Churchill's Gruff Lesson on Effective Copywriting

by Dean Rieck

While reviewing a proof for one of his books, Winston Churchill noticed a sentence that had been rewritten by his editor in order to remove a preposition at the end. Puffing on his cigar, he scrawled in the margin, "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."

It was more than a clever comment. It was the elder statesman's declaration of independence from the slavery of stiffly formal grammar. And there's a lesson there for everyone who seeks to communicate, motivate, and persuade with the power of words. Master your language; don't let your language master you. More simply, it's better to be effective than correct.

So with humble apologies to well-meaning grammarians and writing instructors everywhere, I hereby reveal a few rule-breaking tricks of the trade that will add flash and sparkle to your sales copy.

Having said all this, I'll now say that you have to know the rules before you can break them intelligently. Never confuse ignorance with style.

Copyright © 2001 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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