Why I started out as a copywriter, I was a sponge – I sucked in information from every book, listened to every tape I could, scoured top-selling advertisements and took notes on them.
And after taking in information from every online source, I would go offline, checking in at seminars and taking to other professionals for advice.
And strangely enough, when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t find a single word to write!
As I matured in the craft, I found a similar affliction striking other new copywriters. It made me wonder if it was possible to become overeducated as a writer. Taking in too much information and trying to apply it at once can create a logjam of information and keep it from getting out on the page.
Luckily… the affliction isn’t permanent.
The mind is an associating and organizing machine! When we take in a lot of information, it takes time for our minds to sort it out and arrange it into an order that we can use.
And what happens once we file this information into a useful format? If we’re smart, we reduce our knowledge to the very basics of copywriting – grabbing attention, creating a rapport, estabishing value, demonstrating credibility, and closing the sale.
The same approach works when we take in the rules of grammar. We don’t write in order to show off our skills with the English language, we do it to build comfort with customers and get their wallets open. That means we need to focus on some essential rules of grammar and play loose with other ones.
Whether it’s in fiction or sales writing, the active voice is the strongest way to get interest in keep it. And when our subjects and verbs agree, our words are clear and helpful. Singular subjects have singular verbs and plural subjects have plural verbs.
But we also need to write the way our prospects speak. Starting sentences with a conjunction may get you flunked out of grammar class. But in sales writing, it shortens sentences, adds suspense, and sounds more natural. It’s also OK to use sentence fragments. Again, this device makes sentences shorter. And that means more interest and attention.
Finally, plenty of successful salesmen don’t hew to the exact rules governing punctuation. Liberal use of exclamation points, commas, and the ellipsis are all acceptible as long as people read on.
Whether it’s information on the craft of copywriting or the conventions of grammar – the things we learn as copywriters has to be funneled down and sharpened to an edge that sells.