Turn ideas into things
“To generalize is to be an idiot.”
— William Blake, English poet and artist
The first step to making your copy more creative is to make it more concrete.
Fill your copy with tangible, solid details. Those details will later form the basis for metaphors, anecdotes and other creative techniques.
Two-minute abstract-concrete review
If you don’t know concrete copy from a concrete countertop, don’t worry. Nobody else remembers this concept from Journalism 101 either. So here’s a quick reminder of how to tell the abstract from the concrete:
The abstract is your concept. It’s your point, your message, your key idea. It might be:
- Why we need hate-crimes legislation
- How you can live our company values
- The importance of corporate ethics
- The role we play in the global economy
- What’s wrong with casual Fridays
Abstract ideas are “tell,” not “show.”
The concrete illustrates your message. Concrete material puts that concept into real-life, down-to-earth terms.
You might illustrate a piece on hate-crimes legislation, for example, with a story about how your fraternity brothers treat members who are now openly gay.
Concrete material is “show,” not “tell.”
Illustrate ideas with things
Illustrating abstract ideas with concrete information is important, because people absorb information through their senses.
To be understandable, we need to translate concepts into something that appeals to those senses — real, tangible things. Things like:
- Human-interest stories
As poet William Carlos Williams said:
“No ideas but in things.”
How do you make sure you’re illustrating your ideas with enough things? Pass the red pen-yellow highlighter test.