|English Copywriting: Why having excellent English just isn't enough
Mike Druttman, Senior Copywriter
I've worked for a long time in Marketing Communications for companies in both English and non-English speaking countries. Regarding business communication tools in English that are directed at export markets, I’ve seen a lot of progress. Web sites are more appealing, designs are smarter and brochures are more polished. I wish I could say that the English content reaches the same level. Very often, it fails to impress or persuade. So what can be done?
Let me use my experience to explain what’s important in marketing writing. I’ll imagine that I’m answering questions posed by a client whose mother tongue is not English.
Q: I don’t like the way that my text has been translated into English. I want it to sound more interesting. What can be done?
A: It’s good to have an English text as a start. It gives your ‘story’ some structure. There will be many parts to this story and perhaps they are not presented in the correct order or with the right emphasis. Sometimes you need to explain more than you wish: you understand but your readers don’t. The job of the writer is to take all this information and give it flow and interest.
Q: What does it take to get people to read my stuff?
A: You should arrange your points in 'easy bites’ so that people understand both your messages as well as the sequence of those messages. Good headings and subheadings help to bring focus. It’s also important to look at everything from your reader’s viewpoint – not ‘what I can offer you’ but rather ‘how you can benefit from my offer’.
Q: Is length of text and size of document important?
A: Absolutely! We live in a noisy world overflowing with messages and you need to rise above that noise. So your motto should be ‘less is more’. Cut down what you want to say. Make sentences shorter and more interesting. Summarize the situation, because you can always supply more details later. Write one printed page, not two. Finish a web page after 250 words, not 400.
Q: Why is it hard to find English writers who can do a proper job?
A: For a writer, creating the text is only half the job. The other half is to look at what’s been written and determine if it’s good enough, firstly for the writer. Is it compelling? Does it avoid ‘empty talking’? Does it show the unique appeal of the business? Does it invite taking some action? The truth is that with writing you can always do better. Edit, think, edit. The better writers in English are the ones who constantly push themselves to improve.
Q: I really appreciate your offer but somebody else is giving me half your price. What can you do?
A: Quality suppliers cannot downscale their prices because that would mean downscaling their quality, which is an unacceptable compromise. Only the naïve and inexperienced are willing to work below their worth – and they don’t last. Focus on the difference in prices. A ‘cheap’ article may cost you 120 Euros. An ‘expensive’ article may cost 175 Euros shekels. For a difference of 55 Euros, you may get a tool that has strong market impact – rather than something that will be instantly forgotten.
Images and graphics are of course very important elements that ‘frame’ your messages. But it's the content that dominates. The answer to "why you"? That’s the reason people will prefer your products and services to somebody else’s.
Seen in this way, isn’t it worth giving the content your best effort?*
* PS: The question is as relevant for native English speakers as for everyone else