I’ve lived in Portugal for more than 2 years now, and I’ve been learning how to speak Portuguese.
(as best you can when your brain needs to write words that sell stuff all day long)
I learn from an AMAZING Portuguese teacher (Hi Melissa!). She’s great at teaching me “street Portuguese” vs. the “proper” way to say things.
She’ll teach me the “improper” way to speak, which most people use in everyday conversation…
…. and then immediately tell me I’m not allowed to use it because I’m EDUCATED. (Thanks Melissa!)
And since there’s SO MUCH to learn, she also teaches me little tricks and hacks for “cheating” at Portuguese.
These tips and tricks let you sneak around grammar rules while still getting your point across and (hopefully) avoid sounding like a bumbling idiot.
And it’s not just Portuguese.
Most languages have little tricks or hacks we use every day to make communication easier.
For example, in English we frequently stick unnecessary words at the beginning of a sentence to buy ourselves time to think.
We say “Weeeeell…”
Or …. “Liiiiike…”
In Spanish you say “pues” (which is like “weeeelll”)
In Portuguese you “Entao” (which is like, (tsk, weeeell)
And another Portuguese procrastination phrase is “Eu Acho Que…”
That means “I think that…”
If you stick that at the beginning of sentence, you buy yourself time to translate what you want to say into Portuguese.
For example, you might say “Eu acho que….. quero pedir o polvo se faz favor”
(“I think that…. I’d like to order the octopus please”)
You use this phrase to kind of “rev up” your brain until you can think of what you ACTUALLY want to say.
This buys your brain time to think until you can find the right words to get your message across in the most effective way.
We do this all the time in our copywriting – which is NOT good – because it doesn’t have the same effect as when you’re speaking in person.
When you “rev your engines” in copy, you’re wasting precious attention span.
Unlike when we’re speaking to a person standing in front of us, who’s politely listening to our (probably) uninteresting diatribe and waiting for us to get to the point…
… someone reading your “engine revving” intro is probably going to close the page or click away before they get to your actual message.
So that engine revving actually STOPS people from hearing your true message.
Now, sometimes we need that revving to get our brain juices flowing and get into the flow of writing.
(and apparently sometimes we need to write ridiculously long blog posts about engine revving so that everyone will now judge the entire first half of our articles.)
But usually I find that – If I’m honest with myself – I can probably cut the first few paragraphs of a new draft.
In fact, there’s been times when the entire first few PAGES of a draft need to be cut because it’s just engine revving.
You only see this when you go back and edit the copy after the first draft.
So use that “revving up” to get your brain candy onto the page, then ask yourself:
Is what I’m saying in the beginning of my copy absolutely necessary?
Does it move the copy forward?
Or is it neutral?
To get even more specific:
Is every word in each of these sentences necessary to convey the meaning that I want to convey?
Then cut those sentences down to the point where, if you removed just ONE more word, the sentence would stop making sense.
And the stuff that’s left over after you’ve cut all that out…
THAT’S where your copy needs to start.
So think about that as your reading and writing copy, and try and train your mind to recognize that engine revving when you edit your drafts.