A Few More Favourite Words of Marvellousness

A recent missive on my top 10 favourite words prompted three nice hundreds of compliments to come flooding in and as I’m inclined to please, I thought you’d like some more. English is a moveable feast, full of words from other cultures and periods in history; new words appear in the OED every year, some of which outrage me but that’s a blog for another time.

Tiny History Stuff

Until about the 12th  Century, we spoke and wrote ye olde Englishe; it looks and sounds like nothing  we could remotely understand today.  It’s lovely to listen to, though.  Very mellifluous.

Middle English spanned 1100 to 1500.  Part vernacular and Norman French (thanks, Mr William the Conk), if you ever got to grips with The Canterbury Tales (good) or any Medieval tales of derring-do (ghastly), that’s ye lingo in whiche it were writte.

Shakespeare’s plays are written in Modern English.  Oh yes they are.  From the 16th Century onwards the Great Vowel Shift and the Renaissance chucked new pronunciation and lots of new words into our language. We even had our first dictionary published, surely a fairly slim volume and probably without floccinaucinihilipilification. You’re still getting over Shakespeare’s plays being modern English, aren’t you?

The lovely melting pot that is our English language explains why I like…

Quidnunc. How blimmin’ marvellous is this word?  It means one who gossips.

Meander. Pretty.

Frippet – a flighty young woman prone to showing off, similar to flibbertigibbet, I guess. Frippet is probably where frippery comes from.

Note: if you’ve ever asked yourself what the word is for a parchment on which the original text has been wholly or partially erased, then overwritten by another, wonder no more – it’s palimpsest, but you must use it in no other context.  I am beside myself with joy at this unbelievably specific definition.

Ripple.  A very small wave.  And a chocolate bar.

We’ve got some jolly odd words, too.  Take oxter, for example: not the armpit but the space under the arm.  Weird, but good.

Here’s the thing: most Sunday mornings I am a Tatterdemalion: a person with tattered clothing or of unkempt appearance. Nice.

Comely. This slightly sleazy word  rolls around the tongue, putting me in mind of a buxom young woman with a piece of straw hanging out of the side of her mouth, tempting young farmers into the way of the flesh. On hay bales.

Lissom and lithe are also somewhat post-watershed.

I love sepulchral, or pertaining to the tomb, as I think this wonderful word reflects our erstwhile (another good word) obsession with death and dying. I don’t see an immediate future use for it, though.

You could call my career serendipitous, finding something nice while looking for something else; similarly the noun serendipity.  It’s happy word, it  evokes smiling angels and rosy-cheeked cherubs.

And, who doesn’t love the word imbroglio, meaning an altercation or complicated situation? Please may we bring it back into everyday use?

Oh, I could do this all day.  There are loads more but you’ve probably got things to do.  I’ve got crisp, velvety, euphonious purple prose to write for websites so I’d better get on.  


Are you Content with your Content?

Or…why you need a web content writer.

There are some stonkingly bad websites out there.  Fear of being sued offending people prevents me from showing you examples but I’m sure you’ve seen a few.  Why are they bad, though? What provokes an almost immediate Back-To-the-List-of- Dreams reaction?

I’ve done a bit of research on web browsing behaviour: people spend a matter of seconds scanning a home page and if it’s sloppy or not laid out clearly, they’re orf.  I have issues with the colour pink as well, but that’s just me.  I also have ishooos with Trick or Treat and the X Factor.

Anyhoo, what else is a turn-off? You’ve guessed it – take the rest of the day off – it’s the way the content has been put together.

Writing for the web is quite unlike any other medium.  Websites need relatively short, punchy sentences; paragraphs mustn’t be too long; you need text that’s relevant, appropriate and clear; each page should focus entirely on a defined subject and not ramble on.  In short, we require clarity and precision. And…unless you’re a web content writer, you may struggle.

Question: If you’ve ever received promotional material with mistakes therein, what did you do with it? It’s the same with a badly written website,  instead of the round circular thing under your desk, visitors “bounce” back to search engine listings.

You’re a professional so I’m assuming that you’d like your website a) to reflect your company’s high standards and b) to be written in a style to appeal to your customers.

