So, as I’ve already said, if you’re going to use words, you might as well use them well. Good copy, in my opinion, is the amalgamation of well chosen words with a perfectly pitched tone. It should be sharp but uncomplicated, concise but not abrupt, smart but not superior, energetic but not aggressive. Treat your copy with respect and it will enhance every aspect of your communication strategy. Dismiss it and you run the risk of custard-pie humiliation.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re in need of some words. Or perhaps you’ve already written your words, but they need a little sprucing up (or even a full blown makeover). Or maybe you’re just being nosey (don’t worry, I’m nosey too – people who work with words generally are).
If you do need words, you must be clear about what you want your words to do. Sell? Inform? Educate? Explain? Tell a story? Entertain?
Then you’ve got to think about what tone you want your words to have. Formal? Relaxed? Chatty? Cheeky? Direct? Emotional? Reserved? Obviously your tone will be dictated by your message, but it should be clearly recognisable as your voice – or the one which your organisation normally uses.
Just like businesses, words come in all shapes and sizes. Pick the right ones and match them with some more right ones, spell them correctly, use punctuation in the proper places, address them in the appropriate manner to your identified audience, and you should have a rip roaring success on your hands. Slip the wrong words into your copy, however, omit a comma or two, throw in a careless spelling mistake, mention a ‘your’ instead of a ‘you’re’ or an ‘its’ instead of an ‘it’s’ and, well, your message could end up on the scrap heap.
Most people think they know how to string a sentence together, and they do, of course – verbally at any rate. But when it comes to stringing those words onto a page or a screen or a piece of packaging, it can often prove to be a tricky procedure. There are a great many things I don’t know how to do. I cannot, for example, mend a high voltage electrical cable – but I have written about someone who does. I would never, ever, be able to cook in a Michelin starred kitchen (I can barely cook in my own) – but I have written about one. I am absolutely useless at golf – yet I’ve managed to edit a bestselling golf book. You are probably awesomely brilliant at doing something else I can’t do, but you may not feel able to write about it. That’s where I come in. You give me the information and I’ll give you your words. I’m sure we’ll make a great team.