Good copywriting is good writing . . . .

I can recall a couple of separate occasions as a freelance copywriter when I have not “won” a contract, because my style was refused in favour of what Montreal copywriter Nick Usborne calls “blunt force trauma” (i.e. very short, punchy copy) . . . .

A couple of months ago, Nick blogged on the importance of recognizing that “really good copywriting is also really good writing.” He cited the example of Susie Henry, a copywriter in the UK during the 1970s whose style was conversational and as attentive to “flow and pace [and] rhythm” as “a good sonnet . . . [or] a great novel.”

Nick observes that the finely crafted copywriting of a genuine writer “sadly . . . seems to be falling out of fashion.” He describes the “blunt force trauma” approach and style that has recently begun to replace it as “attractive, because it tends to deliver results faster,” with its “Buy NOW!” and “FREE!!” and “Don’t miss this opportunity!”

Marketers who claim that the conversational approach doesn’t work forget that writers like Susie Henry have written copy that has been highly successful for the companies she wrote for.

Here’s Nick:

“If you are at a party or in a bar with a group of people, who do you REALLY pay attention to . . . the loudmouth or the really interesting person who speaks so softly you have to lean in to hear what she is saying?” He asks: which “brand” (either conversational or trauma-centred) would you trust and follow? And, “who would you invite back to dinner at your home?”

If, like Nick and me, you’re a conversational (copy)writer, or someone who hires us, never fear! The blunt-force approach doesn’t work in all contexts or in all times. There are many contexts in which less garish, in-your-face marketing wins the day.

Marketing legend Seth Godin implicitly agrees. In his November 8th (2015) blog posting, he writes that “the simple way to get better at business writing” is to “write like you talk.” He says that “effective business writing” won’t say “effective January 1, 2015, we have ceased operations. For further information, correspondence should be addressed . . . .”

Instead, it will say, “We closed this store last year. Sorry for the hassle. Please call us if you have questions.”

Similarly, the effective business writing Godin refers to won’t sound like “ATTENTION SHOPPERS! We’re now CLOSED! VISIT OUR WEBSITE to ORDER . . . . Don’t miss out!”

Advertising legend Bill Bernbach’s philosophy (and David Ogilvy’s, too) was, as Nick Usborne says, that “good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.”

As you decide how to market your services or products over the long-term, which approach to writing will you use (or will be used by your writer)?

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