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A doctor writes

This month, I thought I’d hand Maslen on Marketing over to my old friend and sparring partner, Dr. Andreas Maslenski. Andreas is Professor of Lexical Disabilities at the Syntactical Institute of Vienna.

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Thank you, Andy – it’s a pleasure. As you requested, I have consulted my files on some of the more common, not to say virulent, ailments that afflict marketeers and copywriters from time to time. I shall provide names, symptoms, causes and treatments for three of them, starting with…

Nounitis

Ah yes, nounitis. I shall never forget the first time I encountered a case. The patient was a young and beautiful Californian webmaster. We surfed, we drank margaritas, we…er…anyway, the symptoms.

Symptoms

Gradual disappearance of verbs from patient’s writing. Slow spread of nouns in their place. Decreased vigour. Preponderance of words ending in –ment, -ance, -tion and –sion. Example, “Our specialisation is the measurement and management of performance.”

Cause

Desire to be seen as important or of high status. Excess hot air in the paragraph.

Treatment

Surgical removal of noun endings to restore smothered verbs: “We specialise in measuring and managing performance.”

Puffyria

Once thought to have been behind King George III’s periodic bouts of insanity, Puffyria strikes copywriters more than other professions.

Symptoms

Breathlessness. Addiction to overblown language. Fondness for adjectives, particularly ‘exciting’, ‘important’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘unique’.

Cause

Imbalance in the rational brain resulting in a strongly held, but erroneous, belief that one’s product or service is on a par with watching your child being born, or bungee jumping off Everest.

Treatment

A period of reflection, guided by an experienced therapist, to enable the writer to see the true values of their product and select more appropriate and believable descriptors.

Multiple Personality Disorder by Proxy

I won my Budapest Medal for Services to Clarity for my work on this hitherto underreported condition.

Symptoms

Writer uses phrases such as “Some of you…”. “Many of you…”. “There are those of you…” Often switches from a personal to an impersonal tone of voice mid-letter.

Cause

The writer starts seeing all of his readers in front of him at the same time, as if he were addressing them in a conference hall. Becomes unable to focus on an individual reader.

Treatment

Large doses of second person singular. Drawing or model of a single reader placed opposite writer. Frequent reminders that readers are alone when they read copy and, except in very rare cases, NOT themselves suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

Well, there you are Andy. I hope your subscribers haven’t found an old Viennese doctor’s ramblings too inconsequential. Now I must return to my study – I am working on a treatise on the repeated use of exclamation marks by people who should know better.

This month’s message

Occupational health issues may seem more relevant to machinists, loggers, data-entry clerks or trawlermen, but copywriters must be careful, too. There are many insidious illnesses that can strike at any time. So, include plenty of copywriting reference books in your diet, exercise your imagination at least once a day, and visit the doctor now and again for a check-up!

Categories: Maslen on Marketing and Style.

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