Don’t worry, be happy.  Help is at hand and here’s why (shameless promotion approaching) Sussex Copywriting Services is the company for you.  So, what’s my USP, then?

My background.  I’ve spent over 20 years (OK, nearly 25) in b2b sales.  I’ve sat with MDs, CEOs and senior partners and asked them questions:

What are your objectives? Why?

What’s your best selling service? Why?

What’s your target market? What are your USPs?

(Have you got any Viscount biscuits?)

I had about an hour each time to get the right information out of people and to demonstrate that I’d listened properly.  Then I had to create persuasive written proposals with the “problem” solved by a “solution”.  Oh, and they had to be precise, easy to read and jargon-free.  As you can imagine, I got rather good at doing this.  I’m still good.


Search engine optimisation.  Being found on the internet. The Dark Art.  Except that it isn’t, really.

Google and Bing have gone all posh.  If you stuff your text with keywords, their super spidey senses will ignore you or consider your site as SPAM.  In brief , SEO is about:

A well laid out site (try looking up “good semantic markup”)

Good quality links back to your website

Internal links

Appropriate keywords

A presence on Twitter and Facebook (Google + and Google maps don’t do any harm, either.  LinkedIn, too)

Appropriate page and header descriptions – no more than about 70 characters and each one different.  And, most of all…

Well written, accurate and relevant content.  Your site needs engaging text and you need to update it regularly with refreshed content, articles, newsletters and blogs. I can’t over-emphasise this.  OK, I can.

I know how to write so that search engines will find and index your site; while you’re focusing on growing your business I’ll take care of updating your content. I’ll even research the best keywords for your industry.

And…I’ll write in a style and tone that your target audience will like.

And relax.

Chillax, in fact. Don your Slanket and bed socks, safe in the knowledge that Sussex Copywriting Services is really rather splendid.  A bit like having lots of clean socks in the drawer or clean sheets night.  Give me a call on 01273 721 306, let’s discuss words.





“Heads Up”: Phrases to, like, Avoid?

To quote the great philosopher Len Goodman, when it comes to the English language “I sometimes feel like I’m a cup of tea in a world of lattes” (Strictly Come Dancing, October, 2012).  Being a wordy-type person means that I have to  express concepts clearly and without…fluff.

Here’s a list of phrases which set my teeth on edge. I wonder if you agree?

Business jargon  such as added value, turn-key solution and low-hanging fruit.  If you’ve played b******* bingo – see here for details – you’ll feel my pain here.  Also, where did skills set come from?  Isn’t it just skills?

People who start a sentence by saying  “with respect…” will, more than likely, proceed to insult you but because they’ve given themselves permission to do so that makes it all OK, apparently.

Reach out. It appears that nobody actually calls or emails anyone anymore, especially in the States.  They “reach out” to you.  If anyone tries reaching out to me, I’ll move out of the way.

Similarly, touch base.  P’don?

Om nom nom, used by people to describe good food, mainly on tinterweb forums.  Om nom nom makes me feel slightly ill.

No problemo. Oh dear, I’m afraid I’ve used this one and will take myself off to Siberia at once.

If I hear another person say that a woman looks good for her age I will slap him or her around the face with a wet fish. I’m sure you don’t me to explain why.

Can anyone explain what a price point is?  Also, any ideas about colour way (as opposed to just colour)?

Welcome to my World.  You’ve just shared some bad news with me but I’m not really interested because it’s all about ME.

What’s I could care less about? People of America, desist.  Obviously, you mean “I couldn’t care less” meaning that you don’t care.  Because if you could care less, it means that you do care, at least somewhat.  Otherwise, how could you care less? I need to lie down.

What is it about being on the Jeremy Kyle show that means you have to repeat at the end of the day all the time?  Do you really think it closes down your argument? Perhaps it’s been written into your contract or something.

Obvious one: people – mainly young women, don’t ask me why – who insert like into every sentence.  It’s like Tourettes for tweenies and is often heard with rising intonation at the end of every sentence…like, you’re asking a question?

My bad.  I have literally no idea what this means and can’t be bothered to find out.

