Guest Post: How to Use Heroic Language to Battle Boring Copy

Does anyone read ad copy besides the writer? … We all hope they do. So just in case … read on.

by Ali Hale

Ever found your eyes glazing over when you read through your own copy or blog posts?

I hate to break it to you, but a lot of the products, services, or niches that we write about just aren’t that thrilling. Although the finer points of search engine optimization might keep you glued to your screen, most of your clients or blog readers aren’t feeling the excitement.

So what can you do?

You bring in a register which deals with excitement: the heroic. We’ve all read advertisements encouraging us to “win the battle” with our email, or our paperwork, or our tendency to procrastinate. They grab our interest by making a frankly unexciting activity sound like a heroic quest.

The use of heroic language in decidedly non-heroic contexts isn’t anything new. Poets have been doing it for centuries, though generally in a satirical context (if you’re interested, Alexander Pope is a great example of the mock-heroic with The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad).

You can definitely still use heroic language for comic effect. (It’s possible to do this unintentionally, too, by going over the top in your copy.) But the heroic is a powerful way to tap into our need for drama, for excitement, for a story, a quest . . . and a hero your reader can identify with.

So how do you do it?

Heroic Words Work

Certain words can turn dry topics – like writing, personal finance, small business and marketing – into something that makes you feel a frisson of excitement. You can almost hear the rallying notes of a battle horn, and see the sun glinting from swords. A few favorite heroic words are:

“Battle”

(Writers seem especially fond of this one: I think we just like to make our struggles sound more exciting than they really are…)

“I have had my battles with writer’s block.” from Writer’s Block … A Thing of the Past
Also see Battling Blogger’s Block on Problogger
“Dragon”

“You can think of each project like being sent on a big quest to slay a dragon. Your client is the king of the realm. The project is the dragon threatening his kingdom. You go out and slay that dragon, and the client will give you a nifty monetary reward. You fail, and so does his kingdom, and he is justifiably pissed” from The Dragons of Writing and How to Fight Them on Men with Pens
“Enemy” / “Nemesis”

“Blogger’s block is the arch nemesis of productivity” in 10 Simple Productivity Tips for Bloggers on Daily Blog Tips
“When it comes to taking payment from international clients, your number one enemy is processing fees” from Taking Payment with PayPal, Escrow and Other Online Options on Freelance Switch
“Fight”

See Grow Up, Green Up: How to Fight the Impulse Purchase on Dumb Little Man
“When you feel as if your head’s underwater, don’t wait to drown. Kick and thrash like a motherf*cker. Fight like your life depended on it.” from Johnny Talks about Motivation on IttyBiz
“Quest”

“Has your quest for project efficiency ever led you to rely on outdated tools and methods?” in Why Every Freelancer Should Slow Down and Brainstorm on Freelance Folder
“Treasure”

“Your library website and departmental webpages should help you find the treasure,” in Research via Google alone: Are you crazy or just lazy? on The University Blog
“War”

“Having one day can give you the space to zoom outside of the war zone” in 10 Lesser Known Ways to Increase Productivity on Pick the Brain
Metaphor, Hyperbole, and Overkill

Heroic language can become a running metaphor when you theme the entire post around it – see Taylor’s The Dragons of Writing and How to Fight Them series on Men With Pens. Like using pop culture references, this gives you a hook to hang your post (or series) on, and potentially a structure.

Heroic language can also be used as hyperbole, to set a powerful tone. Some writers can pull this off well, but for others, it’s too aggressive. Dave Navarro uses it to great effect in How To Kick That Habit’s Ass (When It’s Been Beating Yours) on Rock Your Day – just look at these excerpts:

“You get knocked down, punched out, kicked to the curb, beaten to a pulp … hell, pardon my French, but you get your frigging ass kicked emotionally and psychologically, big time.”

“It All Starts With Declaring One Word: War.”

“Finally, build your battle plan…”

But for some bloggers, that’s too much, and would be jarring for readers. (Can you imagine gentle, pink-haired Sonia Simone writing like that?) If in doubt, go sparingly. Try using heroic language for a punchy introduction and conclusion to your post, and ease up in the middle.

Take Up Your Sword Pen

Heroic language combines exaggeration with metaphor – both powerful tools for grabbing attention. If you have sales copy which seems a little bland, why not add a touch of the heroic?

“Solve Email Problems” becomes “Battle Your Email Overload”
“Stop Procrastinating” becomes “Defeat Procrastination”
“Advice to Help You Do Better” becomes “Advice to Help You Win”
“Ditch Your Bad Habits” becomes “Conquer Your Bad Habits”
If you’ve got a blog on a topic that’s not inherently gripping (productivity, personal finance, writing, small business marketing, habit-breaking), introduce some of the heroic words. Make it a quest, not a project. Look for treasure, not results.

Let your readers, prospects, and customers be the heroes while you help them solve their problems.

About the Author: Conqueror of the keyboard, battler with the blank screen, Ali is a hired wordsmith for several blogs, as well as writing for her own Aliventures

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About Jill Atkinson

From concepts and smart headlines to original content and transmedia storytelling, to television pitch materials, directors treatments, long format writing, blogs and web copy with SEO, I write it all. I'm a writer, copywriter, and a content writer. My job is to help you say it better with ideas and language that get noticed. With copy and content that engages customers and audiences and ideas that make a connection with them. Ideas that generate a response. Materials that can sell a pitch. When you work with me you're working with the big boys: Maclaren, BBDO, Taxi, Sharpe Blackmore and also a great bunch of mid-sized agencies, b2b shops, a national television network (CBC), 15 specialty channels (History Channel, National Geographic, Showcase, Action, IFC, BBC Canada, + many more) and start ups who have taught me everything I know about how to get you noticed, remembered and sold. Or clicked. Or talked about. There are lots of ways to try to sell your products or to sell people on your offer or to engage them in your content and your show. But there is only one way to get it done right and on strategy. My experience is a foot in the door for your brand or your television idea . And no matter the size of your project, my commitment and attention to detail remain the same, big or small and always on deadline. Great conversations have to start somewhere. Give me a call or shoot me an email zookeepersboot@sympatico.ca Check out my work at http://jillatkinson.com
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2 Responses to Guest Post: How to Use Heroic Language to Battle Boring Copy

  1. Linda says:

    It is really great to find a post so easy to read without overwhelming the reader

  2. Great Site, Very interesting information, keep up the great work and Info.

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