Rekindling the Love: Fry Knows Best
There’s a time for restraint and a time for love; a time for discreet, straightforward copy, and a time for using absolutely the most interesting words to tell your story. British legend Stephen Fry thinks it’s a real shame that more speakers and writers of the English language don’t love language. He believes too many of us feel that “words belong to other people.”
TOO PEDANTIC FOR WORDS
Sadly, I doubt Stephen Fry would like me. In his tirade against the hounds of the English language, he chides Lynne Truss with her grammar and punctuation book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”. And sure enough, it stands—straight and tall on my book shelf—daring me to be a pedant.
RELAXING AROUND LANGUAGE
Instead of strangling the English language or being afraid to be creative, Fry wishes we would all relax a little. And if you don’t have time (or an object of affection) for his suggestion of love letters and poems, how about using his advice to spice up your copy, or your blog, or an advertisement or presentation?
CONTEXT, CONVENTION AND CIRCUMSTANCE
Fry isn’t advocating a free-for-all. To him, it comes down to one simple rule, which works just as well for website copy as it does for writing a resume or a birthday card: “context, convention and circumstance are all.”
What is the most appropriate, effective way to get your message across? Consider the language that best conveys simplicity or reliability or authenticity. Consider how to convey to readers your excitement (a new product), knowledge (how you can help) or delight (the winning of an award.)
IS SHOWING OFF THE BEST MEDICINE?
What better way to show off knowledge of your own company than with a little verbal fashion parade? Take some new words for a spin down the catwalk. See what they can do for you. Buy them a drink. It’s not showing off if you’re showing them a good time.
Conventional wisdom says that fantastic copy is copy so brilliant that it isn’t noticed at all. But I agree with Fry on a lot of points: being subtle or unobtrusive shouldn’t border on boring. It seems nothing would be worse to Fry than copy that is mediocre or stale. Like that other master of the English language, Oscar Wilde, said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.”