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More Impact in Every Sentence

Published by: David Garfinkel on 10-31-2022

Today’s show is our attempt to answer this question:

How do you add more impact to every single sentence?

It started last week when I read this article from The Economist. It’s a British magazine, and it used to be my favorite. I hardly read it at all anymore.

But… I was scrolling through Twitter and the AKA, also called the All-Knowing Algorithm, served up an ad for an article in The Economist with the headline, “What to Read To Become a Better Writer.” So, I clicked.

You know, many people say that the AKA knows even more than Google!

The article starts with a very strange picture. Three women at an outdoor café. Two are having a drink, laughing, having a great time.

The third one is writing on an old-fashioned portable manual typewriter. Scowling and trying desperately to concentrate while her friends are partying.

I have always thought the British have a strange way of looking at things.

The article recommends five books. I cherry-picked some tips from three of them that would be especially useful for copywriters when you want to add more impact to your writing.

The main thing I was looking at when I was cherry-picking these ideas from more than 1,000 pages of books is: What’s going to give each sentence in your copy more impact?

I know a lot of people recommend power words or startling statements, but a reader can only take so much of those things. Too much electric intensity can wear out a reader.

For most of your copy, what’s important is clarity and momentum. Clarity often comes from leaving things out or fine-tuning some of the words you use.

Momentum comes from moving your reader emotionally, which is what we usually think of as entertainment. In movies, novels and songs, that emotional movement comes from the reader’s or listener’s reaction to a story about someone or something else.

In copy, we focus on something else: The readers themselves. People get moved when they think about something wrong in their lives, and they get just as moved, though in another direction, when they think about getting something they want that they couldn’t get before now.

The books I went through are not copywriting books, and so they cover things that are different from what we’re concerned about when we write copy.

But there’s one area of nearly 100% overlap: Impact. Writing that keeps the reader reading. And that’s what I was looking for when I got these tips for you.

I found the best stuff from three books, and we’ll put links to them in the show notes.

They are:

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. I first read this book nearly 50 years ago, when I was a journalist. I’ve come to appreciate it more over the years, and have assigned it to mentoring clients to polish up their writing skills. Other copywriting teachers also assign this book. It’s mostly for journalists and business writers, but many of his ideas work for copy, too.

The second book I learned about in the Economist article: Style Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams and Joseph Bizup. The two Josephs go into a lot of depth about little things that make a big difference. We’ll cover a few of those things today.

The third book, I didn’t like a whole lot, even though the writer of the Economist article did. I don’t think there was too much we could use, but there was one very important thing in there. So I’m not recommending it, but I’ll include a link just in case it piques your curiosity. It’s called A Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Steven Pinker.

Book Links:

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

Style Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. William and Joseph Bizup

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
by Steven Pinker

Keywords: copywriting impactful

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