The Turner Ink blog contains rants, bloopers, observations and opinions. It also has handy tips on grammar and punctuation such as colons: semicolons; and full stops. As well as some very useful ‘how tos’. Feel free to leave comments. Be nice though.

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Think you know your slang?

Dec
16
2014

As a paid up sarf Londoner, there’s nothing I like more than a bit o’ slang, be it street, polari or cocker-nee. Unfortunately, I don’t get to write it much in my everyday copywriting life. Strange that.

So for a giggle, this year’s Christmas cards are written completely in slang. If you can fathom what they say, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation by Ammon Shea. It’s a brilliant book about the complexities of the English language and guaranteed to win you a few arguments over Christmas lunch.

All you have to do is email me your translation of any of the cards and the closest translation will go into a ‘hat’ to win the book. You don’t need to do all three. Just pick one and let me know by midnight on December 23rd what you think it says. I’ll announce the winner here on the blog and on Twitter on Christmas Eve. Be lucky!

 

 

 

 


 

Posted by superuser on 16 Dec 2014 in Copywriting Blog, Word stuff | 10 comments »

The fine art of talking cobblers

Jun
30
2014

One of the best things about being a Londoner is that you’re never more than a stone’s throw away from some of the world’s greatest art. Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne at The National; Manet’s A Bar at the Folies Bergere at The Courtauld; or Matisse’s Snail at Tate Modern are all a Tube ride away. As a history of art student I spent many hours sitting in cool, quiet galleries studying the brushstrokes of some or other artist.

But what I hated then and what I hate now is some of the absolute bollocks that’s written about art. Those little bits of info that sit next to the work? I want it to tell me who the piece is by, when it was done and what materials were used. Then I want the juicy stuff. The fact that Wheat Field with Crows was Van Gogh’s last painting before he topped himself. Or that Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were actually lovers in the 1950s. (Last year’s MOMA exhibition in New York featuring the two artists described them as being ‘in dialogue’. What?) Or how Frida Kahlo’s health and tempestuous marriage to Diego Rivera affected her art. Or how the Pre-Raphaelite artist Rosetti painted Janey Morris time and time again because they were actually having a fling even though she was married to fellow artist William Morris at the time. Shock! Gasp!

I want to know what the artist was feeling or doing. Or who they were bonking or who or what they were influenced by. What I want is context. How did this piece of work come about?

What we get is a load of complex arty mumbo jumbo that stops us mere mortals understanding the work on a deeper level. Sculptor Grayson Perry in his Reith lectures last year quoted an editor of an art magazine who said her predecessor didn’t have English as a first language and so the magazine ‘suffered from the wrong kind of unreadability’. Good grief.

So I was amused to stumble across Phillip Hook’s Breakfast at Sotheby’s: an A-Z of the Art World recently. It’s a light-hearted glossary that sets out to deconstruct explain what certain art world words really mean. Here are a few of my favourites:

Accessible: Obvious/superficial

Challenging: Obscure, incomprehensible, unpleasant

Chromatism: Grand word for colouring

Gem/Jewel: Small painting

Gnosis: Pretentious word for knowledge of something

Honest: Inept

Journey: Career. Artists no longer have careers; they go on a journey

Mature: Debilitated by old age

Monumental: Large painting

Praxis: Pretentions synonym for practice ‘emblematic of the artist’s painterly praxis’ (translation: a typical work)

Primitive: Before 1890: inept. After 1890: powerful

Simulacrum: Grand word for imitation or replica

Space: A gallery

Subvert: Useful word to cover illogicality or inconsistency

Synthesis: More than one thing combined

Thematisation: Choice of subject matter

Trajectory: Career

Zeitgeist: An artist of their time. Those that go against fashion are referred to as ‘anaesthetising the zeitgeist.’

Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World by Phillip Hook is available from Amazon.

Just for the record, I once wrote an essay about Palladio (Venetian architect 1508-1580) that my tutor described as being written in the style of the Sun newspaper. It was one of my proudest moments. (And yes, I still managed a 2:1.)

 

Posted by Sarah Turner on 30 Jun 2014 in Copywriting Blog | 1 comment »

Turner Ink is closed for the hols

Dec
24
2013

 

Turner Ink will be closed from Wednesday December 25 to Wednesday January 1. We’ll be back in the office on Thursday January 2. Have a very merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Posted by Sarah Turner on 24 Dec 2013 in Copywriting Blog | No comments yet »

Have a tinseltastic Christmas from Turner Ink

Dec
11
2013

Every  year I send a Turner Ink Christmas card to clients of the past, clients of the present and a bunch of suppliers and other good sorts that make Turner Ink tick. Over the years we’ve done quizzes, buzzword bingo and word searches. But this year we decided to let Twitter make the card, exquisite corpse stylee.

