Team – ABC

Just saying!

We are embarking on a new creative journey, and will be reporting in English this time. Every week we will pay a visit to a new ‘saying’ and tell you more about Write outside the box and what we can do for you. These posts give an idea of what we could write for you once we have met.

Our journey into sayings, commonly used phrases generally offering advice or wisdom, has been intense, mainly because we had to be strict and select just one for each letter of the alphabet. The options were endless and minimal, inspiring and insipid, but we have tamed the rough seas of sayings to ensure smooth sailing when you set off.

A = Apples and oranges

The idiom states that you cannot compare apples to oranges, i.e. an apple is and always will be an apple; likewise an orange. Even so, both are fruits and both are round.

Similarly, while all texts are made up of words, texts cannot be directly compared. People can prefer one to the other, based on many factors, some objective, some subjective.
It is impossible to find a copywriter who immediately understands what you want without an explanation. Understanding takes time, trial and error, a relationship. At Write outside the box, we invest in our clients, in long-term relationships. From the outset, we want to know as much as possible about your company and your values, not just your products. We do our utmost to intuit your intentions and to put them in writing for you. We always provide a first draft and if it doesn’t taste quite right, we will recast the apple into an orange – or vice versa, based on your input and at no extra charge for the first request.
Apples and oranges

B = Brevity is the soul of wit

A little-known English poet penned this still-quoted aphorism – in Act II, scene 2 of Hamlet – more than 500 years ago. Did you know that most of the idioms, sayings and proverbs in the English language originate either in the works of William Shakespeare or in the King James Bible, which also dates back to the early 17th century?

But I digress, back to the matter in hand: long-winded texts can cause readers to lose interest, which is counter-productive. The aim is to engage them, to provide information that will be remembered, maybe not for posterity, but at least for months or years.

C = A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

Your chain of texts is only as strong as your weakest hyperlink. Every text should convey the corporate message, showcasing what you stand for. For some, this will be the first thing they read; for others, one of many, having decided to follow the company on its journey.

Every message, social media post, newsletter, advertorial or advertisement should be written with care to avoid breaking the chain of engagement.

D = As one door closes, another opens

Doors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are open to all, others remain closed to most of us. Doors are part of everyone’s daily lives, and as long as the door you want to take opens for you, you do not give them a second thought. Doors do not always refer to physical thresholds to be crossed. Sometimes, a ‘door’ acts as a metaphor: for crossing a border or achieving a goal. A door can occasionally be considered insignificant and not worth mentioning, as in “opportunity knocks”, but opportunity cannot knock on an open door or one that does not exist.

The idiom “as one door closes, another opens”, however, is a maxim we tend to agree with, because humans are limited by a variety of factors, although limitations of time and space are universal. We cannot be in two places at the same time.
When time constraints are such that we cannot knock on enough doors, we can always ask others to knock on it for us. The resonance of the written word knocks on doors, makes an impression and stands out, but only when these words have been selected with care, carry meaning and point in the right direction.

E = Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Eggs are fragile, but are more resilient than we expect. Drop an egg onto a lawn from a few floors up and you’ll be surprised to see that it doesn’t always break. But it is still smart ‘not to put all your eggs in one basket’; chances are, when one breaks, the others will too.

Specialization means customers and clients know what to expect, but diversification means you can hedge the risk. The balancing act that ensues, putting your eggs in several, differently sized baskets is just one aspect of entrepreneurship, and no sooner have we finished that we start anew.
The same can be said of the tone of voice of a company’s communications. One voice, one style is recognizable and readers know what the company stands for. On the other hand, enough room should be left to vary the content, to resonate with your target audience.
You can put all your eggs in one basket, with a single marketing company, or you could work on your campaigns with various copywriters. As long as you put the eggs in one or more baskets.

F = The Fly in the ointment

When we work on a project, we try to consider every aspect of it. Most projects tend to work out in the end but, every now and again, we get one and discover there’s a fly in the ointment. It might be a minor detail or someone – or something – that spoils an otherwise positive experience. In the olden days, people would first draft a letter then copy it out in longhand to remove the ink stains, that is, remove the flies in the ointment.

