good writing Tag

Human beings seem hard wired to respond to stories better than any other form of information. When you meet your colleagues on a Monday and you ask how their weekend was, they're not going to tell you they ate 7 meals, watched 5 movies, and had approximately 22 minutes outdoors. They'll tell you about this film they really loved and why it made them cry, or that they just didn't feel like leaving the house all weekend and had a great time eating meals on the sofa. They'll tell you a little story, and the better the story the more likely you are to go home that night and mention it to your partner. Stories seem to trigger emotions in a way statistics just can't. And they lead people to act.

Veni, vidi, vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. That was Julius Caesar's snappy slogan, sent back to the Senate in Rome to announce his victory over Pharnaces II. It was so memorable that people still know it by heart today. It uses alliteration, assonance and rhyme, and it's compressed into just three words. It's majestically assertive, and it's unarguable since it presents objective fact – but presents it with poetic power and immense authority.

'Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.' It's by CS Lewis from his book Studies in Words, and it's valuable advice for us all. Because the last few decades – maybe the last 100 years or so – have in fact seen a remarkable devaluing of powerful words. Right now, the best way to write powerfully is, if anything, to be understated.

I know I spend a lot of time highlighting what I see as bad business and marketing writing. But I'm not really a negative person. I just dislike lies and manipulation. I don't like people who show off either. I don't like copywriting that struts and preens, nor do I like copy that ingratiates itself, or copy that misleads. I don't like being spoken to like an idiot. But it's worth celebrating good marketing writing sometimes, if only to remind ourselves that it can be done well (and what it takes to do it well).