So, over a number of days on Twitter, I asked my followers for their favourite Christmas adverbs, verbs, nouns and adjectives beginning with a T. (For Turner Ink obvs.)

Some people entered head first into the Christmas spirit and came up with tons of suggestions and lovely Chrimbo words.

Others revealed their true feelings about the festive period which were tres amusing.

And some just made up words that sound cool.

Then we chucked all the words in a pile and came up with this for the Turner Ink Christmas card:

My thanks go to @speechmarksxl8, @dj_cardi, @marketingnextuk, @helenbaker,@rachelwritings, @thedailysarah and @suewalder who provided the words and the brilliant Pink chaps who did the artwork.

Hope you have a very jolly Christmas and a happy and successful 2014.

Posted by Sarah Turner on 11 Dec 2013 in Copywriting Blog | 11 comments »

Carry owls to Athens (and other amusing idioms in foreign languages)

Sep
5
2013

Whenever I need copy translating for a client I whizz it over to Tongue Tied to do the biz. All their translators are native speakers and understand the nuances of advertising copy. They also know their idioms from their elbows. So they’ve put together the following list of idioms, their foreign language equivalent and their literal translations for your amusement. I’m snug like a cock in a pastry.

 

To make a mountain out of a molehill

German: Aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen/ To make an elephant out of a mosquito

French: Ne pas en faire tout un fromage/ Not to make a cheese out of it

Spanish: Hacer una montaña de un grano de arena/ To make a mountain out of a grain of sand

 

Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched

German: Du sollst den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben/ Don’t praise the day before the evening

French: Il ne faut pas chanter victoire avant la bataille/ Don’t cheer before the battle

Spanish: Vender la piel del oso antes de cazarlo/ Sell the bear’s skin before the hunt

 

Don’t judge a book by its cover

German: Der Schein kann trügen/ Everything is not as it seems

French: l’habit ne fait pas le moine/ Clothes don’t make a monk

Spanish: Las apariencias engañan/ Everything is not as it seems

 

Carry coals to Newcastle

German: Eulen nach Athen tragen/ Carry owls to Athens

French: Porter de l’eau à la rivière/ Carry water to the sea

Spanish: Llevar leña al monte Carry wood to the mountain

 

Pull someone’s leg

German: Jemanden einen Bären aufbinden/ To tie a bear onto someone

French: Mener quelqu’un en bateau/ To take someone on a boat

Spanish: Tomar el pelo a alguien/ Pull someone’s hair

 

Barking up the wrong tree

German: Auf dem Holzweg sein/ To be on the wooden path

French: Se mettre le doigt dans l’œil/ To put a finger in the eye

Spanish: Errar el tiro/ To miss the shot

 

Every cloud has a silver lining

German: Auf Regen folgt Sonnenschein/ After rain, there will be sunshine

French: Après la pluie, le beau temps/ After the rain, there will be good weather

Spanish: No hay mal que por bien no venga/ There is no evil that blows no good

 

Not my cup of tea

German: Nicht mein Geschmack/ Not my taste

French: Ce n’est pas ma tasse de thé/ It’s not my cup of tea

Spanish: No es plato de mi gusto/ Not a dish of my taste

 

It’s all Greek to me

German: Ich versteh nur Bahnhof/ I only understand train station

French: J’entrave que dalle/ I only understand concrete slab

Spanish: Esto me suena a chino/ That sounds Chinese to me

 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

German: Andere Länder, andere Sitten/ Other countries, other conventions

French: A Rome, fais comme les Romains/ In Rome, do as the Romans do

Spanish: A donde fueres, haz lo que vieres/ Wherever you go, do what you see

 

Snug as a bug in a rug

German: Wohlfühlen, wie die Made im Speck/ Snug as a maggot in bacon

French: Comme un coq en pâte/ Snug, like a cock in pastry

Spanish: Estar acurrucadito y calentito/ Being curled up and warm

Posted by Sarah Turner on 5 Sep 2013 in Copywriting, Copywriting Blog, Word stuff | 2 comments »

How to write memorable copy for your ecommerce site

May
1
2013

This article was originally written for Retail IT and appeared on their blog in February 2013.

In all the excitement of getting your ecommerce site up and running it’s easy to overlook product descriptions. Surely the images are enough to sell the product, aren’t they? And one line of text copied from someone else’s site will do the trick won’t it? Well, actually no.