Wanting to do everything ourselves, we sometimes take on more than we can handle. The better solution would of course be to outsource specific tasks that would free us up to focus on our core activities. Trying to write social media content or blog posts when we’re under time constraints may not be the best way to go about it. What about handing your project over to Write outside the box instead?
To start the process, we’ll have a chat to get to know you, for an in-depth look into your requirements. We’ve discovered that the best way to help our clients is to familiarize ourselves with them first. By investing this time and energy, we can then produce texts that better suit their needs. Your time is precious, so we limit the back and forth by delivering an initial draft for your feedback, before incorporating this into the final, edited version. An ideal solution offered at no additional cost, which is of benefit to both you and us. We all know how much easier it is when we can see a text in front of us and iron out the kinks.
Our clients can relax knowing they’re in safe hands; we take the time to understand all the ins and outs of a task. Invest in long-term relations with us, and you’ll find those initial flies in the ointment will become fewer over time. Get in touch, and let’s make a start removing those flies in the ointment now.

G = Great minds think alike

This idiom can be considered from a philosophical perspective. I believe a great mind is someone who is different, who does not follow suit, who thinks independently or puts many ideas or styles into a single vessel. In short, someone who does not think alike anybody else.

For example, great painters are considered as such because nobody else painted the way they did; some went to art school, others didn’t. Not all artists now considered masters were cherished in their time, some remained completely unappreciated until after their demise.
The same applies to innovators: some become successful, while others are never heard of, independent of any breakthroughs they may actually make.
The point of this idiom is to indicate our wholehearted agreement with an idea we have read or heard, to show we understand how the writer came to their conclusion. That we would have said the same thing. That their and our minds are in agreement.
When you work with copywriters who understand what you mean, you can trust they will find the right words for your ideas, for you to share your thoughts with your target audience.
Great minds

H = At the drop of a Hat

This idiom means to act without hesitation based on a single signal.

It was first used in the 19th century but may have originated in the American Wild West or in Ireland, where hats were dropped to start races or fights. You could compare it to a starting pistol shot or a kick-off meeting.
In business we sometimes need something as soon as possible, i.e. the task is urgent, there is no time to waste and one should apply more haste but less speed as it must be done right the first time, for expediency’s sake. We call this mission-critical copywriting.
Contact Write outside the box to discuss your mission-critical project. Use one of the telephone numbers provided on our website at any time to talk to one of us about your project, at the drop of a hat.

I = No man is an Island

This commonly used idiom indicates that no-one is truly self-sufficient, that everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others to function and fulfil their potential.

Nobody can do everything, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for starters. It is impossible to know everything about everything. This is why humans specialize, collaborate, learn as much as they can on topics that interest them. We all need help and support to put the pieces of life’s puzzle together.
It is no different in business. Very few businesses are large enough to potentially do everything in-house and even then, most prefer to hire experts and other companies to complete certain tasks. Focussing on your core business is a sensible approach.
So why spend hours and hours of your precious time trying to write your own copy? Why not let a copywriter take care of it? No man is an island. Reach out and let others help you build your business.

J = A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Life is a journey from birth to death, but what we do on our particular journey is up to us. We can dream and take no action or we can work on realizing our dreams one step at a time. The most important of these steps is the first one, once you are on your way many things conspire to keep you going. Somehow we often see a wide chasm or a high mountain in front of us that keeps us in our place, inert.

Take the first step and the road will not be as steep or difficult. It may be as simple as telling a friend or family member what you would like to achieve. Once it is in the open, you will feel it has become more real and ideas will pop up that will motivate you to move on.
Do not despair, there are warm and welcoming places along the way to take refuge, to let your hair down. Making your dreams come true is the ultimate goal, but make sure you enjoy the journey. You can do things solo or team up.
If you need someone to write the text for your journey, make sure they listen to what you want and need.

K = Knowledge is power

People with different cultural backgrounds will attribute this aphorism to different sources from a variety of historical periods. More than one person may have written or said it, or people from various backgrounds heard or read and started using it, but this is not the point under discussion. “Knowledge is power” can be used in many ways depending on the person saying or writing these three words, i.e. a blackmailer would not mean the same as an ethical person.

Knowledge is the sum of what is known, but humanity learns, forgets and relearns. Sometimes it would seem we forget as much as we discover, one generation after another, making advancements in some areas of interest and forgetting things we think are no longer useful. For example, as progress was made in medicine, the healing powers of plants and other gifts of nature was no longer common knowledge even though pharmaceutical companies tap into it, but after some time passes someone somewhere applies the ‘forgotten’ knowledge to the amazement of others.
An argument can be made that for knowledge to be power, it must be placed in the hands of the few. But it can also be said that when knowledge is shared, we all gain more of it, thus increasing its power.
Sharing knowledge may be a good way to help others, especially when working together. On the other hand, intellectual property and putting knowledge into practice has given rise to enterprises, empires and more.
When you share your corporate knowledge and information with Write outside the box, we keep it safe, using it solely to write creative texts that help your business grow.

