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One More Copywriting Lesson From Roger Ebert

A few weeks ago, there was an interesting article on Copyblogger, Roger Ebert
What all Content Creators Need to Learn from Roger Ebert

This article, paired with one that I came across via Twitter several months back called Nil By Mouth, have drawn me into Roger Ebert’s world — and made me think more carefully about my own.

Note for any who aren’t aware: due to a battle with thyroid cancer, Ebert lost the ability to speak (and eat and drink). 

After diving into Ebert’s work and following him on Twitter, I’ve found myself asking something consistently, and I encourage you to think about it today:

How would you write if you didn’t have your voice to fall back on?

Seriously think about this. For example:

  • How many times have you given a colleague something to review that wasn’t ready to be presented, expecting them to catch errors or fix your jumbled words?
  • How many times have you sent an email thinking that if the recipient didn’t understand it fully he or she could just call you for clarification? Or even ended an email with some variation of, “if this doesn’t make sense just give me a call to chat”?
  • How many times have you sent or published something (even an email or social network status update) without reading it first?

This isn’t to say that everything you write needs to be lengthy. On the contrary, one of the most important things to consider in keeping your writing clear is to write as concisely as possible. (Even Ebert himself has become “addicted to Twitter,” after once deeming it “impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters.”)

So, how can you begin to improve your writing skills? Here are a few things that I’ve personally found helpful:

  • Check your work for repetition. You may think that you’re driving a point home by sharing the same idea in multiple ways, or perhaps you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Unless it is key to making your statement, or a stylistic choice (think “I Have a dream”), remove redundancies from your work.
  • Read every email before you send it, and ask yourself if you’re clearly and concisely making the point you intend to make. Use complete sentences. If action is required on the part of the recipient, be sure that expectations will be understood.
  • Really think about your tweets and other social status updates. Find ways to condense a longer sentence into a clear thought without resorting to SMS-friendly abbreviations.
  • Proofread your work. Every time. Every article. Every content marketing piece. Every status update. Everything.
  • Read my colleague Christina’s blog post, with three excellent tips to strengthen your copywriting.

How would you write if you didn’t have your voice to fall back on? Why don’t you write this way now? 

Laurel Miltner is a consultant at PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. Follow Laurel on Twitter @laurelmackenzie, or connect on Facebook at

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Image source: Roger Ebert's Twitter account.

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