Good quality product descriptions that are unique to your site can transform conversion rates by anything from 30-100% according to Deepak Goyal co-founder of eZdia marketing. “By writing quality e-commerce copy,” he explains, “a business can differentiate itself from the pack, and create a huge competitive advantage.”

Getting down to the writing

So how do you write compelling copy for your products that will have your visitors rushing to click add to basket?

1. Know your audience

Men are different from women; retired people are different to teenagers; techies are different from arts and crafts lovers. And they all need copy that speaks to them directly. The trick is to get one person in your mind’s eye that represents your ideal audience, create a back-story for them, and then write only to that person.

Joan, 63, retired school teacher, loves dogs, member of WI, drives a new Mini, makes handmade cards for family members.

Got a good of understanding of Joan’s likes and fears? Great. Now write only for Joan.

2. Keep it simple

It takes 25% longer to read online than it does offline. So keep words simple, sentences short and paragraphs shorter. Avoid jargon, marketing-speak and clichés. You’re not offering a solution. You’re offering a picture frame or software or a piece of jewellery. Avoid technical language. And if you really need to talk about compressor efficiency, power output or ionic functions create a separate technical section or page.

3. Benefits before features

It’s tempting to simply describe the nuts and bolts of your product. But don’t. Let your audience know how they can use it, when they can use it and how it will make them feel.

‘This cream wool shift dress is perfect for the office when worn with opaques and flats. But add spikey heels and a statement jacket and it’s ideal for a night out on the town. Whether you’re an athletic shape or have an abundance of curves, you’ll find this beautifully cut shift dress fits in all the right places and gives a great silhouette.’

Then go on to describe the features: length, lining fabric, colour and sizes etc.

4. Tell a story

Don’t be scared to have a little fun with your copy by including team members or creating a story around your product. It breaks down barriers and helps visitors get to know your brand.

“When Kate, in our PR department, was small she used to visit her grandpa on the Isle of Wight every summer. Together, they used to collect pebbles and bits of driftwood on the beach and bring them home in a shoebox. These handmade personalised cufflinks are for special grandpas everywhere.”

Below is copy written for the ZPM website, a well-known brand for bathroom and cosmetic products.

“It’s a mini adventure: our mini zip bag is the perfect zip bag for life’s essentials: make-up, tissues, keys, mobile and money. Oh, and a millionaire boyfriend with a villa on the Italian lakes. Sigh. If only he would fit. Made from easy-to-clean coated cotton it comes with a zip top.”

 5. Optimise for the search

When it comes to optimising your copy with key phrases such as handmade leather holdall, use them naturally throughout but don’t be tempted to keyword stuff. Google and other search engines take objection to keyword stuffing and it makes uncomfortable reading for your visitors too.

An example of keyword stuffed copy is given on the Google Webmaster blog:

“Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.”

Avoid this. And write naturally as if you’re talking to someone.

6. Be original

If you’re a reseller, it’s tempting to just cut and paste the descriptive copy that comes with the product. Don’t. Chances are your competitors will do the same and you’ll end up with exactly the same content on all your sites. Google will struggle to know which site to rank higher and your visitor will get bored reading the same copy on every site.

Make the effort to have original, compelling copy for your products and you could see a healthy increase in your sales figures.

What happens if you haven’t got the time?

If you have the budget, get a copywriter to write your product descriptions for you. They’ll get it done in a fraction of the time it will take you, and you’ll have well crafted creative copy for each of your products. If you haven’t got the budget, set yourself a target of writing five or 10 product descriptions a day or as many as you can do in an hour. Or write a small style guide that includes the above tips, then persuade friends and family members to donate some copywriting time to the cause.

And a final word of advice: Before you start writing copy for your ecommerce site check the technological limitations of your CMS. Nothing is more frustrating than producing three paragraphs of carefully crafted copy only to discover you can only fit in a short heading and 150 characters!

Posted by Sarah Turner on 1 May 2013 in Business writing, Copywriting, How to, Website & SEO copywriting | 5 comments »

More reasons to be a copywriter – free food

Feb
8
2013

As you  may already know, I love working with clients that give me free stuff. Especially food. And especually gluten free chocolate cake.

A bunch of Pudding Pops have just been delivered to the office. And, yes, they really are cakes on a stick, so are ideal for weddings, parties, corporate gatherings, and anywhere else where holding a napkin or fork is a pain in the neck.

I’m ashamed to say that I’d scoffed mine before the lovely Kate had even left the building.

Anyway, I highly recommend them. Find out more about Pudding Pops here. Nom nom.

