Jargon: Keep it simple, stupid!

How many times have you visited a website, but haven’t been entirely sure what it is that the company actually do?

Words like innovation and synergy buzz around, but when you’re after (insert desired product or service here) it’s hard to be sure that that’s what you’ll actually be getting with all that jargon lying around.

Simplicity is often underrated, with a preference for flowery language intended to impress and inspire frequently found on business websites. But displaying your extensive vocabulary on a website can only bemuse and befuddle even the most determined of customers.

In a world where we have technological advances that make nearly every aspect of our everyday function easier, why do we then proceed to clutter that technology with barrier-forming words?

Instead of solutions, say products. Instead of leverage, try influence.

Customers want honesty and accessibility, so don’t over-complicate things unnecessarily. A website packed with verbose statements, like the snake oil sellers of old is likely to make them suspicious, leaving them wondering ‘what are they trying to hide?’. They can see through the smokescreen, so give them the credit they deserve.

Give them a helping hand to understand your business; it’s easy to forget that the industry language you use day in, day out with your colleagues may sound like a foreign language to a new customer.

As a starting point, imagine that you’re talking to your neighbour (not Frank, he doesn’t bring his bins in) how would you let them know what you get up to when you leave for work every day?

You wouldn’t use words like…

Our experts are your focused resource for solution design, implementation and ongoing support across a broad range of key business-enabling technologies’ 

…because Janet would roll her eyes and continue pegging out the washing, mumbling something under her breath. So, you might say…

 ‘We provide computer software to help you run your business more effectively and efficiently. Not only that, our expert customer service team will provide long-term specialist support once it’s installed.’ 

…and Janet would understand and nod, and then continue pegging out the washing.

So, if you need some help simplifying your website, whether you want to refresh, revitalise or just plainly be ruthless with it, get in touch to see how I can be of assistance.

4 things you didn’t know you wanted to know about copywriters

Copywriters. What are they? What do they do? Do they sneak around peering over shoulders to plagiarise the written work of others? Do they protect products and your profits by patenting ideas?

Such is the mystery of the enigmatic copywriter.

But wonder no more, as I shall reveal all. I know… you’re relieved, aren’t you?

1. Copywriters write, right!

Copywriters don’t go around plagiarising (that’s just copying). Copywriters don’t have much to do with legalities around ownership of intellectual property (that’s copyrighters).

What we do do (tee-hee) is words. Single words. Long, epic text. We work with businesses, some small, others not so small, to produce writing for every readable item associated with that business.
The website, a brochure, that funny Tweet, the strapline on the logo, the signage, a blog, a press release, the teeny tiny micro-copy on that packaging….all most likely written by a copywriter.

2. There’s no ‘i’ in team, but there is one in copywriter

Whether we’re in-house, agency based or freelance, copywriters are rarely a lonely breed. Working with design teams and creative directors, copywriters will craft and contribute to advertising campaigns. Or, working with web designers or a marketing team to create persuasive or branded copy. Even when working remotely, there are helpful communities out there to offer support from #copywritersunite and One Minute Briefs on Twitter, to Copywriting Club organised by the DMA, you can go out, meet and actually touch (with their consent) real, live copywriters and chat about all things wordy. Not to mention the Professional Copywriter’s Network who offer endless support, resource and encouragement to copywriters from all over the place.

3. We come in many shapes and forms

From instruction booklets to adverts on the tube, copywriters can do it all. But some are better than others at certain things. Technical specialists pay close attention to detail, spending most their time researching their topic and then producing a polished, professional document, helping to make sense of complex ideas, products and services whilst ensuring it is interesting.

Creative copywriters play about with words to make the biggest impact on an audience. Attracting attention and engaging the reader, usually to entertain you into buying a product or take a course of action.

Some specialise in certain areas, healthcare, fitness, lifestyle, honing their expertise. Others are generalists, retaining large and varied amounts of facts and information about stuff and gubbins that will usually come in handy at the next pub quiz.

