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There’s a famous quote from Ernest Hemingway that says: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Email marketers don’t use typewriters and they usually don’t bleed when they write, unless they cut a finger in the process. But writing can be almost as tough for them as it is for novelists. Creating great marketing copy, that delivers results, is a task even the most experienced ones find difficult. How do you write well? Some of the most accomplished writers in the world shared their rules. Let’s see how we can incorporate them in our marketing emails.
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“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
One of the greatest minds of our time, Mr. Vonnegut hated semicolons. His clean, concise writing is a trademark, and so is his conversational tone.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
It looks like every writer has a certain punctuation mark he’s not fond of. The author of “The Great Gatsby” isn’t known as someone who laughed at his own jokes. The same applies for Elmore Leonard, who said: “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 of prose.”
“Always the same advice: learn to trust our own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.”
The British writer, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, can credit her own good judgement for her beautifully written stories.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
Isn’t this the best approach to writing? Poet and activist Maya Angelou was an artist of the word, and had the generosity to share her perspective with us.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write. Simple as that.”
The most celebrated horror and supernatural fiction writer of today, Stephen King credits much of his writing technique to the books he’s read. For him, there simply isn’t any good writing without many hours of reading.
“Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.”
The American novelists advises us to stay away from so-called “interesting” words. They won’t make us look smarter.
William Zinsser: Don’t be a robot
American journalist, writer and literary critic William Zinsser was also one of the best writing teachers ever. In his famous book “On Writing Well,” he shared his vast knowledge on the subject and has since helped millions of writers create better copy.
What we can take from Mr. Zinsser:
♦ “Writing is not a special language owned by the English teacher. Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at all.”
♦ “Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or good will you need.”
♦ “If you work for an institution, whatever your job, whatever your level, be yourself when you write. You will stand out as a real person among the robots.”
We believe this last advice is particularly useful for marketers, who represent companies that aim to be relatable, liked and, eventually, successful.
John Updike: Any process can be creative
One of the world’s masters of creativity, John Updike wanted to remind us we all have access to it. It all depends on how we decide to use it. “Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better,” Updike said.
We would like to end with an idea from C.S. Lewis that opens up a world of possibilities for writers everywhere. Whether you write articles, essays, stories, novels or marketing emails, you should know that “you can make anything by writing.”
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