ADVR 3250 Good/Bad Writing


Today, we’re going to talk about good
writing. We are finely getting some traction in this
class and we are at the point where it’s time
to start really talking about the writing; not so
much the research and thought processes that
build up to it, although we’ll continue doing those
things. They’re now part of our arsenal, of our toolbox for creating advertising but
now we are ready to step into the writing
section, and first, before we do any terribly serious writing, I wanted to
talk a little bit about just good writing in general, and things to watch out for as you’re crafting your own verbiage for
advertisements and I’m I’m thinking that this will probably
help you in other classes as well. I surely hope so. But, I’d like to
talk in this particular video about cliches and jargon and just a little bit about
redundancy as well. Those are three banes of the writer’s existence and I really think that they’re banes of
the reader’s existence as well and what that means is, it’s not a good
thing. Bane is evil and and bad so we don’t want to be evil
bad writers. We want to write good clean fresh copy. Cliches, jargon, and redundancy are things that we don’t want in our copy, whether it is for
advertising or any other kind of writing. You may not be clear exactly on what they are so I’ll start by talking
about that. A cliche is a word or phrase generally that
has been overused. You’ve heard it a million times. You read it all the time or hear people say it and we speak in fairly cliche-d language. I catch
myself speaking in cliches. So, even I, the wonderful writer of all times, can sometimes speak a cliche. But we definitely do not want to write cliches. Those are old, hackneyed phrases that are worn out and we want to
come up with something that’s fresh instead. So, examples of cliches and you’ll have a
handout on D2L to go along with this, but obviously cliches are pretty stinky because somebody has actually written
or put together a dictionary of cliches and there’s more than 2,000 entries in
it so that just says we have way too many cliches in our language. But just to give you some examples of
what are cliches that we want to avoid in our
writing, and I’m just going to randomly pick
out some cliches for you. Change of heart, chew him out; chew your cud; clean slate; I haven’t a clue; on cloud nine; close shave; eager beaver; eagle eye; early bird catches the worm; eat crow; fresh as a daisy; a friend in need is a friend indeed; from bad to worse; from cradle to grave; hit the nail on the head; hither and yon; kid gloves, put on your kid gloves, or treat them with
kid gloves; knee high to a grasshopper; at loose ends; mad as a wet hen; mad as a hatter; maintain the status quo; make no bones
about it; skin of your teeth; name of the game; neat as a pin; nip and tuck; on the rocks; on the ropes; once in a blue moon; one fell swoop; buy a pig in a poke; pipe down; plumb the depths of something; pot calling the kettle black; it’s a rat
race; read between the lines; read them the
riot act; set your teeth on edge; settle an old
score; share and share alike; don’t split hairs; square peg in a round hole; there are so many phrases that have been used over and over again. They become part of our everyday speech part of the lexicon but they’re old and dried up and have no juice in them and so what we
want to do is use words and phrases that are juicy, that attract attention, but in a good way,
not in a “ugh, I’ve heard that a million times” kind of way. So we want to avoid cliches, and I’ll try to keep you alert to those
things in your writing, but you need to police
yourself as far as cliches and jargon and
redundancy go, but especially cliches – they creepy in, and sometimes we just don’t even
realize we’re using them. So I’m here partly to help you realize that, if they do slip into your
writing. But there are also pieces or phrases, pieces of verbiage
called jargon. Those things are words-jargon words are
words that are specific to a certain career or field; like, police have
their own jargon… you know, “10-4!” Oh, well I guess that’s not necessarily just police, that’s
also CB talk. But a “solid sheet of ice” and “the car is blue in color,” I mean these are all jargon and cliche type
phrases that maybe police officers might use. Military is full of jargon- I worked for the Pentagon, and I was an
editor for the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, spent eighty percent of my days trying to get
the jargon out of their writing, because that’s so
normal for them. Things like deploying and theater of
operations and and interdicting and surveilled, etc. etc… and TV shows that we
watch, especially the ones that are CSI, or about- and there’s so many of them that are
about police work and detective work. There are a lot of jargon words in those, and we want to avoid those. If we find words that are jargon words we need
to translate them for the readers or the viewers or the
hearers of our advertising. That’s part of our
job as good writers is to actually translate these words that people might not
understand into verbiage that they do
understand. It doesn’t do us any good if we’re using
words that our audience does not
understand. So, we talked about cliches which are old hackneyed phrases,
worn-out, need to get rid of those. Jargon words that are specific words to a certain kind of pursuit like police work or medical areas have all kinds of jargon that we need to translate for the
people that we are trying to appeal to in
our advertising. Then the third kind of verbiage
that is something that we want to avoid is redundancy. Now, redundancy is just a
repetition of something that you’ve already said, and I find that
to be one of the most prevalent things in the writing that I edit, from everyone, not just students. There are lots of phrases that we use
fairly regularly, but we don’t necessarily realize that they are redundant, until perhaps it’s
pointed out. I’m going to just go over a few, but
there are quite a number of them in your hand
out. Like… “at the hour of noon…” Well, we just say noon, we don’t have to say “at
the hour of,” we don’t need any of those words. “In real life he was…” Well, he was, because we know he’s living, or at least was living at the
time that we were talking about him. “Made out of iron…” Why can’t we