L = Laughter is the best medicine

Let’s face it, life is stressful, the ideal work-life balance requires a continuous cycle of hard work but life always gets in the way!

When it seems everything is conspiring against you, when it is all too much to cope with, it is time to let go and laugh. You can laugh with good friends or on your own but you have to find something to trigger the best medicine of all, heartfelt laughter. It destresses, it brings everything into perspective, it is essential to your good health.
At Write outside the box we work together, we discuss our issues, lend a hand, help each other out. And we laugh, often. It clears the air, it cleanses the soul and allows us to move on, to find a solution to what we were stressing about.
Laughter changes even grumpy people into good-natured souls, it is the catalyst that turns a threatening storm into a sunny disposition, allowing you to listen, to understand, to empathize.
Write outside the box customers can depend on our good humour, on our ability to laugh problems away and work hard towards a common goal. If you do not believe us, contact us with your writing conundrum and see for yourself.

M = A Means to an end

Today we address a phrase dating back to the mid-1800s, which may or may not be based on the proverb “the end justifies the means”. Sometimes reaching out to others to help you achieve your goals is a bitter pill to swallow, but a necessary one.

Doing business in a global world means needing to catch the eye of your potential client in not just one language, but many. Copywriters know what is out there, the current trends and how to make a text stand out in at least one language, one culture. A transcreator knows how to convert the message in context to a different target audience, taking culture and language into account.
You know everything about your product and if you communicate this information to a copywriter, they can create a message for your audience. Sales is not just about the product; the best product does not always win over the market. How and where you market your product can be just as important.
Klaus Teuber’s ‘Die Siedler von Catan’ was a huge success in Germany but did not take off in the Netherlands until the cards and other items were translated into Dutch. Investing in the translation made the difference; it multiplied the sales of the board game, and 999 Games became a household name.
Knowing how to market your product has an impact on its success. The search for the right partner to phrase your marketing to help you grow often takes time and effort. Finding a means to an end is not an easy task, but once you find the right team, it will be smooth sailing ahead.

N = Keep your Nose to the grindstone

This idiom is interesting for its basis on the ‘grindstone’, a thick disc of stone or other material used to grind, sharpen or polish metal objects – a tool used for many centuries – or the stone used in mills to grind cereals such as wheat. “Keeping your nose to the grindstone” is likely to refer to constantly smelling whether the wheat was burnt because the tolerance was incorrect or too much wheat had been added. In short, it meant that you needed to stay alert while working.

Nowadays we interpret it to mean that continuous hard work will yield results. But we all know that effort is sometimes not rewarded, as is the case with a Sisyphean task, named after the punishment Sisyphus received in Greek mythology to push an enormous boulder up a hill for eternity, only for it to roll back down every time he nearly reached the summit. We should work hard but also keep track of all factors that may influence the results.
Balancing all factors is hard work. Sometimes it is best to focus on fewer elements and trust others to stay alert, to ‘sniff out’ potential problems and opportunities, to inform you and to work with you on your goals.
Finding the right partner to focus on certain factors in business leaves you with more room to act and react when required. You can depend on Write outside the box to provide the copy you need, when you need it.

O = An Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

It used to be common knowledge that an ounce was 1/16th of a pound. Sayings often contain words that have lost their pragmatic usage, that would be worded differently in ‘modern’ times. Metric measurements are commonly used nowadays, but we still retain the ‘old’ measures in set phrases. When you work with words you remark on this kind of thing…

Let’s get back to the meaning of this saying. It may be obvious at first, when you think before you act, it often leads to better results that do not need to be ‘corrected’. For example, if you take your time to write and review a text thoroughly, the risk of having to reprint the text or review it once again is reduced. When printing was very expensive, publishers resorted to printing a list of errata rather than reprinting the entire corrected text. Printing per se may be more affordable now, although certain errata can potentially lead to reputational damage or can incur costs, for example in the back office if a product description does not match the product itself and is returned more frequently. Taking time to prepare the information provided may feel like a waste, but it actually wins you time, and after all, time is money.
Marketing your company or product takes time and effort but is sometimes left to the last moment, which makes errors inevitable. Napoleon is reputed to have said, “Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry”.
It is easy to forget that doing something carefully only takes a little bit more time; that when something is done smoothly, fewer checks and double checks are required. Investing time and effort in the right marketing will lead to results, time and again.