4. We’re a funny bunch

Depending on the tone of voice required by the business, you can usually spot a copywriter who’s really enjoyed their job. Being given a brief that allows you free reign with creativity, copywriters will work in humour and personality at any given opportunity. The Monty the Penguin twitter account hosted by John Lewis, but manned by a copywriter, almost bursts with enjoyment as the writer forms an identity and a story for the fictional (sorry!) penguin. Because essentially that’s what we are. We’re storytellers, writers who want to entertain, amuse and tug at those emotions, so that you remember how we made you feel when you thought about buying that watch or that lawnmower (ahh, the nostalgia of endless summer days, the smell of freshly cut grass…).

So, now you can sleep tonight. The worries and questions about copywriters that have burned inside and kept you awake at night all answered….or are they?

Why the ‘and sign’?

AMPERSAND WRITING SERVICES LOGOI regularly get asked, why the ‘and sign’? The ampersand? Why did I select this typographical feature as the symbol for my business?

The ampersand represents many things to me, and I thought I’d share a few reasons here.

(WARNING: Superficial reasons ahead. Not always deep and meaningful)

It’s pretty

I’ve always loved the ampersand. As a child it was a ‘grown-up’ way of saying ‘and’. I loved the swirls and loops, and still do, doodling the sweeping curls and flicks during my thinking time. At home, there are small ampersands dotted here and there as decoration. The ampersand is a source of inspiration for many designers, and it serves as an aesthetically pleasing talisman to remind me how far I’ve come in recent years.

A4D8BF94-2E1C-439F-82DB-2297A243339D.JPGIt’s symbolic

After my first Copywriters Unite event in London this year, with my confidence boosted, I consciously decided to ‘give it a go’ and finally step away from a ten year career in healthcare and commit to a future in copywriting. Before I headed home, I took a morning walk along the Thames to the Globe theatre, and it was here that a woman digging on the banks of the river caught my eye. On closer inspection, the shape she was digging was an ampersand. Coincidence or fate, I took this rather random occurrence as a sign, confirmation that I was doing the right thing.

 

It’s philosophical

The ampersand symbolises ‘something more’, to not settle for something sub-standard. At times when I’m unhappy or unsure, asking myself ‘and?’ prompts me to focus on solutions, driving myself to positive outcomes. I always try to provide that something extra in all areas of my life, to go beyond expectations and give a little more, just like an ampersand.

It connects my favourite things05_amp

My sources of inspiration are joined by an ampersand. My sons, George & Leo. Mum & Dad. I’m linked to my sister and my husband by this little squiggle.

Morecambe & Wise. Reeves & Mortimer. French & Saunders. The comedic pairings who have made me laugh over the years and fuelled my love of comedy and wordplay, united by an ‘and’.

So, there you go.  Well, you did ask…

The value of a word: can you afford not to hire a good writer for your project?

You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix a tap for free. You wouldn’t expect an accountant to do your tax-return without expecting an invoice for their efforts. But what about a writer? What about ‘just a few words on…’?

As a freelance writer, my source of income comes from words. Vocabulary is my currency. Experience is my ‘interest rate’.

I take time to carefully select the correct words. Precise. Accurate. Exact.

Crafting and building a tone of voice for a business takes hours; from listening to the business owner and identifying the target audience and testing drafts of work, to agonising over the perfect Tweet and creating engaging website content that will achieve your corporate marketing objectives.

A great deal of thought, insight and technique can go into ‘just a few words’.

hands-woman-apple-desk-medium.jpgMost people have a good level of English, and most people can put ideas to paper, and most people are happy with ‘good enough’. And if that’s the case, then a copywriter might not be for you. But if you want more than a document your mum said was ‘ok’ , then an experienced copywriter is worth investing in.

And it is an investment, on both sides, you put your trust in me to contribute to your brand and I put the effort in to produce copy and content that will get you sales, and hopefully keep you coming back to me for more.

I’ll need to talk to you, understand more of what you do, what you care about, what you want to achieve, how you want to sound, what elements you like, what elements you don’t, and gather all that up to give your business the voice it needs.

Research is nearly always required, even on the seemingly small projects. I need to find your angle, what makes you different from your competitors, so that I can shape that into a meaningful tag line or blog piece. If your product or service is more technical in nature, sometimes the time spent researching takes longer than the actual finished product.

There will be drafts and amendments, not because of error, but because getting that detail spot-on is very important to me. Proofreading and editing comes next; checking spelling, grammar and format and removing anything that doesn’t need to be there.

