COPYWRITING IN ACTION COURSE INSIGHT #15
The 6 Genres of Copy Writing for Selling and Telling [Part1]
There are four purposes of copywriting (and all types of writing for that matter): to inform, to instruct, to persuade, to entertain or a combination of these. But how do we make sure that our purpose is properly executed in words? This is where style comes in. And the better our understanding of writing styles (genres), the better we become in crafting sentences that achieves one’s objective. There are six genres and Part 1 will discuss and demonstrate the Expository, Descriptive and Persuasive genres. Next week, Part 2 will discuss and demonstrate the Poetic, Technical and Narrative genres.
Fill in the table with as many senses as you can imagine. This forces you into ‘being there’ so you can describe it. Answer these questions:
What do you smell?
What do you taste?
What do you see?
What do you hear?
What do you feel?
Put your answers in the table. Then you have a palette of colours from which to express your picture/sound/flavour/aroma/feeling. Decide which sensory descriptions are most applicable and develop your sentence until it gives your reader a vivid impression or experience. There is always the risk of over cooking it, but give yourself the freedom to explore, then edit later.
Descriptive copywriting is a valuable gift to develop in all types of writing; it enables the reader to experience what you’re talking about. After all, only through experience does one truly learn, understand and appreciate.
1. EXPOSITORY COPYWRITING … THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING!We do it every day. We get it every day. We are confused or clarified by it every day. The difference it makes is like night and day — communication breakdown and communication breakthrough. When you’re writing to explain, clarify, define or instruct, you’re employing the most commonly used of all genres: expository copywriting. It’s not only an important writing skill but also an important life skill. Clear and cohesive communication is what brings everybody on to the same page. Although expository writing may include elements of narration, description and argumentation, it’s primary purpose is to deliver information about an issue, subject, method, or idea, and deliver it in a fair, logical and balanced way supported by the facts. This usually means censoring your opinions or emotions. You will see exposition at work in letters, newsletters, dictionaries, instructions, guidebooks, catalogues, newspaper articles, manuals, reports, research papers and blogs like this one. This post is a 10 minute copywriting course that demonstrates exposition by explaining its structure and strategies. For those of you in particular who write articles, tenders, reports or research papers, (and us who have to read them and, in my case, edit them) the know-how of expository writing is a must. So let’s begin by unpacking its seven main elements:
- A focus on a main topic
- Logical order supported by facts
- Details, explanations and examples
- Strong structural organisation
- Unity, coherence and forward movement
- A primary objective to inform and clarify
- Transitions that move discourse forward
2. DESCRIPTIVE COPYWRITING … GOD IS IN THE DETAILSI look into my pensive expression reflecting back at me on my glossy Macbook Pro screen, waiting to see what I have to say about copywriting today. Thoughts on the subject of descriptive copywriting take form and travel down my brain’s radial, median and ulnar nerve-ways. They finally reach my fingers, animating them all into a river-dance on the keyboard. One by one, the letters appear like raindrops plonk, plonk, plonking on a driver’s windscreen; just a tentative few words at first but within seconds they multiply into a shower, then climax into a heavy downpour of words that finally make up this, the second part of my little copywriting course on genres of writing. My humble attempt in the opening paragraph shows how descriptive writing breathes life into dead facts and the following techniques employed:
Show Don’t TellI could have written the opening paragraph of this post by telling you that, ‘this post will discuss the craft of descriptive writing and how it can turn abstract ideas into concrete images’. Telling is … well, just telling. There’s no engaging any of the reader’s senses — seeing, hearing, smelling, touch or tasting. It’s all quite abstract. It also leaves the reader’s cognition to its own devices, which may undermine your intention. In short, it’s a flat line experience (using the electrocardiogram as the metaphor). What descriptive copywriting does is bring the dead facts to life by evoking our senses. It is through our senses that we engage and relate with the world around us.