P = Practice makes perfect

Skills improve with practice; the more often you do something the better you become at it. However, if you do something by rote it no longer engages you, leading to potential risks when working on more creative tasks. Copywriting requires creativity, and with practice you learn when to keep at it, when to take a break and how to ensure your creative juices start flowing when you experience writer’s block.
The more you write, the easier it becomes and the more you trust your inner compass. But that’s not enough. At Write outside the box we believe in the two pairs of eyes principle because humans tend to see what they think is there, not what is actually there. For example, we would not usually notice a ‘3’ in place of an ‘e’, etc.
Our brains can process text with typos or numbers and read it, sometimes without noticing anything is wrong. You could wait a few days before re-reading your text, but you could also ask a colleague to review the final version before delivery. A fresh pair of professional eyes improves the quality of every written text.
Practice has taught us we need to ask questions, research the topic and the company, in order to become aware of each client’s needs and convey their message clearly in our texts.

Q = The never-ending Quest for knowledge

Some people love a good quest; others couldn’t think of anything worse. When the task is too easy, it brings little satisfaction, no sense of pride for the results achieved. A thirst for knowledge can lead you down the rabbit hole… and then your quest never ends.

Finding the right balance between facts and phrases requires research skills and an objective decision over what should stay, what is best left out, and how to keep it short and sweet, given that your readers may not have as much patience for this particular quest as you do. The message gleaned from reading between the lines needs to be clear and concise.
The relationship between a company and their copywriter is based on the latter’s never-ending quest for information to work with. Feed their thirst for knowledge and your texts will resonate with your target audience.

R = All Roads lead to Rome

This saying has been around since the Middle Ages, indicating that there are many ways to reach a goal, to achieve something. Various options will eventually lead to the same result, your intended goal.
The capillary network of European roads is based on the thoroughfares built during the Roman Empire, which were all designed to lead to Rome. The connected towns and cities have since developed further or have lost their high status. The figurative meaning is also true, there are many ways to reach your goal, to meet your target and achieve the desired result. All roads will take you to the same place, be they direct or along a more complex route.
Some roads are easier and require less work. Would it not make sense to take that path? Why try to do everything yourself when you can hire someone to take you there without going round in circles, so you don’t need to go that extra mile too often?
Hiring a professional copywriter is like hiring a guide who knows the way and can help you reach your destination faster and more smoothly.

S = Spend one day in someone else’s Shoes

Spending time in others’ shoes means seeing the world from a perspective other than your own. Personal experience changes our point of view, leading to assumptions. It is impossible to walk in someone else’s shoes without empathy, curiosity, imagination and more. The first thing when copywriting for a company is to learn all you can about the organization to ensure the texts are written in their tone of voice, in their house style.
In Dutch we say we ‘get a look into their kitchen’. We gain experience, we learn to understand their culture and goals, we become part of their ‘family’, sitting around the hearth and joining in with the conversation, the storytelling.
Learning to walk in someone else’s shoes is like travelling, you gain insight, details, interesting facts, some of which you include in the texts you write.
At Write outside the box, we enjoy getting to know our clients, so we can eventually anticipate their needs. We invest in long-term relations, firstly by learning to walk in their shoes.

T = Time flies when you’re having fun

Time flies when you’re having fun,
Crawls when waiting seems never done.
Compacted when distracted,
Expanded with mind detracted.
Copywriting adapts time,
Surprising you with striking chime.
A lexical jam session
Can form part of our profession

U = Be a Unicorn in a field of horses

In business, being different is important, as is being memorable. If you are run of the mill, your target audience may not find you and may not see your product as any different from the competition’s.
Standing out – being unique – is a blessing, but it can also a curse if your product is in fashion then falls out of favour. Even so, in most cases being the unicorn in a field of horses has a positive effect on your company.
When you do not follow in others’ footsteps and rely on your own or your team’s efforts instead, you are a unicorn, and you work outside the box.

V = It takes a Village to raise a child

This widely known proverb states that we all grow up in a community, not in isolation. The same can be said of a business, which may have been founded by one or more people, but without assistance they are likely to flounder. Teamwork requires mutual inspiration to improve each other’s ideas and produce tangible results.
As part of the commemorations for the 2018 centenary of the end of World War I, the renowned South African artist and director William Kentridge and his associates created “The Head & the Load”, an impressive multimedia performance focusing on the contributions made by African men and women to the Great War. It was premiered in London and went on to be performed In Duisburg, New York and Amsterdam.
In a post-performance talk, Kentridge explained the name of his “Centre for the Less Good Idea”, an interdisciplinary incubator space for the arts. In short, his point was that it is hard to improve a good idea, but a lesser one is easier to work on creating an even better end result than a single concept could produce. A fascinating idea, it helps us discard plans that may have seemed promising at first, and to consider alternatives that may need more work but feel just right when polished.
When a team works together towards a common goal, the results speak for themselves.

W = Waste not, want not

Saving something for later sounds like a good idea until it leads to hoarding. As usual, too much of a good thing is no longer quite so great. But the opposite is also true: throwing useful items away because you no longer need them is wasteful and has a negative impact on the environment. Once again, it’s all about balance. If you no longer need something, you can give it to others who will use, recycle or upcycle it. But waste is sometimes exactly what it says on the tin, rubbish.

Various fads have passed in and out of favour, from minimalist living to removing anything that does not spark joy or the OHIO (Only Handle It Once) method for decluttering.

When just about managing, you can buy a single brick at a time then eventually have enough of them to build a home, or you can give in to despair. When someone is comfortably off, they might get ‘tired’ of their furniture, but why change it every other year, just because you can?

Thinking outside the box means trying to find balance, to understand that your point of view is not the only one and to listen to others’ perspectives. Mutual understanding will lead to a better world.

X marks the spot

X = X marks the spot

People and animals have added markings to remember a location since time immemorial. In stories, X often marks the spot. The phrase is documented to have been used at least since the early 19th century but Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island was instrumental in planting the treasure map concept in the collective unconscious. Books pass in and out of favour, although the idea of X marking the spot on a treasure map is still very much alive. In the computer game Minecraft, treasure is also indicated on the map with a red X.

Any other letter could stand for something specific, such as a name or location. For example, when moving home, a letter could be added to indicate the room the contents of the box belong in. For example, ‘K’ for kitchen. But as fewer words and names begin with an ‘X’, this letter may not be as confusing as others.

An ‘X’ was often used as a signature by the illiterate and is an easy symbol to make using sticks or rocks. There are a number of potential origins; we are unlikely to ever know why Western culture adopted an X to mark the spot.

A good copywriter is aware of cultural references and uses them as appropriate. Idiomatic texts resonate

Y = Youth is wasted on the young

Most people say they would love to live their life again, but based on the lessons they have learned. Many people also say that their school days were some of the best of their lives. But that’s not what this post is about.

Instead, we’d like to look at how, as per Joni Mitchell’s immortal lyrics from “Big Yellow Taxi”, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. We fail to realize the wonders of our youth until we mature and know that the endless pools of energy from our younger days are long gone, that we now need more time for something that only used to take a minute or two.

We lack an appreciation of more than just youth; this applies to virtually anything and everything we have. Only once we no longer have it do we learn the value of what’s been lost to us.

Learning to appreciate what we have and not go hunting for the snark is a lesson we only learn after much time has passed… one the young haven’t usually managed to take on yet. In the words of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449-1492), probably the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of the Italian Renaissance, from his Canzona di Bacco:

Quant’è bella giovinezza (What beauty lies in youth,
che si fugge tuttavia! yet ever so fleeting!
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia: Let him who wants to, be happy:
Di doman non c’è certezza. For there is no certainty in tomorrow.)

Look around you, at your partner, business or otherwise, at your home, at your life. Appreciate more, in turn you’ll find you are appreciated more. Make sure your partners and associates know you value them.


Z = Zeal without knowledge is the sister of folly

Applying ourselves energetically without thinking twice does not bring about the results we aim to achieve. Anything worth doing requires effort and adjustment for it to succeed. If you do not apply yourself, you will not achieve your potential, nor will you if you just go, go, go!

Once again, it is a question of balance. We need to think before we leap, but we should do so or we will not make a difference. Some people need a little push to try something new, others are always chasing a new trend.

A good team has a few reticent members and a few daredevils. At times we need to consolidate, at others innovate. Once you have the right copywriting team in place, when zeal is combined with knowledge, you will be brimming with energy and success.