Poetry and Copywriting: a shared approach | Gwyneth Box | Skillshare

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Poetry and Copywriting: a shared approach

teacher avatar Gwyneth Box, Poet, translator, lifestyle journalist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (45m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Words are not enough

    • 3. What is poetry?

    • 4. Looking at a poem

    • 5. A closer look at meaning

    • 6. Looking at sounds

    • 7. Metre

    • 8. More about metre and rhyme

    • 9. Creative language and cultural associations

    • 10. Recapping

    • 11. Summing up

    • 12. A final warning

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About This Class

Discover the crossover between poetry and copywriting and how the same techniques can be used in both disciplines.

At first sight, poetry and marketing copy would seem to be two entirely different writing genres: on the one hand, poetry is an art - one of the highest literary forms - while the commercial nature of marketing materials places copywriting firmly at the other end of the scale. 

This brief course aims to show that there is no such dichotomy: both copywriting and poetry aim to evoke an emotional response and to influence behaviour or opinion. 

The same techniques that poets use to convey their message and meaning and to produce the desired - and often subconscious - reaction in their audience can also be used in marketing materials to affect and influence the potential client. But because such tools as metre and layout are so closely associated with the discipline of poetry, their power is not always recognised or fully exploited by the copywriter.

Based on the premise that "words are not enough", we’ll look closely at how literal meaning, word-associations and cultural connotations, sound, metre, line breaks and layout are all used in careful combination by the poet to create different effects and to influence the reader's mood and response. 

Understanding these techniques will draw attention to some of the subliminal effects produced by the marketing copy we encounter each day and make us more aware of the effects we create when producing our own business literature.

Whether you’re a poet who hopes to apply your skills to a more lucrative genre, or a copywriter who is looking for a new perspective on your discipline, this course will offer insights into ways to expand your writing repertoire.

Meet Your Teacher

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Gwyneth Box

Poet, translator, lifestyle journalist


Award-winning poet, writer, translator and businesswoman, with a career spanning IT, teaching, design and publishing, Gwyneth specialises in copy writing and transcreation, particularly in the fields of lifestyle, travel and technology.

As joint owner of the UK design agency Tantamount, Gwyneth works with businesses, educators and freelance creatives on projects that draw together the threads of publishing, design, technology and training.

As a writer, she is fascinated by the multi-layered aspects of language revealed through translation and poetry, and her creative writings explore the borderlands between writer and narrator, between translation and creation, and between memoir and invention.

During ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Okay. Hello. Poetry and copyrighting. They're hardly the most obvious of bedfellows, are they? On the one hand, we have poetry, which is an art form and potentially the highest expression of language on the other. We have copyrighting used by the marketing industry to persuade, to convince, to inform, on din the worst cases to to manipulate. But I think if we look closer, you'll find that they have quite a lot in common. I'm gonna box and I've been writing poetry since I was a child. I'm also a copywriter, and I own a design agency where I work closely with designers and copywriters. Onda, I've I've discovered that there isn't the kind dichotomy that you might think varies between the 22 genres. There's an overlap on the techniques that I use in my poetry. I've worked out that they could be very, very relevant to the copywriter. As a poet, Perhaps you're looking before a more lucrative way to apply your skills as a copywriter. Maybe are looking for a new approach to language into your writing and as a reader, if you're interested in language, perhaps you'd like to know more about how persuasive texts crafted. This is what we're going to be looking at on this course. So poets, readers, copywriters you're all very, very welcome. Whatever your role or motivation, I hope you'll sign up for the course and start to explore this fascinating subject where words are not enough. Thank you. 2. Words are not enough: Hello on. Welcome to words are not enough. I'm gonna box Onda. I'm a poet, but I also work in marketing and design on what I want to do here is to look at poetry and to look at marketing and design and look at where the two fields overlap. Um, I think that my experience as a poet has given me insight into techniques that are used in writing that can actually influence on DCA. NBI used on taken advantage off in writing for marketing. Now poetry has quite a lot in common with with marketing writing, probably more than you would realize. One of the basic similarities between the two styles writing is that although the message matters, it isn't all about what said it's about how it said and it's about how it's presented. So, of course, the message matters, but actually there are all sorts of other things going on. Um, it's the the context that you put your content in. That's what matters, and that's what's going to help get your message across. So that's really one of the fundamental similarities here. Now, before we go on and look further into that, what I want to do is take a step back and have a look at what poetry actually is 3. What is poetry?: So we're going to start by looking at what poetry actually is. Andi, I've got a couple of definitions here. Let's start with one by Ruth Bedell, who describes poetry as the oldest, most passionate, concentrated literary form. Now I like that there's a lot of information in that definition. It's a literary form. It concentrated language, eating Scott feeling. It's got its emotive, but actually the word I really want to draw attention to their is oldest because poetry goes back millennia. We've used poetry with used verse to tell news to tell stories, to report things, to entertain for all sorts of purposes, and we've used it for thousands and thousands of years now. I'd also suggest, though, that marketing is an ancient form, because I'm pretty sure we've bean trying to persuade people to buy things well for a long , long time. So both poetry and marketing, their emotional there, a motive there engaging for their ancient forms. Our next definition of poetry is that it's the genre of writing where the writer has more control over the layout than the lout artist, and there were obviously looking at poetry as as a written form rather than just a spoken form, Um, but that also ties in with when you're speaking poetry on whether a pauses. And now it's looking, though at the page on whether a white spaces where there are line ends and line beginnings , whether a spaces between lines or between verses. We're looking at white space on silence and pause ease on how this makes the reader, um understand what's being said. And these are key tools in the designers toolbox, that key techniques that the designer can use when they're working on marketing materials. So here it ties in a ties poetry very closely into the design of marketing materials, with the white space on the pauses. And now we have 1/3 definition of poetry. Um, and this one's from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and he said, First of all, he looked at pros, and he said that prose was words in their best order. Then he said that poetry is the best words in the best order. So poetry, something more more refined, more perfect than pros. Now I'd actually like to go a step further and say that we're looking for the best words in the best order don't presented with the best amount and the best distribution off white space or silence. And although I'd use that to describe poetry, I think it's a fairly good description off good marketing copy and well designed marketing copy. So there the best words in the best order with the best distribution and the best amount off space or silence. And now we're going to go on and take a look at a poem and see some of the techniques that were being used in it and see how a poem works. 