Exhibit A: a computer-generated A4 sheet blu-tak-ed to the front door of the Oliver Bonas store on Kings X station today. I didn’t take a note of all of it, but I know that it began with the words “DUE TO THE CURRENT INCLEMENT WEATHER…” and it was saying that even though the door’s closed, please come in anyway.
Exhibit B (sorry if this is a bit complicated): a client has kindly taken on the task of organising some market research interviews I’m doing for them, so I drafted an email for her to send to the potential interviewees. She was pretty happy with it, but made a few minor tweaks. For example, where I’d written “If possible, I’m keen to book the time in before Friday February 20th,” she changed it to: “It is hoped that the research can be completed before Friday February 20th.”
Exhibits C, D, E, F and millions of others: all the countless pieces of copy I’ve written for clients who’ve come back asking me to make it less conversational, take out all the apostrophised words like “there’s” and “you’ve”, remove the “ands” and “buts” from the beginnings of sentences and generally make it much, much duller and much, much stuffier.
I’m sure that none of the people responsible for these exhibits is actually dull or stuffy in person. I’m sure none of them gets particular pleasure out of dull and stuffy writing. I’m sure none of them communicates dully or stuffily in any other situation. And I’m sure that none of them really imagines that their clients have a passionate preference for the dull and the stuffy over all other kinds of writing
But, all the same, it’s quite extraordinary how this desire to pomposify lives on. No-one writes like this outside their place of work, but in their place of work loads and loads of people still do.
Quite frankly, it’s by far the most important reason why I really don’t go looking for copywriting jobs any more. Pretty much every time, my first draft will come winging back with comments which, no matter exactly how they’re expressed, are basically saying it’d be absolutely fine if I would just kindly take all the good bits out.
In saying all this, BTW, I’m not overlooking the fact that brands do need their own clear and distinct voices and it wouldn’t be a good thing if they all started sounding like Lucian Camp blogs. But then again, it’s an even less good thing if they all go on sounding like correspondence from underwriters in Victorian life companies.
And finally, don’t you hate that “with regards” in my headline? As far as I’m concerned, anyone who writes “with regards” forfeits the right to change a word of my copy. What a shame that they don’t know this.