Copywriting is: The clear. The funny. The charming. The persuasive. The genuine. The moving. The logical. The intelligent. The provocative. The thoughtful.
A copywriter knows which approach to use, and when. A copywriter knows this because they have understood the strategy, they’ve had an idea, and then chosen the right words.
In this interactive workshop, we’ll explore how to approach strategy, how to have an idea and then how to approach the copy itself. We won’t be talking about grammar, structure or any of that. Copywriting is imagination and bravery. For the rest, there’s spellcheck.
Chris Baylis - Creative Director and Copywriter An international, award-winning creative leader and storyteller, with 20 years experience in advertising, innovation and branding. I help brands find their purpose, voice and organizing narrative - connecting this to culture through content, advertising, experience design and marketing.
Chris has led network agencies, worked client-side as a copywriter and creative director, helped many of his own clients find their voice, define their brand and reach their audience, and he has mentored and helped many start-ups. Chris taught and lectured at Miami ad-school, Cannes Lions and Eurobest ad festivals. Some of his work is here.
In this world of hurriedly written, poorly edited or machine-translated flam, there’s an aspect of wordsmithery that can help your work stand out.
The ability, that is, to write not just clearly and incisively but melodiously, too. If we can craft texts that sound sublime, then we’ll be doing that bit more to seduce our readers, delight our clients and – why not? – spread a little verbal happiness.
That doesn’t mean overdoing it with the frills; rather, it’s about cultivating a sensibility to sound and rhythm, assonance and emphasis, a feel for when you need an extra beat in the bar, another adjective before that noun, or a volley of stressed syllables to ram a point home. It’s about exploiting the resonances alive in tinny t’s or luxuriant l’s or bumbling b’s. Not childish onomatopoeia or titillating tabloid alliteration but … euphony.
With a blend of presented and hands-on material for you to grapple with, this workshop aims to attune attendees to the nuances of rhythm, sounds and patterns of echoes. To turn piffle into – well, if not poetry then something easier on the ear.
Oliver Lawrence turns Italian marketing texts and, occasionally, writing briefs into incisive English, specialising in tourism, leisure and luxury. Much of his editing and translation work involves damping down faintly cacophonous glitches that foul the flow of what should be smooth high-end copy. A Fellow of the CIOL, Chartered Linguist, ITI Assessor and strolling conference presenter, among other things, he teaches the CIOL web-based Clear Writing course – now in its 8th edition – and lurks online at www.incisiveenglish.pro and @oliverlawrence1. Interests include poetry, cake and gin, but not necessarily in that order.
A six-week workshop cycle for both advanced and beginner writers to stop thinking and start doing. Generate new work, revise old work, experiment with form and style and generally keep your writerly muscles fit - all in the company of other like-minded writers.
For this workshop, whether you have a story or a project already in process or not doesn’t matter. Writing suggestions during the sessions will always give you somewhere to start. Then it’s your choice whether you try out different voices and approaches in a new piece of writing or you continue to develop a work already in progress.
By the end of each session, you will have created new work. You will also have heard some fellow participants read their new work out loud - and sometimes you may have read out loud yourself. (Reading is always optional.) What will always remain is that thinking, by itself, doesn’t produce writing. Writing produces writing!
Time is also made available, when requested, to read and analyse participant manuscripts - no matter what their form. This might mean reviewing short stories and essays, at other times screenplay excerpts or works still finding their form. Feedback is given in two rounds:
At the culmination of six weeks, your writerly muscles will be stronger and more flexible, and you will feel fitter as a writer. This in turn will give you greater confidence for taking on further or more complex writing challenges.
Cycle of workshops: six weekly sessions
Tuesday evenings from 22 September to 27 October, 19:00 to 21:30
Spaces are limited to 10 participants maximum.
Certified to lead workshops in the Amherst Writers and Artists method, Matthew founded Amsterdam Writers in 2008 and has been leading his workshop, 'Writers' Stretch & Tone', ever since.
As a Senior Copywriter, Matthew has worked on international campaigns for clients that include Emirates, PUMA, Gucci, Heineken, Philips, Sony Computer Entertainment, Accenture, Macy's and Comedy Central.
His writing has appeared in publications, including Time Out, Amsterdam Weekly, CODE, Fantastic Man and Blume.
Matthew was both screenwriter and lead producer of Brilliance, a Netherlands, Poland, UK co-production short film that screened internationally at numerous film festivals, and which is one of Eye International's 'Selected Dutch Shorts 2015'.
See also Amsterdam Wrters.
