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Crafting Copy

Greg Kirsch

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Numerous sources credit advertising legend Leo Burnett as saying, “Dull and exaggerated ad copy is due to the excess use of adjectives.”

Burnett allegedly compared the number of adjectives appearing in “failed” ads to the number in classics like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” speech, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.  Here are the results:

The point?  Use more verbs and fewer adjectives when writing content. Verbs add punch and color to our copy.

For example, the phrase “fast relief” shows up 179 times in an search, but “vanquish pain” doesn’t show up at all.

And when choosing those verbs, one might as well make them powerful. Check out these examples of healthcare ads that use powerful verbs to make the sale.

Instead of saying “stop” (which shows up in 578 ads on or even “beat” (which shows up 151 times) Kank-A® says “conquer canker sores.” By the way, “conquer” only shows up 12 times in an search. And the alliteration between “conquer” and “canker” is a nice bonus.

Instead of “stop the danger,” Omacor® says “diffuse the danger” — another great example of alliteration as well!

And the following ad for Viagra from Kenya would never be approved here in the U.S., but the copy and visual work well together and support my point. It’s not “let the beast out” — it’s “unleash the beast.”

Being aware of our adjective usage and choosing powerful verbs over weaker ones supercharges our content. We don’t just write copy — we craft it!


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By Cynthia Bates on 07/13/2014 @ 16:37:18 PM

I agree strongly with the point on adjectives. Or as Mark Twain said " Whenever you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them--then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are far apart."

By Greg Kirsch on 07/14/2014 @ 09:50:35 AM

Thanks for that quote Cynthia! I hadn't heard that one before ... and like everything Twain said, it's pithy!

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