Art Is Relevant: Never Forgetting 9/11 and All We Need to Say

There’s a ring I wear on my pointer finger with the phrase “Art is relevant” engraved on the outside. I got it years ago at Campbell Pottery in Cambridge Springs, Pa., near my hometown. This was before I moved to New York, when I was interviewing the shop’s owner for a business magazine’s cover story. While touring the facilities, I spotted the ring and was so taken by its simple and powerful statement that I bought it on the spot; it has been on my finger ever since. It wasn’t until after 9/11 that I questioned my art’s relevance.

Just two months before that horrific day, I moved to New York City after winning a songwriting competition. Finally, I had validation that songwriting was what I was meant to be doing, and that New York was where I needed to be. My family had visited in August 2001, and we viewed the city from atop the towers. Little did we know just two weeks later, everything would change.

Newly rattled, life in NYC at the time was enough to make you question everything, from an unattended bag to the first time a plane flew overhead since that day to the reason you were spared over so many others and you wondered whether you would ever feel safe again, let alone experience joy. Suddenly, pursuing my songwriting seemed frivolous. And the record label with which I had deals pending, like so many others in the industry, was no longer willing to take risks. I thought, “How can I spend time writing songs and poems while others around me suffer immeasurable grief?”

Then I realized that proof of art’s relevance was all around me. A former Windows on the World server I met named Leda Young told me how she volunteered playing piano at the McDonald’s on Broadway near Ground Zero to provide solace to others through music; in doing so, she also helped herself cope with the loss of her co-workers in the attack.

My good friend and writing partner Barbara Anselmi had chosen to use her art and her empathy to compose the song "All Join Together," the title song for a CD that raised over $40,000 for the New York Times 9/11 Fund.

I remember poring over the liner notes to Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, his album of songs in response to the tragedy, and finding comfort in its universal messages of hope and unity.

From art installations to plays to I-Love-NY-More-Than-Ever T-shirts, artists were funneling their deep sorrow, their camaraderie and their highest regard for their fellow New Yorkers in ways that would begin the road to healing. I began writing poems and songs, some scraps and some fully realized.

Now, 10 years later, James Taylor sings at the memorial to soothe our collective soul. The TV show “Rescue Me,” whose series finale aired earlier this week, has for the last seven years portrayed 9/11-related themes with such honesty, sensitivity and humanity, through both scenes and monologues that make me cover my mouth from feeling so much. In so many spaces and so many places, artists are creating powerful messages daily. Messages relevant to our shared understanding. Messages we need to say.

Today (as I’ve done so every year), I watch the names being read, scored by a lone cello. My eyes well up with every cadence, when those at the podium get to make their personal tributes, beginning with the words “And my …” then filling in the relation to their loved ones lost. Heartbreaking beyond belief.

But whether it’s a brief mention of the life they lead to a full profile in print or onscreen, we share in their stories, and those who tell them do their best to carry on. As we all do.

From Sophisticated to Snarky: Saying It Just Right, Part II

The tone of any copy you print or publish speaks volumes about your company. So what's the best voice for your Web site copy, press release or brochure? In other words, how do you want your message to come across, in terms of attitude, and how do you think your target market wants you to speak to them?

Maybe you want your potential customers to know that your company is a hip assortment of idea people and creative thinkers who will bring a sense of urban wit to their work. Or perhaps you're a multi-generational family business whose customers share the same tried-and-true conservative values that you espouse?

Refer to the examples below (and those in Part I) to help differentiate between casual and conservative, hip and snarky, and so much more.

A note about the FAQs category: The Frequently Asked Questions section of your Web site or brochure is a great opportunity to showcase your personality. For example, if you are a fun-loving but get-the-job-done kind of company, then your FAQs should reflect that balance, providing useful to-the-point information, sprinkled with fun, feel-good phrases.

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Saidandsung.com’s At-a-Glance Guide | Copy Tone Comparison

TYPE OF COPY: PLAN DESCRIPTIONS

TONE: Conservative

1) from asmallorange.com

Powerful and Secure Hosting Plans

Service designed for high-traffic sites and online business

• Essentials

• Plus

• Premium

TONE: Casual and Clever

1) from mailchimp.com

Forever Free Pricing Plan

Loved by more than 225,000 people.

