1. How would you describe what it means to have strong verbal fitness?
It means not settling for one idea, instead looking at a project in a few different ways to get to something unique. It means being able to adapt your style to different products, clients, and media. It means not phoning it in. Ever.
2. If words are like a muscle, what’s the best way to flex them to tell a story?
With fitness, lean muscle mass is often the goal. Same with copy. I can be pretty wordy in my work. So, time permitting, I like to go back over it to trim whatever verbal fat I can. In the moment, every word seems absolutely essential. (Like “absolutely”. It doesn’t need to be in that last sentence. I should probably delete it.)
3. How do you know when to be more verbose or keep your communication style simple and short?
If it’s a complex product or service, it usually requires more words to explain what it is and why our audience should care. But ultimately, it’s up to the art director and how much copy they’re willing to cram into a layout.
4. You write for brands a lot – when is it ok to break the rules of proper grammar?
I don’t like to break language rules. But, I also think a lot of people have outdated ideas of what’s permissible. (Yes, you can begin a sentence with “and”. And, I often do.) I think you can get away with breaking the rules more on social media or in broadcast, which require a conversational tone. It depends on the personality of the brand. I took more liberties writing Facebook posts for Honey Bunches of Oats than writing C-suite level direct mail for AT&T.
5. Is there a formula you use in your writing to be persuasive and tell a story?
I don’t think there is a formula for creating good advertising. You have to care. You have to believe in the client and respect the customer. You also have to be honest. Don’t pretend it’s the best thing since nitro cold brew if it’s not. For me, copywriting is a process of convincing myself of the message before I try to convince the customer. Often, I’ll picture someone I know who fits the target profile, and try to figure out what I would say to them.
But to be honest, I’m kind of superstitious about it—I don’t like to think too much about how I do what I do. Copywriters already overthink things way too much.