4. Looking at a poem: Okay, so now we're going to look at a poem on and take a look at some of the techniques that are being used on what's actually going on inside the text. Just a short poem. Algae under lower leaves slick with sunlight, pink nose sniffles, wild strawberries, cream petals, drift and Siegel's new overhead. Yes, it's a it's a short poem is just five lines, and I think the first thing we'll notice when we when we read that poem is how it naturally divides into two parts. Ah, we call two sentences on the first sentence under laurel leaves all the way down to wild strawberries. We're looking at things that are happening down near the ground, and then we get the cream petals drift and we get the sea goals. Now the petals. If they're drifting, they're a little bit higher up. And then, of course, the sea girls are way up in the sky overhead. So we've got this. These five lines divide into two separate sections. They divided dramatically by the punctuation that two separate sentences, but also the meaning there. They're the first part that's happening down below. On the second half that's happening a little bit higher up or or right up in the sky. So that's how we look at some of the the meaning of the words that we're using here. Let's start with that word slick at the end of the first line. Now Slick usually means something wet. Got. Here they're. The leaves are slick, with sunlight there so glossy that the sunshine reflects and makes them look wet. Now we've got the reader reading, and they're going long leaves. Maybe it's a bit dank. Maybe it's a bit nasty under there. Flick, slugs, liver and slide. Maybe the reader will be will be predicting what's coming next. Um, but then they get slick with some light. So we've got a complete reversal of what at least some of the readers will have will have predicted. We've got the reader engaged in creating their own meaning, and then we're either fulfilling it or in this instance, where we're doing something else, where we're taking the carpet away and turning them around. Um, the next line end. We've got snuff. ALS now snuffle, xcom bay, transitive or intransitive. It could just be thank those duffels like stuffing with a cold But here, the pink nose sniffles, wild strawberries and we've given it an object that's being snuff old. So again your reader is is reading on creating meaning create. We're creating expectations on the reader. He's is either following along on predicting correctly or following along, engaging, creating an idea. And then we're we're changing, changing that meaning for them. Now it ISA case. We've got the reader engaged, and that's actually a really important thing to be doing with marketing as well. The the copyrighting should be engaging your reader, getting them to to come with you too. Uh, come with you, Maybe predict. Andi. Yes, you want them to predict the right thing or you want to keep them interested. If you change the meaning on, do you give them something that they weren't expecting as long as it's interesting, as long as it's convincing, this is actually going to work in copyrighting. So this that the engagement of the reader or the the audience who are his who is hearing your copy or is hearing your poem? This is where the two genres, whether two disciplines connect where they overlap 5. A closer look at meaning: Let's look a little further what we've got here. Look at some of the other words. We've got pink nose and then we've got strawberries. We've got that pink foreshadowing the color of the strawberries. I lend. Moving on, we've got cream petals. We got strawberries and cream pink strawberries cream. And actually that straddles the divide between the the first part of the second part, it crosses between the sentences. So we've actually got the poem being held together by strawberries and cream, which is rather nice, if a bit messy. But what we've got we've got meanings sort of feeding in here, feeding in between each other. So we go with those cream petals, cream petals, drift and see goals. See Gold's. They're pretty much the same color as as the petals. Um, cream petals, drift. Drift is a verb of movement, and a lot of readers will have gone and see goals, and they will have expected the next word to be word of movement. Maybe seagulls fly, maybe repetition of drift. But here's another time that we've turned it around. Andi way friend ended up instead of with the verb of movement. We've got a verb of sound, Siegel's muse. So again, we've engaged on reader, and then we've given them something that they weren't expecting. And that sound mu. Now that's one of many sounds that that seagulls make. We could have had Siegel shriek. Seagulls cry. Siegel's call insult sounds, but new uh, it was chosen, very specifically, mew. Like me. L is a sound that a cat makes now. We've also just had cream we've had cream on. We've got new Andi. I think some of readers will be thinking algae cream mu, maybe Algaze a cat. So there are clues there that are feeding information in subliminally, and readers are some of them, at least concluding, making, making mental leaps and reaching their own conclusions there. Deciding that Algaze a cat Now I wrote the poem, and I know that I intended him to be a cat, But there will be other readers who won't have made that mental leak. Onda. I don't know. Maybe they think he's more, Uh, it doesn't really matter. That's one of the places where there's a difference between poetry and marketing with marketing. You do want your reader to know what you're talking about with poetry, Sometimes it isn't so important, but in both situations you can feed information in subliminally. You can use words that suggest other ideas that make illusions to other, other texts or other ideas of the concepts are the products. And these are techniques that you can use in poetry on din marketing now and again. What you're doing with those techniques is you're getting your your audience to engage and to participate. You're getting them interested. So that, again, is where, where poetry on marketing come together. 