List, rhyme and twist

Craft a sassy sound bite

When the Federal Trade Commission needed to explain why the agency has decided not to develop a do-not-spam registry — officials feared that spammers would target people on the list — a spokesperson said:

“You’ll be spammed if we do — and spammed if we don’t.”
List, rhyme and twist

Sound off with sound bites Craft memorable quotes with twist of phrase. Image from shutterstock

You’ve got to love that sound bite! How can you craft such a memorable, quotable line for your copy? One approach is to list, rhyme and twist. Here’s how:

1) List.

Write down the key or topic words from your article.

Then expand your list. The more words, the better. Try synonyms, antonyms and different forms of your key word — “spam,” “spams,” “spammed” and “spamming,” for instance.

Visual Thesaurus and OneLook Reverse Dictionary are great tools for adding words to your list.

2) Rhyme.

Use rhyming dictionaries to find words that rhyme with your key words. My favorite is RhymeZone.

Keep looking. RhymeZone doesn’t recognize “spammed.” But it did send me to OneLook Dictionary Search for words ending in “ammed.” (Input “*ammed.”)

I searched for one of them — “slammed” — back at RhymeZone, which gave me this list: crammed, dammed, damned, jammed, rammed, scammed.

Next, find phrases that include those rhyming words at Phrase Thesaurus or ClichéSite.com. In fact, I found another starting point for the FTC sound bite by doing this research:

Publish and be damned.

3) Twist.

Now substitute your key word for the rhyming word. Make it:

Publish and be spammed.

Don’t wait for the muse.

Some lucky communicators are natural-born phrase twisters. I have to substitute systems and processes for talent.

If you’re like me, list, rhyme and twist key words in your next story for a sassy sound bite or surprising headline.

  • Write Killer Bites

    Turn lame-ass quotes into scintillating sound bites

    Half of reporters complain that quotes in releases don’t sound natural, according to a 2014 Greentarget survey. Maybe that’s why 78% of them don’t regularly use quotes from releases.

    Write Killer Bites: Turn lame-ass quotes into scintillating sound bites

    No wonder! As one of my clients says, “Quotes in news releases sound like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon: ‘Wah wah wah wah.’”

    Transform your quotations from bleh to brilliant.

    At NOT Your Father's News Release — our two-day hands-on PR-writing master class on Sept. 6-7 in Atlanta — you’ll learn how to transform your quotations from bleh to brilliant. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Write tight bites. Even a lame quote will sound better when you use our quote length targets.
    • Put a quota on quotes. Steal a trick from The New York Times to avoid overquoting.
    • Write quotes that sound human — not like a computer spit them out.
    • Avoid the worst PR clichés. PR Newswire sees 1,284 of these in a single month.
    • Steal techniques from Silver Anvil winners. Make your sound bites sound better.

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Source: “Quotables,” Money, August 2004

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