|NO COPYWRITER WILL ESCAPE THIS FATE. YOU WRITE a nice, punchy headlineNothing Fights Stains Like Splam-O. Then the comment comes backNothing is negative. Cant we turn it into a positive? (Like what, Splam-O Fights Stains Better Than Things?)
Its odd. I could write the perfect adjective for Splam-O (Stain-tastic!) and theyd feel free to change itbecause what difference does one word really make, most of the time? Unless its a Volkswagen ad and the word is Lemon, something else will probably get the same meaning across just fine.
Yet put a sentence with a not or a dont in it in front of those same people, and suddenly theyll be impressed by the mystical power of that one single word to repel all customersregardless of the actual meaning of the sentence. Thats not grammar. Its voodoo.
The arguments against this are obviousit deprives a writer of one of the most effective rhetorical devices in the English language, for no good reason. Would GM still own the car market if only theyd said You Would Really Rather Drive a Buick? Would the James Bond movies have been even more successful if theyd had titles like Dr. Yes and Tomorrow Always Lives? Would we have won WW2 sooner if only Churchill had proclaimed positively, I have plenty to offer you, best of all blood, tears, toil and sweat?
As I say, the arguments are obvious. So obvious that they always get the same response: Yeah, I know. But change it, wouldja? It's just one word. That's why I feel it's time to break the Code of the Copywriters and reveal the truth that we've been covering up all this time:
Words, even single words, actually do have the power to attract or repel readers.
This negative thing has been the result of a massive disinformation campaign by the copywriters cabal. We want you to believe that only negative words carry the full force of our mysterious powersso that you wont suspect all the other ways in which we writers manipulate readers for our own ends. We can elect presidents, change fashion, make the cool uncool and the obscure famouswith the power of words alone. We gave you not and never, to keep you from catching on to much bigger tricks. (Listen, I could tell you things about however and especially that would turn your hair white.)
So let people cut those negative words from our copy. Theyll never know the full extent of our ability to influence minds with mere words.
However, true copywriters will understand. Especially me.