Five Senses of EngagementVision is perhaps the most commonly evoked sense because we are often trying to picture the idea. In copywriting, we call it ‘writing pictures’: The beach curved into a smile. But you can also write sounds: When she laughed, a wild chorus of cockatoos burst from within her. You can write smells: Her presence was felt like the scent of a newly opened rose. You can write touch (feelings): The sand massaged her bare feet like a thousand tiny hands. You can write tastes: The curry set my mouth on fire. There are three main characteristics of descriptive writing: simile, metaphor and personification. These figuratives unpack ideas using rich, vivid and lively detail, here’s how: Abstract: It was a nice day. Concrete: The sun was shining and a slight breeze blew across my face. Abstract: I like writing poems, not essays. Concrete: I like writing short, rhythmic sentences and hate rambling on about my thoughts for 1000 words. Abstract: Mrs Hodgeson was a great teacher. Concrete: Mrs Hodgeson really knew how to help us turn thoughts into lively stories and essays.
Like a SimileThis is a figure of speech that compares two things that are similar in some way. You can pick a simile by the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. In the opening paragraph, the clause ‘…the letters appear like raindrops plonk, plonk, plonking on a driver’s windscreen’ compares letters with raindrops. Here are some other examples of similes: The night heron’s shoulders hunched like a grumpy old grandfather. On the wide-open road, the car was like a boat at sea. The still and silent sea was as blue as the sky.
Metaphors of UnrelatednessWhen you make a direct comparison between two unrelated subjects, you create a metaphor. In my opening paragraph, I compare fingers typing with river dancing. There’s no relationship between the two but it conjures up an image of fingers dancing up and down on the keyboard. Here are some other examples of metaphor: The resident cat was a streak of lightening across the room (cat and lightening). The clouds sailed quietly across the sky (cloud and boat). The sand massaged her bare feet like a thousand tiny hands (sand and hand).
Personify into AnimationPersonification involves giving inanimate objects human or animate qualities. In my opening sentence, ‘I look into my pensive expression reflecting back at me on my glossy Macbook Pro screen, waiting to see what I have to say today’ endows my laptop with a human quality. It is no longer a machine, but a person waiting to hear what I’ve got to say. Here are a few more examples of personification: The wind whispered sweet nothings in her ear. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds. Time marches to the beat of its own drum.
Start Making SenseA useful way to get started with descriptive copywriting is to draw up a table like this and fill it with sensory experiences relevant to your story. This approach is particularly valuable when you need to give your reader the experience of place, people and objects, such as in travel writing.
3. PERSUASIVE COPYWRITING … JUST DO ITWhat you are about to read will fascinate you, or infuriate you, or both. It will also present you with a delicious paradox: proving that a person who decides to stop saving can save considerably more than someone who decides to save diligently all the way to 65 … ⊕ Little wonder they don’t build cars like they used to. Building a pen is difficult enough. Oh, the elegant lines of the 1925 Hispano Suiza. Oh, the elegant lines of the 1927 Parker Duofold. The car may no longer be available, but happily the pen is making a welcome return… ⊕ Have you ever wondered how men would carry on if they had periods? At the risk of sounding sexist, we must observe that men can be terrible babies when they’re ill. A cold so easily becomes ‘flu’. A headache, ‘migraine’. Indigestion, a ‘suspected heart attack’. If men had periods, the cry would go up for the 3-week month, never mind the 5-day week… ⊕ Come on. Admit it. You were persuaded by the thought of the delicious paradox, the pen built like a car and how men would carry on if they had periods. It’s no wonder John Bevins (for Bankers Trust), Alfredo Marcantonio (for Parker Pen) and Barbara Noakes (for Dr White’s Towels & Tampons) are among the world’s best copywriters. Their introductory paragraphs above are fabulous examples of persuasive writing in general and quality craftsmanship in particular. They reel you in with just the right tension between the writer’s intent and your disinterest: hooking you in, and keeping you in the read. It always begins with a compelling thought. But it’s how you say it that is the difference between being turned on or off. That compelling thought is carried through by sound logic. This is the basis of well structured copy, paragraphs and sentences. In my copywriting course, it’s called Narrative Logic. This logic always begins with your own conviction and enthusiasm for the subject. You must be the first to be persuaded. Persuasive writing appears in speeches, letters to the editor, editorials, petitions, academic essays, opinion pieces, advocacy campaigns and, yes, advertisements. The 5 characteristics of this genre are:
- A stated proposition, position or belief
- Factual supports
- Persuasive techniques
- A logical argument
- A call to action
Originally posted 2019-03-18 01:37:26.