Monday, May 16, 2011

Keyboard classics

What happens if a monkey types on a keyboard for an infinite amount of time and doesn’t produce the complete works of William Shakespeare? You could easily wind up with the kind of convoluted copy I’ve come across lately.

  • Letter from a financial company:
    “A recharacterization nullifies a previous contribution or conversion; it’s as if the contribution or conversion never occurred.
  • The seat belt section of a car owners manual:
    “The physical principles of a frontal collision are simple. Both the moving vehicle and the passenger in the vehicle possess energy, which varies with vehicle speed and body weight. Engineers call this energy ‘kinetic energy.’”
Then there is the painfully obvious style of writing:
  • Instructions for hair styling iron: “Never use while drowsy or while sleeping.”
  • Again, the car owners manual: “Always make sure that no one is in the way of the power sunroof when it is closing.”
My advice for copywriters? Write for the reader. Not the lawyer. Not the courtroom your client is trying to avoid. Not for what you think might be the lowest common denominator. Give your customers a little more credit than that. Please.

The infinite monkey (or cat) theorem makes a fine metaphor for exploring the mathematics of probability, just don’t monkey with the concepts of clarity and common sense in the content of your writing.

No comments: