Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writing and Editing

A writer should not be an editor at the same time, but at a different time, that may be fine.

I am not saying a writer cannot be an editor, or vice versa. The key emphasis here is time, or the proximity of time between the two roles being played. If you are writer for a piece of work, you cannot be an editor for the same piece of work immediately after writing the piece because the same blind spot you as a writer faces during writing will also be unseen and unrecognized by you as the editor.

A writer can edit his own work, but it is best to have someone else does it, especially when there is a constraint of time. If a writer has to be the editor for the same piece of work, then a break or an interval is imperative between the time of completing the writing and the starting of the editing. The writer must, within the interval, free his mind from the pressures, prejudices, and the intensity inherent in a writing environment or during writing, and prepare himself at heart and mind for editing.

One of the best ways of freeing one's mind between the two roles is to go away to a place where nature is visible, where noisy sounds are far away. However, this is not always possible, so an alternative is to get oneself away from the previous piece of work and do something else, preferably less stressful, and then return with a refreshed or renewed mind. Whether you are a writer or an editor, or both, it is always good to have a break between writing and editing.

However, if taking a break is not possible, the best way to perform the two roles consecutively is to write one piece and edit a different piece. Usually, the different piece is written by someone else, and that helps to clear one's mind off from one's own work. There is no conflict in this case between playing the role of a writer and an editor at the same time, since both the pieces are written by different people, and to edit and spot the mistakes in the writings of another is usually relatively easier. However, if this again is not possible, editing a different piece written by oneself is still better than editing one's own piece of work immediately upon completion.

Following the above arguments, a writer can therefore be an editor, and vice versa.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Copywriting is defined in the Wikipedia as "the process of writing the words that promote a person, business, opinion, or idea. It may be used as plain text, as a radio or television advertisement, or in a variety of other media. The main purpose of writing this marketing copy, or promotional text, is to persuade the listener or reader to act — to buy a product or subscribe to a certain viewpoint, for instance. Alternatively, copy might also be intended to dissuade a reader from a particular belief or action."

"Copywriting can include body copy, slogans, headlines, direct mail pieces, taglines, jingle lyrics, World Wide Web and Internet content, television or radio commercial scripts, press releases, white papers, and other written material incorporated into advertising media. Copywriters can contribute words and ideas to print ads, mail-order catalogs, billboards, commercials, brochures, postcards, online sites, e-mail, letters and other advertising media."

The art of writing an advertising copy is based on the assumption that words can change the thinking, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of an audience. If the writings in a copy fail to provoke attention, interest, desire, conviction, and action, it has failed its task and intent.

One of the oldest advertising copywriting formulae is AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. An ad that does not gain the attention of the reader will not to be able to do anything else. Only after catching attention can an ad arouse the interest of the consumer and create the desire for the product, service, or idea presented. Finally, the ad should stimulate some action by the customer, otherwise, it has failed in its purpose.

Some techniques a copywriter can use in writing persuasive ad copies include:

  • Cliches or buzzwords, such as, now, new, here, at last, and today.
  • Action words, such as, buy, try, ask, get, send, taste, watch, look, come, and many more.
  • Emotive or exciting words, using adjectives that enhance facts, such as, splendid, amazing, delightful, beautiful, and wonderful.
  • Alliteration or a form of repeating sounds pleasing to the ear, but not overdone, obvious, or irritating, such as, 'Let the train take the strain,' 'Don't be vague, ask for Haig,' and 'Go well, go Shell'.
  • Colloquialisms or writing to imitate informal speech, such as, 'Pick 'n Choose', 'Fish 'n Chips', and the use of words, such as, don't, wouldn't, won't, what's, and other abbreviations.
  • Punctuations and grammar, such as, 'Save the children. Now.' 'Write his name in gold. Remy Martin.'
  • Repetition, such as, the use of same word to open each paragraph, plugging brand or company name throughout the text.
  • Intertextuality or the association of a text to other texts or signs, such as the use of the word 'lock' to associate with security, or the use of a statement, term or sign from a movie or other media.

When writing a Headline for a print ad, consider the following guidelines:

  • Make the headline a major persuasive component of the ad
  • Appeal to the reader's self-interest with a basic promise of benefits
  • Inject the maximum information without making it cumbersome or wordy
  • Limit headlines to about 5 to 8 words
  • Include the brand name in the headline
  • Entice the reader to read the body copy
  • Entice the reader to examine the visual in the ad
  • Never change the typeface in a headline
  • Never use a headline whose persuasive impact depends on reading the body copy
  • Use simple, common, familiar words

When writing the Subhead, consider the following:

