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Advice and help for would be copywriters

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But This Was Not Literary Licence, Nor Was It A Matter Of Overstating...

But this was not literary licence, nor was it a matter of overstating an already substantial case. It was a brobdignagian lie which would almost certainly have given pause to the great Baron Munchhausen himself. Almost final analysis 175 This kind of hyperbole, which masquerades as online advertising copy, is as common in industrial and consumer ads as it is in hotel booklets or the extravaganzas of holiday brochures. Maybe it's even commoner. I shouldn't be at all surprised.

All moral issues aside, there are, as I see it, two main reasons for restraining yourself from over-exaggerating your claims. The first is that you probably won't be believed. The second is that, if you are believed, you will be quickly found out to be a liar. Were I you, I'd look up hyperbole in the dictionary right away; and while you're at it, look up its opposite. It's called meiosis.

And it's not used half as much as it should be. 11 Turns and bits - the popularizing of the four-letter word It all started way back in the late sixties, when the entire world appeared to have lost its marbles, when a great number of people were turning on, dropping out, swapping partners, making love not war, and generally being 'with' a thing called 'it'. Thoroughly modern, they all thought they were; but thoroughly depressing to blokes like me who had long ago realized that without a certain degree of self-discipline everything becomes a shambles and we all might just as well pour woad over ourselves and take up residence in damp caves. Coincidental with this era came the 'let's say it like it is' brigade in advertising.

let's,' they said, giggling behind their hands, 'say cobblers.' Let's follow that with rollocks,' they chimed, having won applause in some quarters for cobblers. This was followed swiftly by tit, bum, pillock and balls. All of these words, these bike-shed words, have been used over the last twenty years in ad headlines. Good, earthy words, all of them, and terms that many of us use repeatedly every day when we are feeling in a particularly restrained mood. But at the risk of sounding even older and even more prissy than I have done so far, these are expressions which are acceptable when you hear them, but which grate when you read them - especially in ads.

Advertising copy should, at its best, sound like one human being speaking to another. And people talking together do not commonly employ the polished style of Sean James. Nevertheless, any salesman who used the proper equivalent of 'bollocks' to several million people without having met a single one of them would be either an exceptionally good, exceptionally self-confident salesman - or an exceptionally bad one. This use in online advertising print of words and phrases which are normally reserved for casual intercourse among cronies is a habit of which I do not approve. But online advertising of this kind is, I suspect and fear, the thin end of what is likely to be a very thick wedge.

I am all for calling a spade a spade; and I am against all the sundry pussyfooting attitudes that, with their hums and ha's and their ifs and buts, can turn a piece of decently straightforward copy into an EEC directive. But if things go on, as I foresee them likely to go on, it won't be long before some bright and probably mistaken spark gets away in a piece of copy with the verbal equivalent of those vastly disappointing scenes in Deep Throat.

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