So, a bit of a list.  The worst one, though (or is it just me)…

The use of the first person plural regarding pregnancy.  Sorry, but we are pregnant is a medical impossibility and people who say it make me go all Norman Bates with the sheer superior smugness of it all.  It makes me think of huuuuuge pavement-hogging baby buggies and Boden catalogues.

It’s harsh but fair to say that anyone caught using any of these phrases will be made to sit in a room entirely empty apart from a tube of Pringles, surely the salty snack equivalent of heroin.  They will be allowed to eat just one, then forced to sit and contemplate the rest of the contents therein, yea verily until the end of time.

Sussex Copywriting Services, despite a tendency to rant, is a really nice company which writes effective SEO-enabled content for websites and all sorts of other work besides.  Don’t be scared, call 01273 721 306 to find out more.


A New Sales Prevention System

Let’s start with a true story. Back in the day, a colleague of mine (no, not me) decided to send out  speculative letters to a list of about 100 potential customers.  He’d taken the time to sign each individually,  enclose a brochure and address each envelope by hand. What he didn’t do, however was check his spelling and grammar. Imagine, if you will, his embarrassment when one of the chosen 100 actually returned the letter with the grammar and spelling mistakes highlighted in red.  (Oh, how I laughed. Quietly.)

Us copywriters get a bit paranoid when it comes to the final submission of a piece of work.  The temptation is to check, check, sleep on it, check it again, tinker with it, go to the loo, worry, watch Loose Women and then just…re-write it and have a little re-read or two before sending it.

I guess our words are our bonds.

Everyone makes mistakes, even me and I’m perfect (ha ha ha ha ha hahahahaaa). What matters is being able to review what you’ve created with a critical eye and then make sure it’s in a tone or style that your audience will like. Don’t just bash out something and send it off as there will be mistakes therein, oh yes there will.  Edit. Re-word, eliminate duplications.  Turn it sideways, squint a bit and do that cat’s bum thing with your mouth.  Do this anyway, it makes you look clever.

All of this matters because…

If you want to promote your business on-line, you need to get it right.  Poor grammar and spelling = shoddy; shoddy = don’t care that much really; don’t care that much really = well, you’re getting the picture, I think.

Knowing about how words work helps us get our message across clearly and makes it that much more compelling.

NB: Search engines like clear, crisp spelling and grammar; they like relevant, original regularly updated content.  More on this soon.

Finally, may I draw your attention to this:

The first person to tell me why this is sooooo wrong wins first prize: a date with me;  the runner-up gets two nights out.

Sussex Copywriting Services prizes attention to detail above all else in life.  For more information, call 01273 721 306


My Top 10 Words of Marvellousness

Once, when I was a sharp suited corporate person, I had instructions from the office to drop the word “sausages” into a business related conversation at a client meeting in the City.  Nobody blinked when I compared a certain process to a string of the afore-mentioned meaty treats and another square was completed on the “bull**** bingo” card back at HQ. Fun with words, what larks.

Personally, I find the English language extremely expressive and fluid; words come in and out of use and most of us (OK not you, Stephen Fry) simply don’t use our language as well as we should, in my humble opinion.  Do you have favourite words? I bet you do.  These are mine:

10. Engage, as in taking an interest in and acting upon. A dynamic and somehow reassuring word.

9. Robust.  Love this – it rolls around the top of the mouth like one of those cherry drops from one’s childhood.

8. Tintinnabulation.  Wow, someone actually thought “Ah, the sound of ringing bells, there’s no word for that yet, is there?”

7. Petrichor, the smell of rain on dry earth.  Lovely.

6. Defenestrate, it means “to throw someone or something out of a window”.  Yep, that’s right.

5. Chatoyancy.  Mainly used in gemology, this fabulous word is from the French “chat” (cat) and “oeil” (eye), in other words, cat’s eye.  You’ll see chatoyancy in tiger’s eye when you move the stone backwards and forwards – it sort of shimmers and it’s very pretty indeed.

4. Moral Turpitude, as in the “have you ever been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude” question, to which you presumably have to answer “no” on your way over to the States on a plane or you get defenestrated.  OK, it’s two words, but they sure sound great together.