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TYPE OF COPY: FAQS  (see the note above about FAQs)

TONE: Conservative

1) from ping.com

Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions.

TONE: Sophisticatedly Hip

1) from beezag.com

Get answers.

TONE: Casual and Clever

1) from wufoo.com

A collection of answers, replies and clarifications to our users’ favorite questions. It’s like a quiz, but with the answer sheet.

2) from vimeo.com

I don't know how to make videos. Where do I even start?

You don't need to be a Steven Speilberg to make videos. All you just need is a camera, and a little motivation.  [cont'd …]

3) from wufoo.com

How can I get at the data collected by my form?

In so many sweet ways, my friend. In addition to giving you the ability to design your own awesome reports, you can access your data within the admin interface, have Wufoo email you new entries, subscribe to them as via RSS feed or export them as an Excel document.

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TYPE OF COPY: REPORTS/STATS

TONE: Conservative

1) sample copy (no source)

You have no reports created. Click here to create one.

TONE: Sophisticatedly Hip

1) from beezag.com

Accurate, Real-Time Monitoring

2) from wordpress.com

Stats to obsess over

Our stats are designed to give you up-to-the-minute data about your visitors: how many there are, where they’re coming from, which posts are most popular, and which search engine terms are sending visitors to your blog.

TONE: Snarky

1) from wufoo.com

Oh no. Buddy! You don’t have any reports! Let’s go make one!

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NOTE: Creating perfect copy isn’t an assembly-line process. Saidandsung will customize your information in the exact tone your target audience expects, even demands.

Missed Part I? Get up to speed.

A Brochure Is a Handshake …

A brochure is an easy way to spread the word about your business. In your absence, it serves as your business handshake. If you're there to hand one out, it solidifies the connection by giving your prospects an informative, take-home guide with all your necessary contact info. (NOTE: It's amazing how many people forget to put their contact info on their brochure. Place yours in a conspicuous area.) Have your designer convert your brochure into a PDF format, so you can not only print it out to hand out in person or to use as a direct-mail piece, but can also attach the file to e-mails or embed it on your Web site to make it available electronically.

Here are 5 tips to consider when creating a brochure:

1) Know Your Audience. The colors, the fonts, the amount of text, the diction, the layout and the use of testimonials or photos will all depend on the age, education level, taste, habits and needs of your target market — all good points to consider in preparation for your meeting with your copywriter and designer.

2) Know How to Hold 'Em, Know How to Fold 'Em ... Customers and clients may hold and open your brochure a myriad of ways. Fold yours so that it opens correctly when unfolded (with the text right-side up), and place teaser copy on the outside to make your readers want to open it and learn more.

3) Know Your Ps from Your Qs. Enlist an experienced set of eyes to proofread your brochure for spelling and grammar missteps, but keep in mind that your audience dictates the style. For example, if yours is a more casual target audience, you can be more relaxed on the grammar. Typos, however, are an entirely different story — be on the lookout for those!

4) Know When to Say When. Sure, that unusual font you found for your headers makes your brochure look really unique, but try to balance it out by keeping your body copy relatively neutral. The main thing to keep in mind is readability: You want to make your message easily digestible, so aim for balance between the amount of text and number of photos, between the use of bolding and italics, and so on. Simplicity is often your most effective tool, so you may find you can do without a whole lot of extras.

5) Know It Like the Back of Your Hand. Your customers may reference your brochure months down the line. It's important that you know every photo used, for example, so that when someone says, "I want my driveway to look like the one on page 3 of your brochure," you know exactly what that potential customer is seeing. You can easily accomplish this by keeping a copy of your brochure in your work station for reference when you're taking phone calls, and tuck one in your bag when you're out and about in case you have to take a client call on your cell.

Did you know that Saidandsung writes brochure copy with a marketer's eye? I can also connect you with designers if you require one for your brochure project. It saves you the step of having to hunt for your own, and those I work with enjoy a seamless collaboration.

What are you looking to promote?

Thanks for reading,

Carla

Visit saidandsung.com to view my writing samples.