6. Looking at sounds: Okay, We've had a look at meaning, and now what I want to do is have a look at sounds, because sound is one of the really important techniques in poetry that I think is sometimes undervalued in marketing. Copy. So the first thing to remember is that in English, we don't have, um, a direct correspondence between spelling and sound. So there's conflict between what's seen when it's written on what we hear when those words are spoken. I think that in standard British pronunciation, there's 44 or 45 different sounds, but we've only got 26 letters. So obviously there isn't that oneto one called correspondence that you get in some languages. We've got two different things we've got. Sometimes the same sounds which are used, which are produced by different letters recede, inspire they both got That's sound. The siblings in the middle but recede would be with a C and inspire with an s. And then sometimes you got letters which have the same letter, has a different pronunciation in different context. So recede that C was the soft C. But cat, it's got the same sound as the letter K. So, um, if if we need to show what precise sound we're talking about, we can use the symbols from the international phonetic alphabet ed. That just indicates sounds rather than letters. Um okay, So specifically, let's move on and look at algae again and see what sounds air doing in the poem. First of all, what we've got is a lot of sibilant. It's We've got slick sunlight, snuffle strawberries, see goals. We've got two different semblance. The a slick Andi um sniffles. The yes, at the end of snuff. ALS is more of a sound, more like a zed. So we've got a lot of these that they're very similar sounds and there certainly close enough to hold things together. We call this sound repeated away throw not in the very last blind, but the 1st 4 lines. Use the sports sound. We've also got a lot of the letter l that all sound got algae. Longueuil leaves, slick sunlight, sniffles, wild petals, strawberries, though not strawberry Siegel's. Yes, I got a lot of those away. Sounds as well. The are of under sunlight, scuffles, goals. We've got as a say, a lot of sounds going on, but there no distributed evenly if you look at that. We we talked earlier on that. The poem divides into two and the first part of the poem there's a lot more density. Um, got laurel leaves slick with sunlight. I've got the els and the S E Is there there really dense? They like the undergrowth there. Um, you find that a sounds produce an emotional response. And here I think that those 1st 3 lines it's just as well there's only three off, um, because it becomes quite overwhelming on. Then we get that cup of cream. It's a cutting, the sound it breaks in Justus the but the emotional tone changes and we get things moving in the air. We get, see girls, we get the sky and it becomes a lot lighter and also a lot less dense as far as the sounds of concerned. So what we can see here is that in poetry, the writer is trying to create an emotional effect, uh, in the reader, just by manipulating sounds by repeating them by including a lot of similar sounds, or by changing a sound like that of cream, it's It indicates a change cut in the the meaning, and this is something that could be used in copyrighting could be used in short slogans. It's one of the techniques of poetry that we can transfer and use in copyrighting. The next thing we're going to look at then is another technique of poetry, which is meter. 7. Metre: We're just going to stay with algae for a little bit longer, just as we start to talk about meter meter, the rhythm of how how the pieces spoken. Now it's very, very important within poetry, particularly in rhyming poetry. But here, if we look at algae, which is a free form poem, we'll find that there's no regular meter. But what we've got is a lot off individually stressed syllables we've got under Laurel leaves slick with sunlight, pink nose, snuff ALS, wild strawberries. Now not all of those syllables air stressed under the isn't Lowell the whole. The second syllable is very quick belt. Pink nose snuff, ALS actually knows, needs to be emphasized or spoken. Just a strong Leah's. The pink does, and the snuff comes on afterward. Pink nose, snuff, ALS. Those are three quite strong beans, and one of the effects that this has gone is that it slows the reader down. They can't read this very quickly. It gives us sort of a semi formal, paused way of of reading, and obviously this is going to affect how your your reader feels now that's going to pay a little more obvious when we look at another couple of poems 8. More about metre and rhyme: we saw hell. How algae the words actually made the reader read quite slowly and made it quite serious. Now have a listen to this one. Clem, the adipose tabby, is happy to does on a mat in the sun with her paws to her nose and her tail cold round neatly, its tip in her ear, asleep in the sunshine with nothing to fear. Now we've got this dump city Dundee River Rhythm, which is much more upbeat. It's much more lively, although again it's a get about a cat who's asleep. It's obviously it's much more humorous. That word the adipose tabby Adipose is a former word, But listen, the dumb ditty Adipose. It's got a nice light rhythm to it, so it's actually the meaning and the meter of that word. They're in conflict. And as soon as you've got that sort of dig Dum Diddy dum Diddy Dum Diddy dum type meter, it's going to be really hard to keep things serious. The rhythm off the words the rhythm that is a natural product