So, although we all use words day in, day out, being able to truly mean what you say and truly communicate your business message is worth its weight in gold. Please don’t be offended if I say ‘no’ to your request for a ‘freebie’, as you can see there’s a lot more goes into this writing malarkey than ‘just a few words’.

Quality Vs Quantity: Getting the balance right between interesting content and SEO

You’re in a supermarket. Lazily leaning on your trolley through the fruit section. You need apples. And now you have an option; do you go for the smaller, tart, ‘ripen at home’ pack of twelve economy apples or do you choose four of the plump, juicy, sweet, rosy Pink Ladies?

Sometimes you’ll be tempted by the economy option, but in most instances the decision is likely to fall on the tastiest and most satisfying apple. hand-apple-iphone-smartphone-medium

And the same comes with content. Spend money boosting a poorly filmed video on Facebook, or purchasing content for £2.50 a blog (shudder!) from an exploitative content mill, and you’ll most likely end up throwing good money after bad. Yes,this content might have the initial desired effect, it’s responsive, there’s an increase in views, there’s a flurry of SEO, but in the long-term your customers will notice the absence of quality, they’re less like to share or remember your content, and it may in turn, be to the detriment of your business.

But spend time and little extra cost on quality content. Wait a little longer for a video, with an element of cinematography to it. Pay for a blog, written by an experienced copywriter, that reflects your company’s tone of voice and is free of grammatical incursions.  And you’ll find that your customers enjoy it. They’ll share it. They may even revisit your site or page, once or twice. They’ll associate your brand with quality. You’ll be interesting, entertaining. The absence of gimmicks and spelling errors, will pay dividends over time.

Effectively planning your on-line content and your digital marketing budget is an essential need. Avoid the false economy of a knee-jerk, off the cuff content ‘strategy’ and consider using professional services to ensure you deliver the quality your business and your customers deserve.

How just one minute a day changed my outlook on my career.

Venturing into a new career field can be a daunting process, filled with uncertainty over whether you are doing the right thing and questioning your skills. Releasing your work into the big, wide world for all to see and scrutinise is plainly terrifying, especially for one who hasn’t been in ‘the game’ for very long.

So imagine finding a social media outlet that allows you to dip your toe into the water, allowing you to put your work out there

1st OMB submission - #lollyices
1st OMB submission – #lollyices

into the public domain, but without that fear.

 

That’s just what happened with One Minute Briefs. Set up by the Bank of Creativity, One Minute Briefs offers the chance to create an advertisement in just 60 secs. With newbie graduates and longstanding stalwarts taking part, contributions are wide ranging, from head-shakers to awe-inspiring genius, but the best part of it is, is that it only takes a minute to take part so it doesn’t really matter.

Each day on the @oneminutebriefs Twitter feed a ‘#’ concept is posted, and the ‘OMBLEs’ set to work scribbling, sketching and designing their ads in the hope of winning the kudos and respect of their peers and dignitaries, (or quite possibly just getting a few likes and retweets for their efforts.)

Starting with a quick screenshot of a hurriedly put together google image overlaid with a snapchat text bar, my advert for #LOLLYICES was my first foray into writing a quick strapline whilst pulling in some imagery. Done. It was out there. Quick, like removing a plaster. I didn’t get a call from Saatchi & Saatchi immediately, but I did get three ‘likes’, which was nice to know that someone had seen my scrabbled together idea and had kinda, sort of enjoyed it.

Soon I developed a problem. OMB addiction. Everyday checking the Twitter feed for the next project. ‘It’s only 60 seconds’ I would tell myself, but soon I was submitting two, three, sometimes four ideas a day. Searching for that ultimate high, the win!

I don't do sexy!!
I don’t do sexy!!

But how can you improve your skills when you work alone? When your working role is removed from a creative environment? That’s another unique thing that OMB offers, the experience and talent on display is a veritable smorgasbord (my goodness, I love that phrase) of technique, style and design to feast on and analyse, in order to learn. Pretty soon my strap lines became punchier, and less cheesy. And with the use of a few free design apps (FontCandy, Canva) my OMB attempts started to appear a little more polished.