  • Subhead should reinforce the headline
  • Subhead should entice the reader to proceed to the body copy
  • Subheads should stimulate a more complete reading of the entire ad
  • The longer the body copy, the more appropriate the use of subheads
  • Keep the use of subheads to minimum - they can clutter an ad
When writing the Body Copy, consider the following:
  • Use present tense whenever possible
  • Use singular nouns and verbs
  • Use active verbs
  • Use familiar words and phrases
  • Vary the length of sentences and paragraphs
  • Involve the reader
  • Provide support for the unbelievable
  • Avoid clichés and superlatives
Some common mistakes to be avoided in copywriting include:
  • Vagueness, resulting from generalization of words or imprecise meanings.
  • Wordiness, where economy of words is paramount because a copy has to fit within limited space and time before it bores the audience.
  • Triteness or unoriginality, where the use of clichés and worn out superlatives can create a dull and outdated image for a brand or firm.
  • Beyond Creativeness, where creativity is taken overboard for the sake of creativity. A copy must remain true to its primary responsibility: communicating the selling message.
Writing a good copy requires much more than what is mentioned in this article. It requires research, thinking out of the box, and many other aspects. For more tips on copywriting, check out the many resources available on the web and read the relevant books by professional copywriters.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I can now better understand why books with different translations appear at time to vary in content or context.

In recent months, I have the opportunity to translate and edit several articles of different languages into English with the help of online translators. Some of the languages for translation include French, Italian, Hungarian, and Japanese.

One of the greatest difficulties I faced in translating the languages is the many varied meanings of a word. Take French for example. The word 'apres' or 'a pres' is translated by the different online translators as 'after' or 'near'. A sentence such as the following:

Après ses casinos, le groupe Louvre Hôtels souhaitait également offrir aux clients de son hôtelier un accès Wi-Fi gratuit

therefore, can be translated as:

After its casinos, the group Louvre Hôtels also wished to offer to the customers of its hotel free Wi-Fi access


Near its casinos, the group Louvre Hôtels also wished to offer to the customers of its hotel free Wi-Fi access

This sentence, which is at the start of a new paragraph, however appears incorrectly translated, based on the structure and preceding paragraphs which made no mention of what is before, hence, 'after' cannot be used. The word 'near' seems logical, but in understanding the context, does not seem to fit the starting point of a new paragraph, so a French to English dicitionary was consulted.

Apart from the meanings 'after' and 'near', the dictionary also defines 'apres' as 'in front of', which put the whole context of the sentence in different light. The plausible meaning of the abovestated sentence therefore can be translated as:

In front of the casinos, the group Louvre Hôtels also wished to offer to the customers of its hotel free Wi-Fi access

Having determined 'in front of' to be the 'correct' translation, most of us will automatically assume the same word 'apres' used at the beginning of the next paragraph means the same thing, but this is far from the truth and presumptious, as in the case of the article I was editing. Reading through the context of the new paragraph:

Après un état des lieux et une série de tests en réel, c’est la gamme sans fil AirPremier qui a été retenu pour répondre totalement aux contraintes techniques Wi-Fi des hôtels

the correct translation will appear to mean 'after' rather than 'in front of', as in the case of:

After an inventory of fixtures and a series of testing in 'live' environment, it is the wireless AirPremier which was retained to answer completely the technical constraints Wi-Fi of the hotels

Following this thread of discussion, it is clear that translations and interpretations can differ in context. This is probably why different translations and versions of the Holy Bible can sometime appear to be different in interpretation of certain passages and verses in specific context. When read as a whole, however, the focus of the Bible is essentially the same, and it is our attitudes as the reader in understanding the truth within that is important.

Online Translation Tools:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

News and Media Archives

News agencies often use archived pictures and video clips for re-publishing in general news articles. This method of placing back-dated clips or pictures however can mislead audience to perceive the visuals as occurring only recently.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine was perturbed when she saw her picture appear in an article of a local newspaper which was taken by the press two years ago for an event. Although the picture from the archive is appropriate for the theme of the article in illustrating the dependency of good teacher-pupil relationship in providing effective teaching, it is seemingly 'incorrect' to portray it as part of a recent news relating to a subject discussed in Parliament concerning a new method of assessing teachers under the Enhanced Performance Measurement System, especially when it is published without prior permission from the person in the picture. This, however, is how it is with news reporting. Where a piece of news has been accepted for publishing by the press, all its content essentially becomes the property of the news agency, in which the agency reserve all rights to do anything they want with it. Such content once published is deemed to be for the 'public' eye, hence, can no longer be considered private, which would require the agency to seek permission before re-publishing. However, if the picture is being misused to convey something not relating to the original intent, the matter can then be brought up for scrutiny.

Take the example of the news station that presented an archived video clip of the celebration by Iraqis after the September 11, 2001 event where the twin World Trade Center towers were destroyed in New York. This piece of news was telecast throughout the world and created much hatred, resulting in Gulf War II. The video clip in question, however, is not shown 'live' from Iraq, but from an archive in the library. In reality, nothing of that celebration took place, yet by telecasting the clip immediately after showing the video of what happened to the World Trade Center, audience's perception was misplaced, resulting in hate.

The issue being discussed here is not to determine the extent in which the journalism code must be adhered or about what is and what is not ethical. It is about how audience must perceive news that is found in the newspapers and television news. To this end, my hope is for all of us as readers of news, to learn to see beyond what is written in the text, so as to decipher for ourselves what is true and untrue, what is real and unreal, and what is right or wrong.