By: Linda Formichelli
Are your sales letters going on five pages long? Do you pepper your prose with such corporate clichés as “empower,” “paradigm” and “synergy”? Take your last piece of marketing writing–a sales letter, proposal or brochure–and apply the following six writing tips. Your marketing piece will be more forceful, confident and precise.
Writing Tip #1: There Are Better Ways To Start A Sentence Than With “There Are”
The same goes for “it is.” These empty subjects and weak verbs add no meaning and sap your writing of vigor. Rearrange sentences where possible to avoid these fillers.
Not: There are thousands of dinosaurs on the earth today.
But: Thousands of dinosaurs roam the earth today.
Writing Tip #2: Empower Yourself to Avoid Clichés
The Dilbert strips don’t lie: some words and expressions are so overused that they’ve been reduced to meaningless corporate-ese. Among these are:
Writing Tip #3: Eliminate Repetitive Redundancies
Of course you give something away “for free.” How else would you do it? And we know you think “to yourself.” Who else would you be thinking to? Go through your writing and do a search and destroy on redundancies such as:
-green in color
-large in size
Writing Tip #4: Passives Should Be Done Away With
A passive verb makes for a weak, roundabout way of saying something. It isn’t always possible to replace a passive verb with an active verb–but do it when you can, and see how much stronger your sentences become:
Not: The problem of our exploding computers was discussed at the meeting.
But: We discussed the problem of our exploding computers at the meeting.
Writing Tip #5: These Are Some Pretty Bad Adverbs
“Pretty,” “little,” “very,” “quite”: These are the “fudging” adverbs that drain your writing of conviction. Drop them, and the meaning of your sentence becomes clear.
Not: I was very concerned that our computers were quite unsafe.
But: I was concerned that our computers were unsafe.
Writing Tip #6. I’m Saying That “Say” Is OK
I once had the misfortune, while working as an editorial intern for SOMA, of copyediting an article written by someone who didn’t like to use the verb “say” more than once. His article was littered with innovative but annoying and obtrusive replacements. His characters were always “twanging,” “snorting,” “gulping” and “riffing” to each other.
We use the verb “say” so much that we tend to gloss right over all the “he saids” and “she saids.” Once in a while it’s refreshing to use a different verb. But constantly going out of your way to use different verbs in place of “say” jolts the reader from the flow of the writing.
Linda Formichelli is a copywriter and magazine writer based in Massachusetts. She’s written for more than 45 magazines and for such corporate clients as Bay State Gas, Pizzeria Uno, Performance Printing and AFC Cable Systems. Linda holds a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley.