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  • Jill Macdonald

What's in a word?

In marketing, it’s surprising how little copy matters until it matters. People tend to focus on images first, colours and fonts second, then overall design and finally, copy. Effective copywriting is an explosive tool that is underused.


Shakespeare wrote: A rose by any other name is still a rose. True, but if the word tulip appears beside the image of a rose, the reader experiences different emotions: confusion, intrigue or curiosity, which may cause them to pause longer and look more closely. The word tulip holds the balance of power. Its impact is heightened by the juxtaposition between the image and expectation. It’s a subtle but highly charged tension.


Words have personality, shape, some words look cool, other times they look weird and we ask ourselves, is that right?, and flip through the dictionary to confirm. Often I change my mind when I see the copy dropped into a design. Maybe it feels shouty, or too brief, sometimes it’s not the right tone, it may be out in the weeds and need an overhaul. Finding the best combinations takes time.


Personality comes through words. Egg, for example, makes me smile. The two gg’s are fun graphically, and if I stare at them long enough, the concept of an egg becomes elusive, I start to panic and wonder, what is an egg?


                                                                        egg, egg, egg


Try not to underestimate the power of copywriting. To quote Shakespeare again, the master of English language word-smithery: “You egg, young fry of treachery!” The right word, just as the wrong word, can sharpen your project or fail to ignite a deeper interest.


“La terre est bleu comme une orange.” The Earth is blue like an orange. The French poet Paul Eluard wrote this line, it draws attention to the shape and colour of two unlike things and once we see that image, we cannot un-see it. The blue planet is round and dimpled, lit by the radiant orange sun. What we stumble over makes us think.


Beware complacency, avoid the familiar, ignore trends, and seek expressions that are truthful.


~Jill Macdonald

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