of reading those words is going to produce an emotional effect. It's going to affect the mood of your your reader of the person who hears or reads your words, whether they're poetry or whether they're marketing. Whether it's your copy writing you can influence, you can change the mood of your audience just by changing the meter that you're right again . The other thing with this poem is that it's got rhyme. Andi Algae didn't have rhyme. It had other cell sound effects. But here we've got rhyme, and that makes things much easier to remember Bill. It's also easy to think that something that's written in a rhyme is trivial. It would be very, very difficult to write on advertising jingle for something very serious if it's got musicality. If it's got on upbeat rhythm and it's got line, then the implication is going to bay that it's it's fun, which is obviously important for a lot of products. Um, and also you need to be looking at Lexus because of the say added posts is it's a formal word. Don't it actually ends up with a humorous effect because it's so out of place. And so we we do need to look at the words at the rhythm of the words, um, and at whether they rhyme, all of these things are gonna work together 9. Creative language and cultural associations: and now we're going to go back and look at Algaze, Brother, our tree. Now Archie finds a cat length patch of shade whisk a wide and hidden from curious non feline eyes. He apples into Tappy gray again. It doesn't have a set meter. It doesn't have. Ah, set. He doesn't have any rhyme. It's much more paused again. But actually, there's something else I want to look at with this this particular piece. I want to look at some of those con compound words. We've got cat links. It's not a real word, but it means what it say's whisker wide. Now. I don't know about you, but I was told that if a cat's whiskers fitted through a space, the cat could get in. And so as soon as I hear that expression whisker wide, I'm drawing on all sorts of information all sorts of, uh, cultural references that actually aren't in the text. But they've bean fed into May, and we're back to the idea or our audience. Our readers are listening, creating things from their own knowledge, and you can pull on that knowledge you can feed in the clues that force your your reader to access these cultural references. But of course, that's only going to work. If those are generally known, there's no point using complex cultural references in copyrighting that's going to be read across the world, Andi. Not if you're relying on it. You can help it. You can use it to help to support your message. But it can't be the fundamental keystone off your message, because if you've got a global audience, a lot of them are going to miss that information. 10. Recapping: We've talked about a number of poetry techniques on, and some of them could be really useful when you're writing marketing. Copy. Uh, we've mentioned some different things. We've mentioned sounds and rhyme, and both sounds and rhyme could really pull a piece together. Make it, make it connect. They can make it very, very memorable. Not, and then they also have an effect on mood, but they can actually be too much. If you've got too many similar sounds, it could be a bit overwhelming, and you audience may lose your message because all they're hearing is a pattern of sounds going on and there that they'll be distracted by them. And Reimers well can be very, very helpful to help help people remember. But it's much more difficult to be serious with rhyming copy. So be very careful how you use each of those again meter the rhythm of your writing, the rhythm of the words of the text it can. It could help your your your reader, you audience, your clients remember it can help them to follow along with you. But ah, happy upbeat meter is not going to work for a serious subject. So again it's something to be aware off. Read your copy out loud. See how it sounds when you read it out loud. Because although most of your clients are not going to be reading it out loud, it will echo inside their brains. So those effects will be there even if only subliminally. And if you read it out loud and find you stumble on it, you can be sure that it's gonna be not working as well as it might be when you're your clients are reading it. We've also talked about meaning and meaning isn't just the actual meaning of the words. It's the the cultural associations that it pulls in. Um, on these could be the meanings are explicit and implicit. You may find that you are alluding to things that you maybe didn't intend to. So if you've got a team of people, make sure more than one P person reads it because it may mean something else to someone else. And these cultural associations can be incredibly useful as a support. But there no a good way off getting your think they're no good to hang your meaning on a cultural association, which is gonna limit how you communicate with a global audience. Um, Lexus. The words sort of continues on from that. We're talking about the register of the words we used. We saw the word added posts, which is a formal word, but because of its inherent meter is inherent rhythm on because of the the context. It stopped being formal and became humorous. And then the creativity side of Lexus we can invent words had invented the composite word whisker wide. Now a lot of marketing copy will invent words. Uh, many many of you, if you're my age group, will remember Drinker, pointer, milk a day. The Milk Marketing Board slogan Painter P i N T A. Oh, it still exists in the language that it came from advertising slogan Poetry also feeds language. Andi creates