Monday, September 5, 2016

Pick a Peach

Good words are worth much, and cost little.
George Herbert

Sunday's trip to the farmers' market told me peaches are in season. They all cost the same, so we put a lot of care into picking the fattest, prettiest and juiciest. We picked up a lot of them before settling for the best.

You can spot the careless writer easily: when it comes to word choice, she's the one who settles for the first peach she picks up.

She publishes pap like this:

Your IT application infrastructure is the foundation of your business. It must be scalable, available, and secure. It must also evolve as your business needs do. This is why you need more than a support contract from your technology vendor. You need a collaborative relationship. Such a relationship is the key to a successful strategy for deploying and maintaining an enterprise platform. Red Hat understands this need.

Roget's Complaint, Rule Number 2 of copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis' "three key rules of copywriting," states:

With all the specific descriptive words available, the writer who regards neutral, non-impact words such as needs, quality, features, and value as creative should agree to work for no pay.

Specifics sell, Lewis says; and specific descriptive words sell because they provoke the emotions of otherwise indifferent readers.

"Specific words generate far greater emotional reaction than generalized words; the more specific, the more the writer controls the emotions," he says.

Novelist Joseph Conrad famously said, "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.

So, a word to writers everywhere:
If you want to make readers hear and feel and see, don't settle for the first word that shambles through your comatose cranium; and certainly don't, if you expect to be paid. Instead, open your Roget's. You will find it's packed with fat, pretty, juicy words that cost little, but are worth much.

Pick a peach.

POSTSCRIPT: Had she pushed herself, Red Hat's copywriter might have said:

You need an uncompromising IT platform—reliable, scalable and secure. One that will grow as your enterprise grows. And a sidekick you can depend on to be with you all the way. Red Hat understands that.
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