Category Archives: Copywriter

Nasty, brutish and short

Stella Gibbons, in her intro to Cold Comfort Farm (highly recommended, by the by, if you feel you could use a bit of cheering up in these days of gloom):

Must confess I do tend to focus on saying exactly what needs saying in short sentences. Then again, business copy is pretty much journalism-in-spades by Gibbons’s definition: words with a job to do.

Say what?

No great originality in grumbling about inflated/nonsensical job titles – standard issue grump – but I was struck by the sign off on a recent letter from my pension provider:

What did whoever came up with that lulu even imagine they meant by it? ‘Insurance Customer Delivery’? This is a pension, not insurance. And where does delivery come into it? Are they delivering customers now? Where to? It’s palpable nonsense, and indicative of a level of intelligence and imagination I for one am a tad dismayed to find in the company supposedly looking out for my future finances.

Does it matter? Not much, probably. To quote ‘er indores, “You’re probably the only person who’d even notice.” Maybe she’s right. But I can’t help feeling that smart companies should watch their words no less carefully than they look after their customers’ money. People might think they don’t know what they’re on about – not a good look, whatever business you’re in.

Ad confusium

Like anyone else I rely on adblockers to keep my screen mostly clear, but they come up on my phone. What a shambles. First, from the land that design forgot…

I’m no designer, but that’s just shameful.

Next up, illiteracy:

How can you read just a dozen words and fail to realise something’s horribly awry?

Last but not least:

What is on offer? I really haven’t a clue – have you?


Have to confess that even after a lifetime of wordery I had never encountered the verb ‘to dogpile’. Turns out it’s recognised by several online dictionaries (if not, as yet, any with gravitas), and means ‘to form a heap’, as for example, players mobbing the scorer of a winning goal.

I learn something new every day.

A better way…

Searching back through old Telegram threads in search of a half-remembered quote, I came across a note to myself from a year or two back, written after watching the film Moneyball (highly recommended if you’ve not seen it):

I’m always impressed by people who think up a better way to do it.

Brainpower; eliminating waste and achieving more with the same resources or the same with less resources.

Ray Kroc, Mr MacDonalds, reportedly the reason bulk liquids are now delivered in square containers. One of Kroc’s colleagues said “Ray used to watch the milk being delivered. It came in on pallets, in round plastic barrels. Anyone would look at that pallet and see the barrels of milk. Ray would look at it and see the space between the barrels. It used to drive him crazy.”

Monty the horse whisperer….calming horses into compliance rather than breaking them seemed – ethics aside – a more efficient way of bringing about the desired result. Why invest all that energy and effort when it was totally unnecessary? Again, questioning what everyone does and always has – going back to objectives and doing it in a fundamentally different way.

John Henry, owner of Boston Red Sox: For forty-one million, you built a playoff team. You lost Damon, Giambi, Isringhausen, Pena, and you won more games without them than you did with them. You won the exact same number of games that the Yankees won, but the Yankees spent one point four million per win and you paid two hundred and sixty thousand. I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall….it always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy. I mean, anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sitting on their ass on the sofa in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

Oh, I found the quote BTW:

Peter Brand: I wanted you to see these player evaluations that you asked me to do.
Billy Beane: I asked you to do three.
Peter Brand: Yeah.
Billy Beane: To evaluate three players.
Peter Brand: Yeah.
Billy Beane: How many d’you do?
Peter Brand: Forty-seven.
Billy Beane: Okay.
Peter Brand: Actually, fifty-one. I don’t know why I lied just then.

Along with some cracking others, including:

Scott Hatteberg: [Responding to being asked to play first base for the Oakland A’s] I’ve only ever played catcher.
Billy Beane: It’s not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.
Ron Washington: It’s incredibly hard.


Billy Beane: Would you rather get one shot in the head or five in the chest and bleed to death?
Peter Brand: Are those my only two options?