My dear reader,
How can we copysmiths improve the flow of our writing? Making it more memorable, fun and easy to read?
Is it the editing? Kinda…
Is it the powerful visual adjectives? Hyup…
Is it the jokes… puns… clever lines… and personality? Ye, but don’t overdo it…
There is one exercise I haven’t seen ANY other copywriter do.
Yet this exercise made Benjamin Franklin the MASTER of the English language.
So if it’s good enough for the Editor of the Declaration of Independance… It’s good enough for any run-of-the-mill copywriter.
This exercise is called….
Turning Prose to Verse.
And it will help you write a more beautiful, crisp prose.
(Do it once a week. It’ll help you develop a more intimate understanding of the language. Your copy will flow better, be more memorable, and easy to read.)
But First, What IS a Verse?
Prose is plain talking. It’s what we speak – and write all the time. It has no rhymes, and no recognizable rhythm (also called meter).
Verse, on the other hand, can have rhythms, meter, or both.
If it has both, it’s called a Rhymed verse. If it only has meter, it is called a Blank verse.
Meter is made out of feet. One foot is a pair of syllables.
Now here comes the dum da DUM da DUM DUM de dees part…
Every word (and sentence) is made out of syllables. On paper, they all look the same. But when spoken, some are stressed and some are not.
we HOLD these TRUTHS to BE self-EVident
Lastly, we’ll check which syllable in the foot is stressed.
If it’s the first, the foot is called a troche.
If it’s the second, the foot is called an iamb.
We can see that Franklins edit is made out of (mostly) iambic feet.
We HOLD | these TRUTHS | to BE | self-EV|ident.
Typically, Shakespearean verses are written in rhymed iambic pentameter. Meaning each line consist of five iambic feet… But no need to follow that at all. I prefer short sentences, with four iambic feet.
The instructions are easy.
Take any piece of copy…
And transpose it into a verse of your choice.
(Rhythm or blank, with as many troche or iambic feet as you please… just keep it consistent.)
Here’s an introduction paragraph of a direct mail piece i’ve written for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
It’s a letter from my character urging a local dwarf blacksmith (in the town of Farcross) to start smithing and repairing weapons – and not just farm tools. As the Warriors Guild needs good quality weapons to fend off monsters…. (Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons. Epic boardgame.)
Here is the opening paragraph:
My dear old friend,
You know there is an active mercenary guild in Farcross yet there is no place adventurers can fix or buy new weapons? Well by expanding your workshop, ALL traffic would go TO YOU!
Now, I took this paragraph, and after some trial and error, I’ve produced this verse…. (4 iambic feet in each line, except the intro)
My dear old friend,
There is an active fighter guild;
Yet no place hero could rebuild;
His mighty ax that shields the land;
So please expand your blacksmith stand;
And all the traffic would be yours;
Thus making you the richest dwarf;
It ain’t the best verse… and the last rhyme is wonky… HOWEVER, writing this stretched my brains to its limits.
I’ve included a working copy below. Read it OUT LOUD!!! Help yourself by drumming with your first as you read… Strike down on each stressed syllable.
Then try to read it in reverse – stress lower cap syllables. You’ll see that it sound odd to an English ear.
my DEAR | old FRIEND…
there IS | an AC|tive FIGH|ter GUILD;
but NO | place HE|ro COULD | reBUILD;
his MIGH|ty AXE | that SHIELDS | the LAND;
so PLEASE | exPAND | your BLACK|smith STAND;
and ALL | the TRA|ffic WILL | be YOURS;
thus MA|king YOU| the RICH|est DWARF;
’till next time…
By Mihael D. Čačič