Watch Out for Squirrels: Defusing Tense Copy Situations

To make for cleaner, more memorable copy, be consistent with your use of verb tense in your headings. Readers like patterns, and it will help them remember the points you are making. For example, if you're a gardening supply store and you're publishing an article or a brochure that contains gardening tips, your first subhead might read:

1) Take Care of Your Garden Utensils

Since you used the present form of the verb take in your first tip, your next tip should use that same verb form. Therefore, instead of your second tip reading Watching Out for Squirrels, which uses the gerund form (-ing) of watch, it should be:

2) Watch Out for Squirrels

Keeping verbs in the same tense creates parallelism in the phrases, which subconsciously makes your message more memorable for the reader and also looks more streamlined on the page.

Speaking of patterns, you should be just as discriminating about your verb choices. In the example above, since the verbs take and watch are already used, then your next subhead should not incorporate either of them. Instead of Take Time Out to Smell the Roses, replace the verb:

3) Grant Yourself Time to Smell the Roses

Word variation will make your copy more polished.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

Need a writer? Visit saidandsung.com.

Spaced Out?

The quickest, easiest way to tighten up your copy is to follow this rule: Only ONE space after periods and colons.

Back in the day, two spaces after end punctuation was the norm; these days, it comes across as anachronistic. Reducing your spaces to one makes the copy look neater, more streamlined. In a small way, it also is a space-saver — you can squeeze more letters on any given line when you only skip one space after each period.

This especially comes in handy when you're writing for a newspaper, a magazine, a brochure or anything with fixed columns, and you are trying to avoid having or solve existing widows (more on widows in a future post).

I've used two spaces in the sample paragraph below to illustrate:

If I had a dollar for every time I reviewed a document with two spaces in between sentences, I'd be a wealthy woman.  Many people are taught this in school.  They never realized that they could only use one space.  One space not only looks more pleasing to the eye, but it also saves a couple letters per line.  That can be extremely helpful to a designer.  Having to kern (reduce the space in between letters) copy is less necessary with more overall space.  As a copy editor with an eye for layout, I've been in the situation many a time when we needed one more letter to make a two-line headline a one-liner.  And skipping just one space makes it that much easier.  One space is now standard practice now.  Venerable publications like The New York Times practice this style.  And so should you.

Let's look at that same paragraph with one space after end punctuation:

If I had a dollar for every time I reviewed a document with two spaces in between sentences, I'd be a wealthy woman. Many people are taught this in school. They never realized that they could only use one space. One space not only looks more pleasing to the eye, but it also saves a couple letters per line. That can be extremely helpful to a designer. Having to kern (reduce the space in between letters) copy is less necessary with more overall space. As a copy editor with an eye for layout, I've been in the situation many a time when we needed one more letter to make a two-line headline a one-liner. And skipping just one space makes it that much easier. One space is now standard practice now. Venerable publications like The New York Times practice this style. And so should you.

The difference is slight (11 lines as compared to 12, because of the widow "you"). This concept especially makes a difference in copy with small columns, as well as large fonts, headlines and subheads.

Got a question or comment? Let me know!

Carla

Visit saidandsung.com

Better Writing (and Business) Begins Here

Welcome to the blog for saidandsung.com! My name is Carla Fisher, and here is where I’ll share writing, marketing and business tips that will make your copy fresh, sharp and engaging. I'll also offer up ideas on creativity, business operations and systems (such as file organization) and social media tips.

From time to time, I'll share my songwriting developments and any announcements (Yippees) and my Harrison (N.Y.) business column as well as radio show, Forward Motion, based in Greenwich, Conn.

Please feel free to add comments and ask questions! Let's make this a dialogue.

I have a great deal of social networking experience, having worked in the space for five years in the areas of user experience/quality assurance, search engine optimization and marketing, blogging and community-building, writing/editing and Web site consulting.

My 13-plus years of writing and editing projects have been vast and varied:

+ Call-out copy, landing pages and banners

+ Site copy, executive bios, FAQs and privacy policies

+ Voiceover scripts, TV and radio ads, and CD inserts

+ Brochures, feature articles and sidebars

+ E-newsletters, press releases and press kits

+ Sales letters, annual reports, formal letters and resumes

+ Greeting cards, speeches, songs and children’s writing

Please note that the editing style I favor is that of The Associated Press Stylebook. So those sticklers for The Chicago Manual of Style or The New York Times, know that I have used those styles in the past but I choose to follow AP.

If the kind of writing you need is not listed in any of the above projects or areas, ask! I am always up for a new challenge, and have found that my skills are easily transferable.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Carla

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