The Winston Churchill Guide To Copywriting

The Winston Churchill Guide to Copywriting

This is an excellent guest post by Rita Mailheau.

On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after Neville Chamberlain resigned. England had been at war with Germany since September 1939. The same day, the Nazis invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Rationing had begun. For a long year and a half, he led the United Kingdom and its allies as they stopped the Germans from overtaking the last free area of Europe. In December 1941, the Americans finally entered the conflict. Though the struggles were far from over, I’m sure he breathed a little easier. Churchill left office July 26, 1945, and was elected again in 1951, for another term.

Churchill was a brilliant statesman and rousing orator. He exhibited astounding inner strength during the uncertainty of the War. Many credit him with rallying the people and saving the country amidst fierce opposition both within and without.

One of his famous quotes, “we shall never surrender,” epitomizes his character.

When I was still a blushing ingénue, I had the pleasure of reading a biography about this notable hero. One of the many interesting facts I uncovered about Churchill was the collaborative role his secretary played in his success as a speaker.

It all boiled down to how a speech was laid out on the page. Thoughts were kept in sections with plenty of white space in between. One section progressed to the next in a visually uncluttered fashion. Reading these notes was effortless. White space was a tool that allowed his eye to travel freely across the page and his thoughts to stay focused upon delivery.

In Contrast

This morning I read a marvelous post about when to follow the rules in writing, and when not. I found the message inspired, but though the writing flowed from paragraph to paragraph, it did so without any subheadings and very little space in-between. Afterwards when I wanted to reread passages I found it difficult to navigate. Granted the writer of the blog was a novelist and not a copywriter, per se, but easy navigation is easy navigation.

There is a simple way to improve the readability of your posts— White Space.

Using White Space pushes your reader’s eye and thoughts through your article.

Less Is Definitely More

Less visual clutter is less distracting. More focus keeps the reader thinking about the message. Here are some ways to build white space:

  • Use bullets to simplify your ideas
  • Insert a second picture, good posts begin with one picture
  • Separate a single sentence to offset it from a paragraph
  • Keep paragraphs short

Brevity

In one of Churchill’s famous speeches, a graduation commencement at the elite boys school, Harrow, he said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

That speech almost shocks with its simplicity. Can’t you just imagine the nervous surprise of the professors, the parents, and the boys as Churchill returned to his seat after saying a mere twenty-nine words? Perhaps I oversimplify, but he’d certainly made an impact.

And, it’s interesting what was not said. No witty remembrances, no sermons on the evils of foolish friends—none of that—he spoke plainly.

Of course, he was an old man and had earned the right to speak pointedly. Coming from someone else, those words might’ve come across as nutty or even egotistical.

But the fact remains, Churchill could have said the same thing in many words, and he chose not to…that is the principle behind using white space.

Paring the message down, surrounding it with white space made the take away easy. Nobody left that assembly unclear of what Churchill thought was important. For a lesson worth handing off to the young, “never give in” wasn’t half bad.

How This Translates To The Small Business Owner

We live in an environment of information saturation. The amount of knowledge that rushes past our minds in a day is mighty in scale. So much is not necessary.

As bloggers, we must see ourselves as gleaners. We sift the wheat from the chaff. Our expertise saves our readers time. Our service is to point to the things of greatest importance. We silence the noise. White Space is a device that facilitates that simplicity.

I will close with another quote from Churchill that summarizes the point of this entire article—simplicity.

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

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