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What works better in copywriting: jargon or plain English?

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Years ago, I interviewed Burt Manning to gather information for a book I was writing on careers in advertising and other industries. In the course of our conversation, Mr. Manning, who at the time was vice chairman of the J. Walter Thompson Company, complained of the lack of basic writing skills in the young people who sought employment with his agency.

“We get people who have college degrees,” said Manning, “and they can’t write an English sentence.”

Functional illiteracy is nothing new, but among advertising people? I was skeptical until I turned on the television that evening and heard a commercial describing a new television series as “the most unique show of the season.” This seems a strange claim to make, since unique means, “one of a kind” and it is therefore impossible for anything to be the most unique. Or very unique, or quite unique, or somewhat unique, or even, as one advertising executive used the phrase modestly,...(register to read more)

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