3. Onomatopoeia. Wow, what a word – something that suggests the sound of what it describes, for example “oink” or “meow”.  Also, and I bet you didn’t know this, it’s also sung as a refrain by Kid Creole’s backing band, The Coconuts on “Annie, I’m not your Daddy”.  Fact.

2. Mellifluous is probably an onomatopoeia. It means “sweet sounding” and I think I need to use it more often.

And finally, could there be a better word than…

1.Discombobulated, I mean, really – could there?  It took me quite a while to grasp the fact that this is a real word and not some made-up jobby, it means “a state of being confused or shocked”.

So…there you are.  Let me know if you’d like me to sneak any of these words into your web content, although it may create a robust discombobulation.

Susan Beckingham provides copywriting services for websites – engage with her and hear her mellifluous voice on 01273 721 306.


How It All Began…Welcome to Sussex Copywriting Services

Hello, gentle reader

Love love love this poem, it makes me smile.  It’s concise, meaningful, witty and clever.

Would you like to sin

With Elinor Glyn

On a tiger skin?

Or would you prefer

To err with her

On some other fur?

I’ve always been slightly obsessed with words. I’m one of those people who correct split infinitives and who get all hot and cross when confronted with apostrophe abuse.  Not unlike a lady tramp mumbling crossly at pigeons, I’m onto bad grammar, poor spelling and sloppy syntax like a fly on…sugar because, ladies and gentlemen, it really does matter.  And, if you want your website to be found, it matters a lot.

Back in the mists of time *cough* – the 1970s, OK the early 1970s – we had spelling tests every morning and mistakes had to corrected and written out a number of times otherwise you were beaten severely and sent up a chimney.  Nobody seemed too concerned about stifling our cree-ay-tiv-ity and somehow I managed to make it to Big School without trauma.

Ah, Big School, otherwise known as Prendergast Grammar School, whose motto “Trouthe and Honour, Freedom and Curteisye” came straight out of the Prologue of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and which is in Middle English just in case you’re about to email me. A delightfully old fashioned place, we had regulation school uniform which – much to my horror and shame – included a school hat. Picture the scene, each Friday morning when my sister and I walked to school not only wearing the ruddy thing (dark blue felt, with a jaunty trim) but each also carrying a hockey stick and a musical instrument. Oh God.  Anyway, sorry – where was I? Ah yes, ranting about education and spelling.

So, us Prendergastly girls were very lucky as our teachers were, for the most part, great.  Although I disengaged in maths lessons and still don’t like numbers very much, I loved English classes, even with our quite frankly bonkers teacher, Mr Jennings. I hated Latin (yes, we all had to learn it) but I’m now very grateful that I know the structure of verbs, what an adverb is, the  subject/object of a sentence and how to greet a Roman Centurion and tell him I love him.

Importantly, though (in my very humble opinion), every piece of homework we submitted, regardless of subject, had spelling error corrections in it on its return; rather than watch “The Tomorrow People” (which we did anyway), we had to write out the words correctly before giving in our next piece of homework.  By the way, did you guys cover your exercise books with wallpaper or was it just us?

Being able to go to university free of charge and being given a bit of money to do so was taken for granted back in the 1980s; a minority of young people were offered places though, so I do think I was really very lucky indeed. Goldsmiths College, where I gained by English degree gave me the chance to develop the following skills

  • The capacity (used all the time now) to transpose information from various sources into something usable and readable
  • Drinking

By the time I’d graduated, I’d read all of Shakespeare (yes, all of it – and not everything written by the Bard is great, by the way), everything by Thomas Hardy, Jonathan Swift, Chaucer, Dryden (borrrrriiiiing) and even the Fairie Queene (Spencer) in its original version and for the latter alone, I deserved a medal.

After all that studying, I still hadn’t had enough, oddly, so when the opportunity to take a post-graduate Diploma in Business French via the Paris Chamber of Commerce I took it. Ironically this too, was “good for me” as the main module I studied focused on translating back into my mother tongue.

So, there you are.  There’s lots more but I’m more interested in finding out about your fond memories of spelling tests and how much you enjoyed writing essays.  Let me know or better still, if you need a copywriter to help you create really good web content, give me a call on 01273 721 306.