new words. Go lump. I think that came from Jabberwocky from Lewis Carroll. Andi Rentable is one of Edward leers from one of his poems, so both marketing and and poetry are helping to create new language. There again, we've got a similarity and finally in the list of elements which are sort of poetic tote techniques that are important when it comes to marketing and design line breaks right back at the beginning, we saw, um how slicks a sleek that was it under lower leaves slick with sunlight on that line Break left the words slick up there on the end and allowed your reader to go on and create meaning for themselves, which corresponded or didn't with what was coming next. Now, if you got printed collateral, if you're writing for something that's gonna go into print line breaks are very important because your readers gonna be doing what a poetry reader will do, and they will be predicting what's coming on. What you don't want them to do is to predict the wrong thing if it's going to distract them if it bolsters your meaning and your message wonderful. But if it gives them the wrong idea, that's really not gonna help you. Um, so you have to think about those line breaks whether you want to a surprise your reader or whether you want to make sure that they're absolutely on track. Of course, that isn't so relevant when you're looking at writing for screen because with different screen sizes on different window brother sizes, then then line breaks or not, so predictable. So that's specifically, I think, therefore, for printed copy. And one more thing. Remember, your clients aren't stupid, so you don't need to spell everything out for thumb. Uh, if you can get them involved, get them engaged enough to be involved with you and and helping create the message themselves, then your marketing copy is going to be so much more memorable it's going to pay. It's going to work because if they created themselves, if they create the meaning themselves, then it's going to be port off them and they're gonna have this much closer emotional tie to it and they will remember it. So you've got this balance to look at. How much do you spell out to them? How much do you tell them and how much do you offer than the clothes offer them? The tools to finish the message themselves is a very fine line, and you have to tread it very carefully. 11. Summing up: so whether you're writing poetry or marketing materials, you need to choose your words well. And you need to be aware off the subliminal associations of what you're saying. The implications on the illusions, the pause is the brakes on the spaces to, and what I'd like you to do now is just take a look at that slide. I have a think about how you would have phrased that, how you would have moved that text around, because it's got to fit in a specific space, and there are ideas that you want to keep together. There are phrases that you want to keep together. They're all line breaks that are gonna have to go in there. How would you split that make it fit in the right space? Which words are inseparable? Where do you need to put in a space that will make your read of Paul's when they read it? Have a think about how you would resolve that problem if you have to display a slide with that text on it, 12. A final warning: We're almost at the end now, and I just want to look at a couple of real examples taken photographs taken in the straight off printed publicity where I think that the display is not doing the message. Any favors. I've got a couple which had taken from the local the local church there. Wayside pulpit, the 1st 1 in conflict. God isn't on either side. He just loves everybody. That's a lovely message, but unfortunately it's a corner where you find either a traffic jam or you find a car parked and the roof of the calls, depending on where you're standing. But very frequently the roof of the cars just cuts below where it says God isn't and the eye is drawn to that phrase. And I know that that was not what was intended. That is not the message, but it's the message that I saw the first time I saw that poster. The other wayside pulpit message. Here the love of Christ ends division. All are welcome again. We've got a split where you've got a choice where you can stop reading. The love of Christ ends and this is a problem. It's that line break again if your reader isn't with you. Andi keeping on Andi going with you and wanting and knowing your message, they can actually turn it around and find on almost opposite meaning in what you're displaying Now. Those tours, they're safe from a local church. The next one is a local restaurant where we've got Marco's New York Italian by Marco Pierre White. Now what, sir? York Italian? Mm. Well, of course it isn't. It's MacOS. New York Italian now words City names like New York and personal names. If possible, you should keep them together now. They put Marco Pierre White and changed the size of the form so that Pierre White all fits on one line bone. I know it's a narrow poster, and I do realize that they problems here. Andi. There's only a certain amount of space. But if a tool possible, I think it would have been far better tohave. Marco's New York Italian, keeping New York together because new on its own has a different meaning. And if you read it, you're expecting something else. So to sum up, remember what color it said, He said. The best words in the best or order Andi I added in that I thought it should pay with the best amount off white space and the best distribution off white space or silence. Essentially, the what I think is important here as far as poetry and marketing copy is concerned is words are not enough. Thank you.