‘The message is important, not the fancy language wrapped around it.’ (George Orwell)
It’s astonishing how may writers feel they need to ‘dress up’ their writing to the extent that they lose their natural (aka plain) voice completely! Their reasons are no doubt many: from wanting to impress to needing to sound important or authoritative – and sometimes even because their boss or professor ‘writes like that, so it must be good’! But in this day and age we should rather be ‘dressing down’ writing to make it more accessible and flow better. Where writers themselves are incapable of doing so, the task usually falls to us wordsmiths to dress (not dumb!) writing down.
We need to make authors’ words clear and straightforward, using only as many words as are necessary. Plain Language helps us to do so by dispensing with the ‘fancy language wrapped around their words’: obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence constructions. Applying Plain Language principles systematically, our aim is to render the authors’ messages readily understood at first reading.
By the end of this workshop you will be able, with confidence, to:
Fundamentally, we wordsmiths will be asking – and answering – the questions ‘Who is the audience and what are their needs?’ In so doing, we’ll be using the approach our writers should have adopted in the first place: a reader-centredness.
In this 3.5-hour workshop, you’ll have an opportunity to put these principles into practice.
An author and a passionate copy-editor with some 40+ years’ of manuscript improvement behind him, John Linnegar is a former teacher of English at secondary school and undergraduate levels. His specialty as an editor is law. In 2009 he published a book on common errors committed by writers in English in South Africa (NB Publishers, reprinted 2013); in 2012 he co-authored Text Editing: A Handbook for Students and Practitioners (UA Press) and in 2019, together with Ken McGillivray, wrote and published grammar, punctuation and all that jazz … (MLA Publishers). He contributes regular articles on the usage and abusage of the English language to professional bodies.
Photo by Michael Hartwigsen
There is no shortage of conference accommodation in the Netherlands, so choosing one just requires a map of the country and a pin, right? Wrong, especially if it’s for the SENSE biennial conference…
Two years ago, I was asked to recommend a location for the 2018 conference. It was quite a challenge, but eventually the decision went in favour of ’s-Hertogenbosch – not because it was a city nobody could spell, but because it offered the right combination of facilities that discerning SENSE members expected.
So what is the ideal location for our conference? In short, there isn’t one, as everyone has his or her preferences. Some of us want a city location with good public transport connections, others want a monastery in the middle of nowhere with free parking, no distractions, and waking up to bird song. As we are becoming a more international event, simply choosing a place that is accessible by train, bus or bike is not enough.
Starting last January (yes, January 2019!), I longlisted almost fifty locations that, in my experience with other conferences, would be suitable. These included several locations suggested by other SENSE members. I shortlisted this to twelve. Of those twelve, five did not have availability, offered a ridiculously high rate or simply failed to respond. Finally it came down to a straight contest: Rotterdam or Maastricht. My personal recommendation was for Maastricht, partly because they had come in second place in 2018, and were very, very keen to have us this time.
During the summer, several of the conference committee members visited the location, viewed the facilities and spoke to the staff. In the end, Maastricht won, but as a consolation prize Rotterdam got the Eurovision Song Contest!
Price is not the only issue, though of course this is a major consideration. Flexibility is most important. I had to explain to all the potential locations that if I was organizing a conference for a major national/international/multinational company, I could tell them immediately how much accommodation we would need, safe in the knowledge that the organizers would pick up the tab. It’s quite unusual for conference locations to understand that we are all freelancers, we pay our own expenses, and because the event is not during ‘office time’ (in other words, in our own time), SENSE cannot guarantee attendance numbers a year in advance.
Another important consideration was that the location should not charge more for two half days than they would for one full day. That’s a bit of a cheek, as it’s unlikely that they would be able to sell the conference facilities on the Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, so in true Dutch tradition, it’s a case of ‘twee halen, één betalen’!* My shortlist was limited to locations that were prepared to meet us on this point, and most of them were.
I hope I have found the right location for the 2020 conference. If I have, you may congratulate me in June; if not, it’s the committee’s fault! The planning of the speakers, the programme, the workshops and the other activities is going ahead at full steam. My job is complete, but I’m already looking discretely at locations for 2022 – just in case the committee asks me again!
This is where we well be holding the pre-conference workshops and the conference itself: at the four star Amrâth Grand Hotel de l'Empereur in Maastricht. Conference delegates will be able to book a room at the special conference rate once registration for the conference itself opens.
For more information about the conference hotel, see the hotel's website.
Check this page for full details of the conference, location and programme!
© Image by Maastricht Marketing/Jonathan Vos. All rights reserved.
* for non-Dutch speakers, this is the equivalent of ‘Buy one, get one free’.