Saint Patrick’s Day celebrates all things Irish. While our immediate thoughts may be of rowdy barrooms and leprechauns, did you know that a number of highly regarded writers hail from the Emerald Isle? Oscar Wilde was among one of the most distinguished. Noted for his views on social matters, his great works like The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest challenged society’s status quo. Join Wordsmith to delve into Wilde’s writing philosophies through several of his greatest quotes!
“There are no more than two rules for writing: having something to say, and saying it.”
The rules of engagement
As a man who absolutely despised being bored, Wilde once claimed that “a bore is someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.” The same can also be applied to writing. In the case of bad (or boring) writing, you’ll find copy that either fails to tell you anything of importance – or does so in a sloppy and droning fashion.
What about good copy? Be it prose, short copy, poetry or even a tagline, every form of writing shares one crucial purpose – to convey information. When you read well-crafted copy, you’ll rarely find fluff and unnecessary details that don’t contribute to the topic. Whether we write for recreation, financial gain or somewhere in between, Wilde’s point is that all writing (and conversation) must be done with intent and conviction. Doing so gives our words purpose – ensuring that audiences don’t feel cheated out of their time.
“I can resist everything except temptation.”
Just as businesses put up attractive signs to promote their latest offerings, good articles usually begin with a seductive headline to tempt readers. According to the Forbes Communication Council, there are several key elements to an engaging headline:
Get empathetic – knowing what your readers need allows you to craft personalised content for them. “Addressing their pain points in terms they will understand, and solve their problems by communicating simply,” advises Charlie Riley of Lawley Insurance.
Get emotional – although overworked marketers tend to think of readers as faceless business targets, they are still humans who experience emotional responses. Headlines that elicit emotional responses can boost your CTR!
Be counterintuitive – Standard headlines rarely stand out, so why not try to use a different angle?
You could opt to use clickbait-y titles as well, but do so with discretion! Although over 25 percent of content uses clickbait to arouse curiosity, these titles often rely on making false grand promises. So ensure that your article lives up to your promise, or else your readers will write you off as just another clickbaiter!
“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
The toll of dullness
Many copywriters have been conditioned to maintain a consistent tone in an article (or to ensure that we don’t write something out of character for our brands). However in this quote, Wilde is not addressing tone. Instead, he is talking about different kinds and styles of writing.
Your writing is something that needs to be constantly honed. If we write the same types of things over and over again – be it news articles, blog posts or even annual reports – we run the risk of falling into a rut that dulls our creativity and writing sharpness. Now imagine if we were asked to leave our comfort zones and write something else – not an easy task at all!
If you’re looking to sharpen your various writing styles, consider tackling Smart Blogger’s extensive list of writing exercises. From imitating your favourite writers and recalling your worst experiences to writing an Op-Ed for the New York Times, these are bound to get your thinking juices churning – and more importantly, buff up your overall confidence to make you a more well-rounded writer.
“Experience is merely the name we give our mistakes.”
Steadying against setbacks
We’ve all had clients who were too liberal in their criticism (sometimes constructive, sometimes not). Although these clients can be infuriating to deal with, more often than not, their feedback is warranted. However, our ability to handle criticism and fix the perceived problems determines our future relationship with the client. If you focus on a specialised industry, word of mouth about your copywriting prowess (or lack thereof) can spread quickly.
What can we do when we receive poor feedback and how do we move on from there? Although having someone criticise our hard work is never an easy pill to swallow, Harvard Business Review advises not to rush to react, and to discover where the real problems lie before considering next steps.
An objective mindset is important. Although many writers become attached to their work, it’s crucial that we maintain distance so that we may “kill your darlings even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart,” as author Stephen King eloquently puts it. Even though you may disagree with feedback, know that (most) clients aren’t giving criticism out of spite, but with positive intent in mind. Their success depends on you, so why wouldn’t they want you to succeed?
Lastly, remember that you’re not alone. If the going gets too tough to handle, a friend or colleague is only an arm’s reach away – asking a pair of fresh eyes to assess the situation can provide valuable insight.
“To regret one's own experience is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul."
Although Wilde’s most recognisable characteristics may be his wit and flamboyant sense of style, his writing prowess has helped to shape many aspects of modern writing. While Wilde’s greatness may be irreplaceable, his writing style can certainly be emulated. If you’re looking to add a touch of Wildean wit to your writing, reach out to a professional copywriter and learn how to resonate with your readers in earnest.