Maclean’s, one of Canada’s finest magazines, and Dan’s favourite, recently put out a video about the history and etymology of swear words. It’s interesting, but the one line that made us think the most was the explanation for the reason we enjoy saying fuck:
The explosive consonantal opening sound, short vowel in the middle and a hard ending make it extremely satisfying.
Amen to that. The combination has gotten us through many a stubbed toe, lost set of keys and less-than-reasonable client request.
But it got us thinking about the extension of the word fuck: motherfucker.
First of all, if we step back and consider it, it’s really gross (and illegal).
But that aside, we found it so interesting the way different people drop it. Some leave out a few of the consonants so it becomes muha fugga. Some over-emphasize the final “r,” giving it a rather dorky feel. And, not sure if you noticed, but motherfucker is uniquely North American. You don’t hear Europeans dropping it ¾ like you never hear us saying bollux or poxy.
Of course, because it’s 2016, we took to the Internet in search of motherfuckers. And we hit the motherfuckin’ load.
The problem with writing is the immediacy and relative ease by which something can be changed. It doesn’t take a ton of effort to open a copy deck on your computer and do something different.
And so, when some clients want you to make a copy change, they think it’s that easy.
Those are the clients we don’t have. We have the others. The ones who see value in the writing process. The ones who are never in “hurry up and wait” because they were prepared beforehand for any directional changes.
We work with clients who take chances, who want their messages to stand out. And that’s why they pay us.
Sounds like the kind of client you want to work with? We don’t blame you. So send your resume and/or portfolio to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re looking for copywriters, technical writers, copy editors, proofreaders and F-E/E-F translators. We’re not married to full-time freelance. But either way, our office is among the best in the city.
We’re not horn-tooters. For the most part, we sit in our little office pounding out words. We get happy when a client gives us the opportunity to make ourselves laugh. We get happier when someone comes back to the office with a shawarma platter from Alexandria’s. And we’re happiest when we’re busy as stink. We thrive on it.
But today we’re gonna toot our horn for a second. And we’re gonna get super jacked about ourselves. And then it’ll be over and it’ll be back to business.
We’re now writing about North American sports for one of the largest sports content providers on the planet.
For those of you who don’t know Dan, he’s a sports junky. He’s the guy who road trips with his buddies to see awesome stadia, the guy who’s repeatedly ignored his children because there was something brewing in the game. So for him to be leading the charge on this stuff is pretty spectacular.
Gina’s a hockey nerd. Shell talk passionately about politics or cooking or what makes writing good. But get her talking about the Maple Leafs — no seriously, we dare you. She wants tickets to games. Lots of them. And she’ll get them in time.
Okay. Back to business.
We’re not fans of overusing exclamation marks. Like swear words, using exclamation marks sparingly enhances their meaning.
Or so we believe.
The upcoming generation doesn’t think so. According to a 2015 CBC article,
The exclamation point was found to make messages seem more sincere, rather than less, as it conveys information about how someone is feeling (enthusiastic, usually, or at least very strongly about something).
While some in recent years have lamented the rise of the exclamation point as the fall of proper grammar, many digital natives now see it as somewhat neutral — especially in an era of cry-face emojis and Instagram hearts.
How ’bout that!
But that’s not all the article said. It also referenced a study that found a change in the period’s reputation.
“The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry,” wrote Ben Crair for the American magazine. “I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce ‘I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.'”
So let’s get this straight.
To be seen as sincere, you have to come off as overly excited about everything. And to avoid seeming pissed off, you have to ignore the first and most basic rule of grammar.
A: What’s this world coming to?
B: It’s just the way the language is evolving!
A: It’s stupid. And it makes communication more unclear.
B: It’s progressive! And helps convey authenticity!
A: At the expense of clarity.
B: Hey! Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few….!
A: Oh shut up.
Coming across a great use of words is such a treat. Most recently, it happened at a cottage in the Bruce Peninsula when we pulled this bad boy out to try.
First of all, any game that requires a tie to play is our kind of game (we’re classy like that). Then “Game of Words” sold us because, well, y’know….
Turns out, Probe is AWESOME. It’s like hangman meets cribbage meets scrabble.
You think of a word, spell it out in cards and place them face down in front of you. If you go first, you might say “any Rs?” Anyone else who has an R has to reveal it. Players with more than one R in their words can choose which of their Rs to reveal based on their point values. Each card has a point value, which all go to you.
Your turn ends when you guess a letter that no one has. Then the next person goes.
