The Importance Of Good Writing
January 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
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At the trying age of 24, it has become almost natural instinct for me to want to get good at whatever skills, even if that means failing horribly for the first ten tries before getting there. Lately, I’ve been getting good at bad writing. If there was one skill I would love to obtain with Neo’s Matrix –like ability to instantly learn any ability, it would be the skill of writing.
Writing Like A Human Being
College didn’t prepare me for the kind of writing that actually works in the real world- the kind that makes people want to read your stuff, not roll your eyes. I’m talking about counter-intuitive stuff. But who wants to read academic stuff? College didn’t prepare me for reality writing. But that doesn’t mean I’m absolved from all responsibilities to learn what works. Writing like a human being, on the other hand, works much better.
Like starting sentences with prepositions. And four word sentences. Stuff that Microsoft Word frowns upon and throws zigzag red and green lines under your words in Word.
“Getting writers to use “I” is seldom easy. They think they must earn the right to reveal themselves or their thoughts. Or that it’s egotistical. Or that it’s undignified- a fear that hobbles the academic world.”
What probably worked for academics and robot-speak doesn’t work in reality, and its time for some unlearning. But unlearning twenty odd years of academic writing won’t be easy.
Good Writing = Good Advertising
Back in college, Advertising 101 didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth either. Hey I did fairly well for it, but I got the impression that successful ads were showboats, flamboyant, ultra-outspoken, loud.
Guess I was wrong. Those weren’t successful ads.
“But the goal of advertsing is not to be liked, to entertain, or to win advertising awards; it is to sell products. The advertiser, if he is smart, doesn’t care whether people like his commercials or are entertained or amused by them. If they are, fine. But commercials are a means to an end, and the end is increased sales-and profits-for the advertiser.”
I should have failed Advertising 101, for not understanding the sole purpose of advertising- to increase sales and profits, period. Anything else is wasteful. I had been focusing on the wrong stuff all along.
Enough with this ruse. Let the world of would be advertising experts scorn me. Advertising isn’t about grabbing people’s attention by the throat or balls, its qualifying why people should even bother with you. Its about two words, and two words only:
Good writing. Specifically, good copywriting.
“A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself. It should rivet the reader’s attention on the product. It is the professional duty of the advertising agent to conceal his artifice.”
I’ve found these materials to be very helpful since picking them up, and will be using them in my daily practice to improve my writing:
- William Zinnser: On Writing Well
- Robert W. Bly: The Copywriter’s Handbook
- David Ogilvy: Ogilvy On Advertising