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Advice on choosing the right words

This article was originally published by Monotype’s Brand Perfect. 

Author Aliya Whiteley asks, when many turns of phrase have become trite as a result of the constant bombardment of advertising, how do brands make words work for them? Read on for expert advertising copywriting tips and tricks from one of the masters, sure to make your work stand out from the crowd. 

The great Russian writer Chekhov once said about the art of writing fiction, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass”. This lesson could be applied equally to all forms of writing, whether fiction, journalistic, or marketing copy: it’s all very well telling the reader/listener something, but when you describe it well, they begin to understand its benefits for themselves.

Brands have always understood the importance of a good slogan, or some well-chosen words upon an advertisement. As an example, back in the 1930s Heinz, maker of tinned beans, ketchups and soups, knew how to catch your eye with a bright yellow poster, upon which are the following words:

Heinz Perfect Soups – Every Grocer Sells Them For Quality

Here the words ‘perfect’ and ‘quality’ stand out; there are some words that are considered to have strong associations with the kind of characteristics that make consumers want to buy. These words have nothing in common with the product, and could just as easily be applied to printer paper or an airline.  

A list of the most persuasive words in advertising were listed by David Ogilvy in his classic 1963 book Confessions of an Advertising Man. They included: sensational, miracle, quick, revolutionary, amazing, magic and startling. But haven’t the prevalent use of these words started to become a little predictable since the early days of advertising? As much as Chekhov instructs us to utilise language to its fullest to engage an audience, there comes a point where our ability to appreciate the original meaning of these words fades as we get more and more used to such selling techniques. Eventually brands run the risk of alienating the consumer completely, to the point of passive non-interest.

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