What’s cool about the game is that it’s not a race to guess the word. Instead it’s a race for points. So even if your word is fully revealed, you still get to guess letters and collect points.
There are cool features like blank cards to bluff your opponents and activity cards that let you do things like triple your point value and get opponents to do things like keep score. As you can imagine, we created a few of our own activity cards. We had one dude play a round in a Scottish accent. It was very poor. And very funny.
Probe’s retail price in 1972 was six bucks. Good deal for our hosts.
We don’t have titles at Re:word. We have job descriptions. And they’re really easy. Dan’s a copywriter. So is Alex. Gina’s a copyeditor. Marie-Claude and Martine are translators.
“But wait…how are clients supposed to know who the good ones are?”
If they work for us, they’re good — no title required.
The Quest for Words
One of our graphic design partners once said, “Any job title with more than three words is bullshit.” And it’s so true when you meet people with full sentences under their names on their email signatures. Ask them what they do and they can’t give you a straight answer. “Well…I kinda do this, with a bit of that, but I’m actually supposed to be doing the other.”
And it’s not their fault. It’s the system we all work in that equates quantity with quality when it comes to job titles. If you’re a high-quality professional, you don’t need superlatives. CEO. Centre Fielder. Proofreader. Plumber. Easy.
Judge the logo. Not the title.
What do you call the guy who graduated last in his class from Harvard? A Harvard grad. If he was smart enough to get in and smart enough to get his degree, you know he’s worth a look. When you’re evaluating talent, pay less attention to what they do and more attention to who they do it for. A Google technical analyst is not the same as a Yahoo technical analyst. A BMW car designer is not the same as a Lada car designer. And a Re:word copywriter — well, you get the idea.
Apple’s dashboard comes with a great dictionary/thesaurus. It’s intuitive. It’s easy to access. And for an offline tool, it’s impressively comprehensive.
We use it all the time and, until this week, had nothing negative to say about it.
Then we stumbled upon this while researching a white paper we were writing.
Yes, they’re using the word correctly, but could they not have used another example? You know, one that doesn’t put off their key demographic (the creative class) or flat-out lie about them?
Here’s the deal, Apple: Copywriters aren’t a cog in the big advertising machine. We’re the fuel that makes it work. We’re the ones who take advertising from art to persuasion. And you should know that better than anyone because great copywriters made you what you are. The famous “1984” Superbowl commercial? That was the work of copywriter Steve Hayden. I’m a Mac and I’m a PC? Barton Corley and Jason Sperling.
These are the people who turned your product into a brand and your brand into a juggernaut — and you repay them by insinuating they’re mere cogs?
But because we still love you, Apple, rather than make a big deal out of this, we’re going to help you with three alts for this dictionary entry:
Coffee cup makers have been seen as just a cog in the Starbucks machine.
Position-based coaches (O-Line, D-Line, etc.) have been seen as an important cog in the success of a football team.
Bulldozer operators are just another cog on the job site. But without them, nothing can begin.*
*PS: This example was inspired by a new client. Stay tuned for the announcement.
There comes a point in every high school student’s life when they wonder why they have to take English. “I know how to speak,” they’ll say. “And I know how to write.” How is reading The Stone Angel or another Shakespeare play going to help me?”
And you can say, “Glad you asked.”
Three reasons to appreciate this.
Firstly, when you have a job and a spouse and kids of your own and a dog and the gym, all you’ll want is the time to sit in a chair and read a book. So take advantage now.
Secondly, your writing style is shaped by what you read, and the curriculum is designed to expose you to the best of as many styles as possible. We talked about The Stone Angel up top. Margaret Laurence (writing as Hagar Currie Shipley) tells it like it is — exactly what people look for from CVs, cover letters, emails and texts. But then you’ll also read The Grapes of Wrath, which will train your vocabulary to describe the things you see. When you’re presenting to a room full of clients, you’ll want to be able to spin a yard descriptively. As for Shakespeare — any high-schooler who reads Hamlet will know, no matter what they’re feeling, that they’re not alone.
Thirdly, reading gives you practice reading well-written, well-edited English. The more you see
to, too and two being used correctly, the less likely you are to use it incorrectly. Same with your / you’re, it’s / its and heroine / heroin.
Poetry is about finding the best way to say what you want to say within the confines of an unforgiving construct. If you’re writing in iambic pentameter (ba DUM, ba DUM, ba DUM, ba DUM, baDUM), you have to know the word “wonderful” won’t work in your piece, but that “sublime” would.
