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When copy becomes a narrative

December 9th, 2010
By: Becky Lang

By Becky Lang

In my pledge to write more about copywriting, I have decided to share this morsel, which I found on Gizmodo today.

Picture 1 When copy becomes a narrative

This disgruntled copywriter brings up a couple issues:

1. A lot of copy out there is invisible. No one reads it. This isn’t necessarily a problem with copywriting itself, but just more of an acknowledgement of all the writing that is legally required in the world, yet essentially unread by the masses. “Here’s 20-pages about the new legal parameters of your  iTunes account. Cool? Cool. Sign here.”

2. Writing that “breaks through” to a real human voice is more compelling than jargon that covers many products. Usually this isn’t necessary – popcorn instructions do not need to double as a personal narrative. Nonetheless, some brands take this as their starting point. A good example is Vitamin Water. Here’s an example of their conversational, “we know what you’re thinking” tone from their Facebook page.

Picture 3 When copy becomes a narrative

Another place you’re likely to find literary-style copy  is on deal websites.

Here’s a sample from

Picture 4 When copy becomes a narrative

Here’s another sample, from Groupon:

Picture 5 When copy becomes a narrative

(This goes on for a few more paragraphs)

So why does the copy on deal websites need to be so engaging while printer cartridge descriptions does not? My best guess is that in order to be successful, these sites need to sell not just a deal, but an entire lifestyle. They need to create a context for that deal in the life that they imagine you live, or else create an interesting enough portrait of the item in pop culture lore that you’ll linger on the page for awhile. Another reason might be that people feel inherently guilty when they buy something on a whim. Oftentimes they need to be reassured that they actually did need it, on some level. The copy needs to have a human voice to take the place of that “friend” that would otherwise convince you to buy it if you were at a mall. Or it could just be that these sites are raking in massive amounts of dough and they can pay copywriters a pretty penny to write whatever they want about 2 or 3 products a day.

Anyway, hope I got you thinking about “fun” copy vs. legally-required copy, at least enough so that you’ll read the labels on whatever you eat and drink today.