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Way with words…

It is common for copywriters of a certain vintage to laud David Ogilvy, but there’s a reason why the greats are, well, just great.

For proof, look no further than his classic book Ogilvy on Advertising. It is chock full of examples, such as these opening lines for a corporate ad designed to foster international friendship:

“The Japanese have a wonderful way with words. What we call a back porch they call a moon-watching platform. A fountain pen is a ten-thousand-year brush. Their name for a motorcycle truck is bata-bata because that is the noise it makes. And do you know a word in any other language that sighs good-bye as wistfully as sayonara?”

Their sense, their sound, their meaning, their melody – a master of words on the wonder of words.

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The spinach was a famous singer…

The pretty much unstoppable rise of artificial intelligence (AI) tends to provoke various manifestations of dystopian doom and gloom. Take jobs. AI is going to steal them from us all, automating our livelihoods away with unrelenting ruthless efficiency. For the pessimistic among us, the glass is not so much half empty as bone dry.

It’s undeniable – plenty of jobs are indeed being taken over by AI. (And a fair few are being created, too. Hello, all you data scientists out there.) But what of the job of writing? Can AI replace Shakespeare? Will An Algorithm be the next Patti Smith? Shall computers pen lyrics as poetic and popular as the Beatles? The latest evidence suggests this is still a long way off. So long in fact as to be quite possibly never reachable. Advances are nevertheless being made in this direction. Researchers are currently developing AI that can turn brain activity into written text, which is pretty amazing. But as yet it is producing translations that are more surreal than accurate: “Those musicians harmonise marvellously” was decoded as “The spinach was a famous singer.” As a random generator of the wordy weird and wonderful, AI gets a big thumbs up. But it is no replacement for the brains, blood and guts of great writers crafting brilliant stories of all shades and forms. So my glass remains resolutely, happily more than half full.


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Ars Amatoria…

I’ve been championing the use of clear engaging language for quite awhile now: 20 years and counting. But not nearly so long as Ovid, who penned these words of wisdom over 2,000 years ago: “Use everyday language, familiar yet flattering words, as though you were there, in her presence.” Taken from his Ars Amatoria, Ovid’s guide to finding and keeping the love of your life, this advice could equally well apply to any company seeking to gain and retain customers. Business is after all to some degree about seduction.

Lorem Ipsum? Ars Amatoria!