More poetry please.

Less data-driven [eiko] drivel. [.eiko]

By Roland Gurney | Updated on: Mar 31, 2022

You could call me a data-hater.

Not because I don’t understand the science of words.

Not because I don’t test and optimise.

But because I believe in the wonder of words that flow and unfold.

That turn of phrase that turns heads.

And my worry is that when we write solely based on data, functional normally wins.

And yeah, I get that functional works.

It converts.

Because people like functional, like ladders and shoelaces and bloody Ronseal.

But people don’t talk about functional in twenty years.

They talk about exceptional and beautiful.

You see, beautiful writing and persuasive writing aren’t enemies.

Sales copy can be stunning.

Websites can sound wondrous.

There can be poetry in promotion.

Look, don’t throw out the data. Of course it’s useful.

Let’s work with the science, but write with some style.

Here’s five tips to add some flair, without forgoing the functionality...


1. Alliteration

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen that the sentence above is all about alliteration; add some flair without forgoing the functionality.

It’s when nearby words start with the same first letter or sound.

We tune into the repetition. It makes a strong sentence stickier.

See.

But too much of a good thing is sickly.

Add a splash in your headline to help people remember it.

Taglines are a good place too.

In fact, anywhere you need people to register and recall the phrase.


2. Rhyme

Use some subtlety with rhyme.

Too much leaves you sounding like a crap rapper.

But when done right it adds flow and rhythm, emphasising the words you want.

Recently, we wrote this for a kitchen fitting brand; More tiles. More styles. More smiles.

Look, before you jump on me, I’m aware it’s cheesy.

But we were selling tiles.

Functional would have said; Choose from 1000s of tiles in our huge range. Find the ideal tiles for your home.

So yeah, we chose cheesy.

Because the rhyme was friendly and approachable, like the brand.

And the repetition fitted with the concept of tiles slotting together, all the same.


3. Balance

Somewhere between rhyme and alliteration is balance.

At Treacle we use balance in taglines and copy all the time.

Take this recent idea for a retail recruitment brand; Advancing Retail Careers. Enhancing Retail Companies.

It kinda rhymes and has some alliteration.

It feels balanced.

Three words on both sides, with equal weighting.

Which made sense because the brand was all about both sides of the recruitment relationship.

We could have swapped Advancing for Empowering and the balance would remain.

In this example from a digital agency’s brand book we did, we wrote; We build close partnerships, not closed-off relationships.

The balance comes from the close and closed-off comparison.

And the way the words partnerships and relationships come in the same place in both clauses.

Balance can also be about comparisons.

Like this sentence we used in a recent brand book;Never talking down, just bigging people up.

The balance comes from the down / up comparison.

Or even this, as a bit more of a stretch; Using our insight to create clear outcomes.

Although not used in this way, the balance comes from the in- of insight and the out- of outcomes.


4. Rhythm

Beautiful words unwind without trying.

Their vowels breathe in time, and flow line by line.

Effortlessly.

There’s a cool article somewhere by someone about the musicality of writing well.

It totally resonated with me as an ex-music producer.

They highlighted each sentence to show how varying the lengths of lines helped the flow.

It’s a case of experimenting with longer and shorter sentence structures.

Like this.

And creating a world of words that feel like they slide and glide around each other.

Rhythm and cadence and flow are powerful.

Great novelists and poets have used them for millennia.

And today, as copywriters who persuade, we should use these techniques proudly.


5. Punctuated. Power. Lists.

The total opposite of flowing prose, these punctuated lists are for Right. Here. Right. Now.

This technique’s everywhere in the marketing, ad and digital world.

Popularised by big brands, it’s become commonplace in copywriting.

Big. Ideas. Bigger. Impact.

That kind of thing.

Done well it works brilliantly.

Like Sony’s straplines over the years; like.no.other and Make.Believe

It’s quite bombastic and grand, so might not work best if you’re selling hand-knitted headscarves in the Highlands.

We use it a lot in brand tone of voice guidelines.

Partly because people just scan these documents, but also ‘cause it can sound cool.

We sometimes write things like; Logically. Strategically. Practically.

Because turning that into a full sentence will probably sound like horse shit.

And, although we’ve used it a lot ourselves, I’d suggest avoiding overused punctuated lists like; Engaging. Exciting. Inspiring

Big. Bold. Brave

Not because they’re bad - but because they’re victims of their own success.


Summary

So let’s reignite the art of words done well.

Because there’s a commercial reason to write beautifully.

People remember your words.

And your brand.

Which means they come back loyally over the years.

So go ahead - test, tweak, optimise and digitalise.

Improve your form.

But remember - class is permanent.

London based, working worldwide. © 2022
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