just say its iron, or its metal, or its glass, instead of “made out of…” “Gave birth to a baby boy…” Hm, well can you give birth to a 14-year-old boy? A 70-year-old boy? No, so you don’t need “baby” in there- “had a baby” might work even
better. So boiling down what we write, or what we’re going to say in, let’s say, a television add, is the best thing that we can do. We need
to spend some time when you go back and proof
your writing to boiling down, and boiling out some of those extra words that are
actually redundant or not needed. I know for some papers, and now I know you’ll say that its not true, but I
know for some papers that you might write, you might want to pad them just a
little bit, and add some extra words because maybe you have a 1200 word
count that you have to meet. But typically in
advertising, if we’re writing a radio spot, or we’re writing a TV spot, or we’re
running a PSA for radio, we need to have as few words as possible or… well, let’s not say as few words as possible,
that’s probably not the right thing to say. You need to have only the most effective words and have them fit your time frame, so boiling down what you say and boiling out the redundancies and the
unnecessary words is a very important part of good
writing for that that kind of a medium. So cliches, jargon, redundancy. Three things
that we really want to sift out of our writing. Throw those away, shoo, shoo! Get! Shoo, go! Yuck! Get rid of those cliches! We want them out. Out, out! So those are things that we need to think
about not doing in good writing, but there’s
some things that you definitely want to think about doing in good writing as well, and one of those is writing with concision, or writing concisely. That is when I was just talking
about with boiling it down. You want to write the fewest number of words to say things most effectively, without all that extra
wordiness, without all those extra words. So being concise is very important. Being clear is equally important, and sometimes being
concise certainly assists being clear. You need to make sure that your sentences or phrases don’t have more than one
meaning that would cause your reader, or the
person listening or watching to be confused. One of the best way is to test your
writing is to read it out loud to yourself, or read it out loud to someone, and say, “does that sound okay?” If you
stumble when you’re reading it to yourself or to
someone else, it’s a good sign that the person that’s
reading it in your audience, or hearing it in your
audience, is going to have trouble with it as well.
So reading that out loud is really going to
help you in clarity, making sure that your words and your
sentences are clear. Another thing that’s very important in this class and in good writing of any kind is sentence structure. So if you
have not recently reviewed some of your grammar
rules, you might want to do that, and we’re at a point in your education where this is an upper level class, so I’m not going to
go back and teaching grammar. I will expect you to use good
sentence structure, to avoid run on sentences- that’s where you slam two sentences together without a
conjunction, or another option is to use a period and
have it be two sentences, separate sentences. But sentence
structure, clear phrasing is very important, and
good grammar is very important. I’d like for you
all to become a little more careful about just typos, and we all have them. We all make typos, but going back
and proofing your work once, twice, maybe having somebody else
review it for you, because certainly in an office or an agency or a company, you’ll have people who will edit your copy, and sometimes you’ll have
many, many people that’ll edit your copy. But even before you give it
to them, don’t you want to be proud of what you’ve
done? You don’t really want them to catch you with a lot of errors. If they catch a lot
of errors, chances are they’re probably not going
to keep you on for a very long time. So get in the habit every viewing your
copy, and may be reading it out loud in that review, and I think that’s gonna
make a big difference in your copy. If you
slam it out and send it immediately to me, or give it
to your boss in a business, I think that you will probably have to reap the consequences that. I
almost said reap what you sow, but that’s a cliche. So I went (gasps) mentally, and I stopped. But you will reap the consequences of
what you write, and your boss is going to care whether
you use good grammer and sentence structure, and whether
your writing is clear, and whether its concise, or whether it’s
wordy. Most bosses in agency work and most people elsewhere will also notice if your writing is full of cliches. Don’t a lot of us fuss about, especially
sports coverage in the media, because it’s so full
cliches. How many times have I heard “Oh, they’re
shooting from outside the arc”? Well, is Noah and the ark there? No, it’s that half-circle that’s on the court, it’s not an ark. And “its against the glass!” You know, there are just so many
cliches in sports and it’s so hard to avoid it but the best writing avoids it, and
that’s true all kinds of writing not just sports
writing. So those are just a few points– key points
about good writing. I would say keep your dictionary and a thesaurus near you. If you don’t want the hard copy version
of it, then access Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com regularly. They can help
you find fresh words instead of the old
cliche words, if you’re not sure which one to use. You can double check meanings of
words, so that you’re using the right word, that’s very important too. We have all kinds of tools at our fingertips nowadays,
that we might have had to have gone to the library for, or gone to some other kind of resource for, but now we’ve got it right there. So we don’t have a lot of reasons to write bad copy. I know that
you all are going to grow a lot this semester in copywriting and
we’re getting started right now. I was going to say…(laughs) oh, I actually had a cliche coming to mind but I
am going to avoid it and hope that you will too. And I look
forward to reading your writing and we’re going to be talking further
about writing this week, with talking about taglines and slogans. So, I’ll see you on D2L!

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