In the real world you won’t find cadence-related restrictions, but character counts and word counts are everywhere. Poetry trains your mind to manage those restrictions and still impress. Your tweets, posts and blogs are all better when they’re shorter.
By dissecting a piece of writing, you’re mastering the art of thinking, reflecting and analyzing. Judging the quality of an author’s attempt at pathetic fallacy, metaphors and similes helps you judge the quality of any type of art later on in life.
Whether you’re evaluating a potential supplier’s pitch to you, engaging in conversation on a first date, strolling through an art gallery or in the audience at your nephew’s school play, having the ability to thoughtfully consider what you’ve seen and heard, and deciding if you like it, is key to both your understanding of the world and always having something to talk about.
Dan’s favourite English teacher was Ms. O’Brien at York Mills Collegiate in Toronto. His essays always smelled like cigarettes when he got them back, but the comments were always on point.
Who was your favourite English teacher and why? Let us know in the comments.
We get it. It’s a great gig. Here’s why:
There’s no heavy lifting.
Sure, there’s metaphorical heavy lifting in copywriting, like when you have to find one or two words to (a) express a massive idea and (b) get your reader to take a specific action. Your brain will hurt. But your back won’t.
You’ll learn something new every day.
As a copywriter, your role is to assume the voice of the company. That means you have to know what they know, as well as they know it, so you can talk about it as confidently as they do. In the past year our copywriters have learned:
– how hot runner machines inject liquid plastic into molds to create kids’ wading pools
– who is preventing Toronto’s Pearson Airport from becoming the world’s largest airport
– when the best time of day is to pin a home-decorating-related picture to a Pinterest board
– why the Great King Zazzdooks cast a spell over the Shinegans of Rolling Forest
– where the next big boom town is (not at all where you’d think it’d be)
– what the USA’s new mortgage laws actually mean
And that’s just the tip of it. We can’t think of another profession where you learn more about more. It’s awesome for picking up women at pub trivia nights.
You get to say things you’d never say in polite company
That’s not to say that it’ll ever get printed or published. But we can promise that you’ll NEVER be fired for pushing the envelope. It’s a lot easier to pull you back than to push you farther.
Some of our clients will wish they were you.
Seriously. It’s quite the ego trip. And it’s 100% true. One day, you’ll show up to a client meeting at some stuffy office where everyone’s wearing pleated pants and collared shirts and the only sounds you’ll hear are the hum of the fluorescent lights, the clickity-clack of typing and the occasional phone. You’ll start presenting your work, and based on your tone alone, they’ll know when you leave it’ll be back to your funky office in the funky part of town, whereas they’ll be heading back to Beige City.
You can say goodbye to 9-5.
A lot of “office jobs” claim flexibility, but don’t deliver. Not so with copywriting. If you have a project due Thursday at 2:30, we won’t care where you are and what you’re doing until Thursday at 2:30 — as long as you give us something fabulous.
Ok, so those are the broad strokes of working for Re:word. Want to find out more? Drop us a line or give us a call.
As much as you probably can’t wait to drop the bomb and get outta there, the actual drop itself can be a bit daunting when the time comes to resign from your job. You want to word it just right so you leave gracefully and don’t burn any bridges — unless you do want to burn them, in which case, burn away.
Ultimately, you’ve decided to move on to bigger and better prospects and should be a good sport about it. And as horrible as your job may have been, it’s a good play to leave on a positive note because you don’t know when you might cross paths with those people again.
When crafting an impactful resignation letter, you obviously need to watch your words. In all likelihood, they’re the last ones they’ll hear out of you. So make them good.
Be short and sweet.
Don’t beat around the bush. Get straight to your point and make it quick. The main point you’re trying to get to should be something like this:
Dear so and so…
Please accept my formal resignation.
My last day will be two Fridays from now.
Depending on how long you’ve worked at this particular place, this may not be the best policy.
If you’ve put in a decade or more, you may want to go into a few more details such as how you plan on helping them with their transition in finding and training a new person.
Keep it professional.
Want to drop the hammer in the most cathartic and profane way possible? Resist the urge and relish in the fact that you no longer have to deal with them. Keep a professional tone that shows no resentment or hate.
But if there’s something you want to get off your chest, phrase it in the form of respective constructive criticism. You’ll know what you mean and so will they.
Keep the lines open.
Even if you have no intention of doing so, tell them you’d like to stay in touch for whatever they may need in the future: you never know when you might cross paths again (especially in niche industries). Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?