put captions on your photos, but don't just state the obvious: the H-123 valve; give'em oomph-the H-123 valve processes 50,000 gallons of water a minute and uses 1/3 the electricity of conventional valves.
  • Say something meaningful-prospects want information they can make a decision, solve a problem, help them perform better. Unsupported declarations, features without benefits and jargon cloud your credibility...wastes their time and forces them to look elsewhere.
  • Strong verbs add muscle-the tendency to "ing" active verbs clutters copy. Take "is performing," "was working" "were reviewing" and drop the auxiliary puffery: performs, works, reviewed.
  • Lead the way-follow a logical story progression. That doesn't mean write rigidly and predictably, but keep elements cohesive and guide the reader sensibly.
  • Edit-no one gets it 100% right on the first draft. Reviewing and re-writing polishes copy. Make it a practice.
Copyright 2004 Michael J. Dongilli. All Rights Reserved.

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