in other words

Three simple tricks to spring clean your copywriting

Coralie Fernando - Monday, February 23, 2015

With just a few moments to make an impact and a lasting first impression, words can play as much of a role in your reader’s visual journey as graphical or photographical imagery. To pack a punch with your content, use words that get straight to the point. By being direct, you’ll not only promote confidence; you’ll build credibility with your audience. Support your key messages with visual cues and you’ll also tap more deeply into your readers’ psyche, engaging them in a more profound way.

You could be selling robots that tear through the ironing whilst simultaneously massage your temples and serve you espresso martinis, but if you draw out and complicate your language, chances are your audience won’t take the time to read about it, let alone buy it. With this in mind (and spring around the corner), I’ve put together a few pointers to spruce up your copywriting and help you pack a punch in the first round.

1. Edit. Edit. Edit.

While there are many writers proclaiming to nail it in the first draft, I know I’ve never been one of them, especially when it comes to long copy. Sometimes my best ideas come to me in the middle of the night, or I could be inspired by something completely random out on a walk. Rarely do the gems come to me in one sitting at my laptop.

Let your stream of consciousness flow in the first run just to get your ideas out on the page. From there, take some (mental) time out to let the mind wander a little. Then, come back to it with fresh eyes and edit, edit, edit.

2. Eliminate ‘There is/are’

This phrase contributes zero to your content if you’re looking to inspire! Obviously, feel free to use them in the first draft when you’re getting your ideas out on the page. When it comes to the second round of editing though, you really want to banish the ‘ises’ entirely. Usually this simply entails readjusting your sentence structure slightly. For example:

'There is a new potato chip on the market that’s fat free and tasty.' Consider instead:

'Don’t miss out on the latest fat-free and delicious chip, available now!'

Everything that was needed to keep the sentence strong already existed. Removing ‘there is’ simply strengthens the sentence and delivers more impact.

3. Get verb-acious

Creative and smart verb usage immediately adds oomph and pizzazz to your writing. We are so lucky to communicate in a language packed with them! So for your first edit, proof read and highlight all uses of the verb ‘to be’ and make a point of replacing them with something a little more descriptive. By employing more powerful verbs, you’ll instantly create a more visual image in the mind of the reader, thereby inspiring their imagination. With a plethora of verbs available to us, one of the biggest challenges can be knowing which ones to use and when. Your choice of verbs will absolutely frame the image you wish to portray. Consider, for example:

‘Coralie ate her burger’ versus the following:

- Coralie wolfed down her burger
  • - Coralie nibbled on her burger
  • - Coralie gnawed at her burger
  • - Coralie pecked at her burger

Painting a more colourful picture with your writing needn’t be too daunting a task. The right verb can totally transform your key message, and if you have mere moments to make an impact, it can be significantly more effective than a long drawn-out description.

These are pretty simple tricks, but hopefully you’ll find them useful. I do! Get in touch on if you have any questions or would like some proof reading help.

*image courtesy of full aperture

Fair dinkum! 10 Origins of Expressions that will astound you!

Coralie Fernando - Monday, February 09, 2015

I came across this little reference last week in the context of Labour’s proposed mansion tax in the UK. I love these titbits that give insight into our everyday language! The idea that we could use these expressions so easily, yet have no idea as to their origin seems incredible to me. And so it inspired a blog post exploring the history and background behind some phrases we use on a day to day basis. I mentioned the term ‘daylight robbery’ to a client this week, and followed it up with its history – it was a great ice breaker. So without further ado…

Breaking the ice

Meaning: To break down formalities when meeting new acquaintances

Origin: A phrase that dates back to the 17th century, when ice breakers literally broke the ice to allow for navigation of boats. It quite literally allows for the forging of ‘a path for others to follow'. Ice = stiffness; breaking of = allows for movement or more free flowing conversation in potentially socially awkward conversations.

Take a back seat

Meaning: Have minimal involvement in something

Origin: I personally always thought this was a car reference, but no - the meaning originates from parliament, where, in the House of Commons, less senior politicians sit at the back and play a less active role in political discussion.

Over a barrel

Meaning: To be at someone’s mercy

Origin: The Spanish Inquisition cites the first reference to this one, where one particular form of torture involved suspending terrified prisoners over barrels of boiling oil. If the victim didn’t comply with demands, he would simply be dropped in. Ouch.

Up to scratch

Meaning: Meeting the required standard

Origin: Now a commonplace term in the office, this originated from boxing. Fighters would meet at a line scratched in the ground - failing to come up to scratch represented automatic defeat.

Fair Dinkum

Meaning: Honest, genuine, fair play

Origin: Never a truer Aussie expression was said, right? Wrong. Sorry Aussies, but even this one harks back to the poms. Lincolnshire to be exact. 'Dinkum' is a slang term that appears to have originated from 'honest toil'. 'Fair dinkum' was used by the colliers of the UK's East Midlands from the 1880s and by Australians a few years later. In the late 19th century, in addition to the numerous criminals who were transported, many mineworkers migrated from England to Australia, taking their working language with them.

Rule of thumb

Meaning: A means of estimation made according to a rough and ready practical rule, not based on science or exact measurement.

Origin: The 'rule of thumb' has been said to derive from an English law that allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick so long as it is was no thicker than his thumb. Admittedly, this is not proven, but highly likely that it refers to one of the numerous ways that thumbs have been used to estimate things - judging the alignment or distance of an object by holding the thumb in one's eye-line - for example.

Mad as a hatter

Meaning: Crazy, mad, mental

Origin: Mercury used to be used in the making of hats. This was known to have affected the nervous systems of hatters, causing them to tremble and appear insane. The use of mercury compounded in 19th century hat making and the resulting effects were well-established – to the extent that mercury poisoning is still known today as 'Mad Hatter's disease'.

On your tod

Meaning: On your own

Origin: A great example of an origin directly derived from cockney rhyming slang. (on your tod -> on your Tod Sloan -> on your own). James Forman (Tod) Sloan was born in Indiana in 1874 and overcame neglect and poverty in his early life to become a highly successful jockey, only to experience a rather spectacular fall from grace in later years. It’s rather poignant that Sloan's name should have become synonymous with solitude as both his early and later life seem pretty lonely and depressing, poor chap.

To think outside the box

Meaning: Also known as thinking outside the square, to think outside the box requires stretching the boundaries of traditional thinking

Origin: While the expression works pretty well metaphorically, it actually dates back to a simple game known as the nine dots puzzle. Created in the early 20th century, the aim of this game is to draw in one stroke no more than 4 straight lines through a square shape consisting of nine points. I’m not going to give you the answer, but have a go because – you guessed it- it involves drawing outside of the box.

Wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole

Meaning: Wouldn’t go near something, consider it revolting

Origin: A humdinger I recently found out on a trip to New Orleans. Early settlers there had the fright of their lives when their dead would quite literally float to the surface of the ground after big storms. Fortunately they realised this is because the city is actually six feet below sea level (as opposed to a zombie attack). To solve the problem of their floating dead, the Spanish settlers developed the burial system still in place today. The tomb is opened and the casket placed inside for a year and a day. After that time, the sheer heat forces the entity to decompose to a point where an undertaker can push it to the bottom of the tomb with a ten foot pole, making way for the next casket.

Do you have any other gems you’d like to share? Please get in touch if so!