Category Archives: Mechanics of English

Discussion of English language use, with reference to form and structure. What is correct English, how can we break it down, what does it mean for copywriting?

Hyperbolic Copywriting

hyperbole, mad sales, what is hyperbole, hyperbole explanationWhat is hyperbole? It’s when you tell someone that the product they’re about to experience will change their lives forever. The chances are they won’t believe you. When you further explain that it’ll open their consciousness to dream-filled fields where the only clouds in the sky are those that rain joy and success, they’re likely to snigger or scowl. When you wave your hands at them insisting that no, wait, it’ll crawl inside their brain like a vivacious squirrel burrowing nuts of happiness into their central nervous system, they back slowly out of the room. The simple explanation is that hyperbole is overly dramatic language. It’s not necessarily convincing, but it certainly has its uses.

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George Orwell’s 6 Language Rules

language rules, orwell's rules for writingIf you’re looking to improve your copy, where better to look than a classic writer? George Orwell, famed for his essays and bleak political fiction, spent a great deal of time musing over language use and the influence it had on the general decay of society. He despaired that contemporary English was becoming ‘ugly and inaccurate’, particularly focusing on political rhetoric that he deemed vague and inaccurate. He wrote an excellent essay, Politics and the English Language, condemning overly wordy prose, with 6 language rules that are sure to improve anyone’s English. So without further ado, here’s George Orwell’s rules for writing: Continue reading

The pun is mightier than the sword

pane in the glass, window repairsMy sister recently discovered a game she calls ‘business business’, all about business puns. Once she announces ‘business business!’ you are obliged to ask ‘What’s your business?’ She responds with a business and you are obliged to ask ‘How’s business?’ Then she must answer in the form of a business pun. Her example: ‘I sell cigarettes.’ – ‘How’s business?’ ‘It’s a drag!’ Wordplay can be a polarising thing, but if, like me, you love a good pun-liner, check out a few of these punny pictures: Continue reading

Writing in the present tense

writing, copywriting, freelance, just workingDuring a recent English lesson, my student read from a Time Out article written in the present tense. This confused him: as a learner of English as a second language he was taught that the present tense is used for general or repeated actions, or states. Why would anyone write a report in the present tense, as the events had already happened? I explained that writing in the present tense is a common device in journalism, especially with interviews (as this was), to bring about a sense of immediacy and familiarity. As a literary device, this isn’t easy (or generally necessary) to teach, but in the present tense is more useful than just labelling habits and states. Here’s a short list of potential uses of writing in the present tense in copywriting:

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