flow versus impact in marketing

In his  book, “The Art of Writing Copy,” Marketing wiz H.G. Lewis said:

Tying two statements together with “and” adds flow and subtracts impact.

Here is an Example of what he means:

Which bullet point is stronger?

  1. In  my line of work, every word counts, and I practice what I call “word economy.”
  2. In my line of work, every word counts. I practice what I call “word economy.”

Line one has flow, but the “and” dilutes the strength of both statements.  Line two creates a momentary loss of flow, but retains the impact of the individual statements.

Maybe you’ll guffaw. Maybe you’ll think that a one-word, comma-versus-period change isn’t worth your thought or effort. But I challenge you to give it a try in your next marketing campaign, particularly if you are limited to a specific word count.  Write your first draft, then, as Lewis recommends, “cold-bloodedly” remove the “ands” when they link two thoughts. Then read the statements out loud, considering the intent of the overall campaign.

Which are you after – flow, or impact?


Freelance Copywriting and Editing

Image of Ali Luke, AliVentures, Copywriting Interview
Ali Luke of AliVentures


Wondering what it takes to start and sustain a copywriting and editing business?  I’ve been at it for 15 years and blogging about it for 7 years. I’ve worked hard to make it work for me. Can you do the same?

Ali Luke of AliVentures in Cambridge, England, (that’s her at left) interviewed me on this topic, and posted it in her private Writer’s Huddle group. She’s allowed me to share it with you.

Click to listen to the 45-minute interview on SoundCloud.

Click to download a PDF transcript of the interview.

Click to download a PDF of the accompanying WORKSHEET.

Thanks, Ali! You are an amazing woman, and a gift to the freelance writing community around the world!


How to Write More in Less Time

The real “art” of writing compelling copy—words that matter and draw people into the story—is in knowing what goes where and how to edit for story potency.

A hint from Copywriting 101: Your first draft will never be your best draft, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be full of great fodder for the finished piece, whether it is a short story or a magazine article, blog post, or the concept for a full-length novel. Your first intention should be only to get words on paper, or on screen, if you prefer. Just get your thoughts down as if you were talking to a friend, and try to do it in ten minutes or less. Then walk away for at least two hours.

When you come back, it’s time to organize and edit. For a 300-word article or post, give yourself no more than 30 minutes. Read it out loud to yourself, note changes needed, then walk away again.  I know some will argue this point, but in my writing, I rarely sit for more than an hour before I need a mental and physical break, and I do edit as I go along.

The final round of the practice is to read your piece out loud to someone you trust to tell you the truth. If you stumble over words or phrases, change them. If your sentences are too long, break them in half. If you’ve used industry jargon or ten-dollar words, clean things up. If you’ve wasted too much space with unnecessary introductory material—a common error for new or untrained writers—your friend should tell you. Get rid of it. Make it worth your reader’s while.

My very first copy writing instructor drilled in into our heads to look for the parts of what we had written that we really loved—the sentences or phrases to which we were emotionally attached—and cut them out completely. This is the “kill your darlings” process, a challenging exercise in non-attachment and journalistic excellence that, in the end, will make your writing stronger.


What She Really Meant to Say

What do you suppose Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay, really meant when she said she was “encouraged by the fundamentals that underlie usage growth on the net”?

A)  She believes eBay is more popular than ever
B)  She’s glad Internet technology is growing
C)  She’s happy more people are using the net

In keeping with Ms. Whitman’s language choices, I have to say that I am discouraged by the fundamentals that underlie usage of obscure communications in business. That is, I’m sad that so many business people are more concerned with sounding intellectual than they are with communicating clearly.

Simplicity is the name of the game in getting your message across, and in the end, it’s not what you say that matters. What your client or prospect hears is the critical factor.

Five Guidelines for Clear Messaging:

  1. Avoid words that require a dictionary for interpretation. Few people will bother to look them up.
  2. Use short sentences. Try to keep each sentence under 20 words. Break longer thoughts into multiple sentences.
  3. Make your message relevant. If what you say doesn’t matter to your intended audience, you will not be heard.
  4. Find a clear, concise message and stick with it.
  5. Do not assume your reader thinks and believes as you do.

In the end, language is a tool used to inform and enlighten. The simple choice between one word and another really does make a difference in how your message is understood.

As Dr. Frank Luntz says in his book Words that Work, we need to make people the center of our communication, not the target.