Sunday, November 28, 2021

Charlie Chaplin, Demosthenes, & David Ogilvy

 I’m glad you appreciate my writing, but …

Charlie Chaplin, Demosthenes, David Ogilvy

In a discussion on classic film comedy, a critic said that when he watched Charlie Chaplin he thought to himself that he was watching a comic genius at work, but when he watched Laurel and Hardy, he laughed.

Which is reminiscent of a story from a few thousand years ago, that David Ogilvy referenced in a famous quote about advertising:

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form,
but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement,
I don't want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to
find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke,
they said, "How well he speaks." But when Demosthenes spoke,
they said, "Let us march against Philip."

Don’t let your writing distract your audience. Keep them focused on the offer, why they want/need it, and how to access it.

Go for more Demosthenes and less Aeschines.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


The word very as an intensifier makes your writing clunky. It’s a weak word without enough information to give your reader anything new.

“‘Very’ is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out.
More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens
what it is intended to strengthen.”

Those are the words of Florence King (American columnist, essayist, novelist). 

Mark Twain wasn't a fan either:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’
Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

To help you replace very + weak adjectives with strong adjectives, check out 

It will help you come up with alternatives, such as

freezing instead of very cold

delicious instead of very tasty

spotless instead of very clean

 Or, if you just want a quick reference, copy this list:

deafening instead of very noisy

brief instead of very short 

frequently instead of very often

ancient instead of very old

archaic instead of very old-fashioned

excruciating instead of very painful

ashen instead of very pale

destitute instead of very poor

wealthy instead of very rich

beautiful instead of very pretty

rapid instead of very quick

hushed instead of very quiet

sorrowful instead of very sad

petrified instead of very scared

chilling instead of very scary

grave instead of very serious

gleaming instead of very shiny

brief instead of very short

timid instead of very shy

basic instead of very simple

Caveat: Make sure the adjective you use to replace "very _______" is one that your audience is comfortable with.


Clip: Robin Williams as John Keating in the Dead Poets Society

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys—to woo women—and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” –  from the novelization of the movie by N.H. Kleinbaum


Wednesday, November 10, 2021


I’m a sucker for clickbait headlines.

Most likely influenced by the tabloid headlines I saw in the checkout lane when I was a kid grocery shopping with my mom.

Man’s 174-mph Sneeze Blows Wife’s Hair Off!


Alien Bible Found! They Worship Oprah!


Christmas Miracle! Severed Leg Hops to Hospital!


Saddam & Osama Adopt Shaved Ape Baby!


Hubby’s Bad Breath Kills His Wife!

9-month-old Baby Gets Black Belt in Karate!


Found: Hair from God’s Beard!


Snake with Human Head Found in Arkansas!


Cannibal Chef Gets Own TV Cooking Show!

These are all actual headlines from the Weekly World News.

This also might explain why I very seldom use exclamation points in my copy.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

12 from Mongo

 Scott "Mongo" Haines, a highly successful copywriter and protégé of Gary Halbert,
suggested 12 time-tested strategies for writing better copy, faster.

Scott "Mongo" Haines - writing strategies

1. Set up a proper writing space.

2. Set up a writing routine

3. Write. A LOT.

4. Write for set time periods.

5. Write something easy, first.

6. Allow yourself to suck.

7. Write your first drafts fast & furious with no editing.

8. Don't be afraid to throw away writing if it's no good.

9. Use technology when it's actually useful

10. Get in shape.

11. Specialize.

12. Reward yourself.

You might have similar strategies. Or different ones. 

Have you taken the time to formalize them in writing? 

Referring to your list can serve as a quick self-evaluation to make sure you're taking the steps to perform at your highest level.



The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

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