Menu

SABMiller

If someone from a global company like SABMiller thinks the best way to describe what they want to do with their marketing is with a 3,140 word document, and they also happen to think that you’re the best person in the world to write those 3,140 words, then you’re very happy to write 3,140 words.

Know your subject. All of it. Better than the person who briefed you. Burying a little bit of ignorance under a mound of words somewhere on Page 5 won’t grow daisies. It will rise like the zombie dead to haunt your reader’s understanding of Page 6.

You’ve got to be a lion tamer of concepts: beckoning them forward at the right time, snapping them back when they’ve got to sit quiet. You’re in charge.

“Surf, swim, dive.” If no one is going to read your 3,140 words like a novel, how are they going to read them? Probably more like a multi-layer game. Going backwards and forwards, jumping through time and space to go where they want to be. So your writing has to have summaries on every wave of new ideas. And each new wave has to have a lead in that offers enough to challenge the reader, but also offers them enough to support them. And it has to have enough detail for anyone that wants to immerse themselves in what you have to say.

Bullet points are ugly. But there are times to use them:

  • When you need to help the reader identify key facts quickly
  • When you need to break up text

You cannot assume too much knowledge of the previous page you wrote. It might not be the page they read previously.

Keep going. You’re being paid to do this. There are harder jobs. In fact, almost every job is harder than this.

As much as you don’t want to, read your work aloud at least once before you declare it finished. You’ll quickly see where it doesn’t work.

Stop. Occasionally. For a cup of tea. As refreshement. If you find yourself buying a USB-powered hand-held vacuum cleaner to clean out your desk drawer, you’ve probably stopped for too long.

The moments of delight in big copy come like the five pound notes you find in your trousers before you throw them in the wash, not like the day you’ll be sitting at home watching your six numbers come up on the Euromillions, while eating peach cobbler. With warmed ice-cream.

Keep going. Yes, the Declaration of Independence was only 1137 words. But the manual for the SR-71 Reconnaissance Aircraft is over 50,000 words. And you know which one of those the U.S. Government found more useful.