Of course, on occasion I wander in to pun territory (I struggle to resist), I miss the mark and I can’t quite master the ‘sex sells’ approach – even my #WHIPS ad referenced Mary Berry, but I’m starting to recognise aspects of my own personal style. I do ‘feminine’, taking a female angle well. I do ‘mother’, often seeing things from the perspective of a child or weary/delighted parent. I also do ‘humour’, trying to find the lighter side of even some of the most serious topics.

Having this confidence in what I ‘do well’ helped lead to my first OMB virtual trophy, an ad for #QUADBIKES.

OMB #QUADBIKES - Free Facial
OMB #QUADBIKES – Free Facial

Taking a woman’s perspective, I aimed to find the humorous appeal in a typically male dominated activity. Probably the shortest amount of copy I’ve used, but the combination with the imagery proved a success. Aside from my London Marathon medals (and my kids), my OMB wins are some of my greatest achievements. It has marked an acceptance into the world of ‘writerdom’, and an approval from peers.

image

I’ve some way to go, but each day I learn something new. I get feedback from in-house and agency writers and designers. I get to witness that spark of creativity in others, admiring the pulsing synapses that are able to produce such clever, quick-witted and often beautiful creations. I experience amusement, shock and high emotion at the abstract and conceptual ideas, that utilise shape, graphics and copy to high effect.

Like a HIIT workout, One Minute Briefs encourages you to give your greatest effort over a short time, with maximum long term output, whether that’s a winning entry or immersion into a supportive and constructive community with little ego, and lots of encouragement.

One Minute Briefs helps me to push my creativity that bit further, keeping me on the ball, experimenting with ideas with little to no pressure. So, I’ll be hanging around that bit longer and maybe, just maybe, add to my trophy cabinet along the way.

 

You’ve got to love a good pun

hands-woman-apple-desk-large‘Where are the Andes?’

‘On the end of your wrist-ees’

And so it began at the age of 5 or 6 with, in retrospect, a cringe-worthy joke, and my love of word play was born.

Shakespeare used ’em. Stand up comedians thrive on ’em. Businesses benefit from ’em. Never underestimate the power of manipulating the sounds and meanings of words to create memorable, emotive and entertaining copy that will ensure your brand remains in the cortex of customers long after they’ve ditched the newspaper or recycled the leaflet.

Avoiding eye rollingly cheesy puns, is important, but in the right place and at the right time they can add a sense of charm, creating an ‘in joke’ between you and your audience, and can help to establish your tone of voice as playful and lighthearted (if that’s the way you want to play it). Apple-Watch.png

Innocent are well known for their strong and consistent tone of voice, that reflects the true values and origin and their overall confident brand.

Witty, punchy and generally heart warming, the writers behind this popular range can get away with puns like ‘siriously’, because we know that they’re softly smiling with a knowing head shake too.

One of my favourite past times is mentally collecting the names on shopfronts across the North West, from the greasy spoon ‘Sparks Will Fry’ (I’m hoping the owner’s surname is Sparks to really make this work), to the sandwich shop ‘Buttylicious’, and the mythical tanning salon ‘Colour O’You’ in Liverpool.

 

Writing…easy as ABC? 


Setting up a small business is tough.

Hiring a good copywriter could be worth its weight in gold.

A copywriter will do more than ‘cobble something together’. A copywriter will craft each strapline, webpage or leaflet, appealing to your customers and attracting new ones, which will never be a bad thing.

A copywriter will check for mistakes; spelling, grammar and general sentence structure will be overhauled as needed, to make sure your customers know what you need them to know.

A copywriter can achieve that approachable, professional image you want to convey. A website or brochure with clear, concise and correct copy, will speak volumes about you and your business from the very first page.

If you’re thinking about improving your website or marketing materials, why not drop me a line to talk about what you want to achieve?

Do you really need a copywriter? 


You’ve got a shiny new website – images, graphics and fonts that reflect who you are as a business and a brand, but where to go now?

You need well-written and crafted content that will engage and appeal to your users, otherwise those lovely webpages will get lost in cyberspace.

Think about your website. Does it really represent your brand? Does it flow? Does it make sense? Is it free of errors?

Copywriters can take the stress out of content, helping to make you feel more content about what your customers see when they visit you online. Avoiding technical jargon, conveying your message in a concise and direct manner, adding that humorous or professional finish to capture your company’s tone of voice and condensing sentences that run on and on and on and on and on and on and….you get the picture.