Posted by Sarah Turner on 8 Feb 2013 in Copywriting | 6 comments »

Book Review: Punctuation..? by User Design

Dec
6
2012

Chrimbo came early at Turner Ink Towers this week when I was sent a book on punctuation from the cool guys over at User Design.

If you’re the kind of person who still buys your reading from a bookstore, this is the kind of book you might purchase on a whim if it was sitting next to the till surrounded by bookmarks; a tourist’s guide to Cockney Rhymin’ Slang; and the top 1000 funniest jokes in the world. And it’s the kind of book that will make a perfect stocking-filler for all those people in your life who don’t know their apostrophes from their ellipses.

Inside you’ll find explanations for everyday punctuation marks like colons and semicolons, plus ones you may not be so familiar with including the pilcrow, interpunct and guillemet. And of course they’re all humorously illustrated in the usual User Design style.

It’s a cute book. But it’s not cheap. And at ten quid its way too much for something Amazon describes as a pamphlet. (Although the quality of the paper is very nice.) And it’s ten times the price of my own rather fabulous grammar and punctuation ebook that retails for just a few pence. 99 of them to be precise.

Punctuation…? from User Design is available from their website, Amazon and all good shops.

Editor Urgently Needed

Nov
27
2012

These bloopers need no introduction. I’ll let the headlines speak for themselves.

Posted by Sarah Turner on 27 Nov 2012 in Bloopers, Copywriting, Grammar tips, Punctuation tips | 14 comments »

When Language Bubbles Burst: One girl’s struggle for peace and quiet

Oct
4
2012

This is a guest post by writer Sally Gurteen (who btw was my 1500th follower on Twitter and consequently won herself a pack of Turner Ink pencils.) She used to live in Barcelona. Now she’s back in blightly. 

There are many things that I missed about England when I was living in Spain. My daily cup of tea was never quite right, finding marmite was like the search for the Holy Grail and don’t even get me started on the pitiful selection of cream in the supermarkets. Qué desastre! However, all delicious things aside, something else was happening, something way more profound and something whose workings I was utterly oblivious to.

Until today.

It hit me like a speeding train, even though in hindsight I realise that it had been creeping up on me stealthily like a beast most foul in the night. Little by little over time, my behaviour had been moulded and formed by the daily ins and outs of my new life in Barcelona and I had become a very different person indeed, and yet I hadn’t even noticed.

Now, when anyone moves to a country that isn’t their own, the greatest and foremost hurdle is the language. You do your very best to learn, you shyly speak to the locals in your attempts to use a natural accent and you listen carefully in the hope that you might pick up a more colloquial, native lingo.

Someone once told me that I could learn Spanish in three months. It would be easy. No problem. I would love to find that person now and forcefully slap them round the chops with a hefty leg of Iberian ham. You will realise pretty damn quickly that learning a new language is not easy and is actually thoroughly exhausting.
The things you won’t realise necessarily, is how very much being exposed to a new language can change the way you think, the way you act and, what I have come to discover, the way you listen.

Or don’t listen, more to the point.

You see, if you’re not fluent and you’ve had enough ,you can simply switch off and what’s more, you don’t have to switch back on again if you don’t want to. The result is that you can spend minutes, hours and days surrounded with only the voice in your head. That creepy man on the corner might be saying horrendously offensive things to you but who cares? You’re not listening. That couple on the metro might be plotting world domination but la la laaaa and that woman making small talk with you by the vegetable stand? Smile sweetly, say ‘si, si’ and she’ll just think you’re shy. You’re not listening but you suspect she was praising the plump pomegranates and that’s enough for you.

And so listen to the daily humdrum I did not. I went about my merry way, tuning in and tuning back out again when I felt like it. Life was sweet and lovely and peaceful.

Until today.

It seems my language bubble has burst. I’m back in my native land, I’m slowly overcoming the reverse culture shock and little by little, the daily humdrum has risen to a deafening roar. At first my ears would only prick up to the sound of a nice old man with a gentle voice. Or the oh so cute little girl singing to herself. It was such a pleasure to understand. It felt homely and warming.

Until today.

Language has flooded into my head and I can understand every bloody word that every bloody person is saying. And I’m not enraptured, let me tell you that.

That creepy man is telling me he wants to suckle upon my sweet bosom. That couple definitely have weapons of mass destruction in their basement and that woman making small talk by the vegetable stand? She’s the f***king anti-christ.

Read Sally’s blog at The Cafe Cat and follow her on Twitter @thecafecat.

Posted by Sarah Turner on 4 Oct 2012 in Word stuff | 1 comment »