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How to Write a Review of a Classical Concert You Didn’t Attend

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 by Keven

Staying late at the office one Friday night, you take a casual look at the list of quarterly deliverables your boss is expecting from you.

  • Produce a new 500-page microsite. Check. (Thanks, Content Bureau!)
  • Update all marketing collateral with screen shots of a yet-to-be-built middleware platform. Check. (Thanks, summer intern!)
  • Write a 400-word review of the April 9, 1997 Wichita Symphony concert.

Uh-oh.

Don’t worry. You can still write that review and get your bonus. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Use Google to find out what the symphony played that night. No, seriously. Everything is on the Internet now.
  2. Begin your review with a one-sentence paragraph that makes an unexpected connection or asks a probing question. This will distract the reader from your total lack of subject knowledge by paradoxically establishing you as their intellectual superior.
    Example: “One wonders whether Music herself will soon tighten her belt in our profoundly sluggish economy – or whether she will continue to lavish her friends every Saturday evening.”
    Whatever that means.
  3. I’ll assume the concert program followed the standard order:
    1) Weird modern piece
    2) Well-known concerto
    3) Intermission
    4) Well-known symphony
    Tackle the modern piece first. It probably has a one-word title taken from a foreign language. Find out which language.
    If it’s the composer’s native language, point out that this makes sense, and toss in a few facts about his vibrant culture. If it’s not, mention how this is a result of the composer’s extensive travels and eclectic tastes (all contemporary composers are like that).
    There. That’s a paragraph.
  4. In the second paragraph, you’ll have to describe the modern piece itself. Write that it “evoked images” of something. Mention that some sections were “angular,” “rhythmic,” or “tersely dissonant,” while others, by contrast, were “lush” or “supple.” Compliment the symphony’s “deft” handling of the obvious technical challenges that the composer presented.
    Just avoid mentioning “oaky overtones”—that’s wine.
  5. On to the concerto. If the soloist was female and under 40, classify her appearance as “stylish” or “garish.” (Flip a coin.) Female and over 40? Stick with “elegant.”
    If the soloist was a male of any age, make no comment on his appearance. It will be less awkward for everyone.
  6. Mention how the soloist “maneuvered gracefully” through the faster passages, “made time stand still” during the slow movement, and “ended with a flourish.” Who’s gonna argue?
  7. There’s no need to write about the intermission, but if you do, don’t comment that there were Rice Krispies treats and orange drink for sale. That only happens at middle school band concerts.
  8. Now, the well-known symphony. This is the easy part. Just say the orchestra “brought new life to an old chestnut,” but that some of the conductor’s tempos “bordered on ambitious” at times. Perhaps throw in a kind remark about the principal bassoonist, who probably never gets any credit.
  9. For a closing anecdote, toss in something you allegedly overheard a middle-aged lady say in the parking lot—a comment that perfectly sums up the evening’s program. Technically, you’re not lying here. Middle-aged ladies who attend the symphony always talk excitedly on their way back to the car.

See how easy? It’s almost as if you had attended the concert. If your boss is a skimmer, she won’t suspect a thing. Even if she’s a classical aficionado, she’ll hardly raise an eyebrow.

But don’t try this with marketing copy. If your readers sense a formulaic setup and vague benefit statements, they won’t read on to the mushy ending. They’ll stick your brochure in a desk drawer—allegro molto—and move on to a competitor that’s singing a different tune.

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Writing Titles That Hook the Reader

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by Kate

Those first six or seven words on the cover can be the hardest part of writing! To make sure readers keep reading, we need snappy, ultra-compelling titles and sub-headlines that are also relevant, informative, and comply with corporate branding guidelines. Stuck in a rut? Here are some tips for getting out. . .

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How to Write a Great Letter to Santa

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Lisa Z.

Crafting a compelling direct appeal letter is all about timing, tone, and attention to detail. Take your basic Letter to Santa. Sure, you could crank it out on mom’s PC to show St. Nick how clever you are (and, therefore, worthy of his attention) by: Ramping your wish list up visually with your fave font, […]

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Death of a (pharma) salesperson?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 by Client Jeff Gaus, Prolifiq

Custom marketing materials make it easier for physicians to educate their patients about the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved uses and benefits of the drugs they prescribe. However, some physicians believe that those who distribute these materials—the pharma reps—provide little value beyond giving out free samples, branded “swag,” and educational materials. In fact, their efforts […]

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The Very Best Style Guide Reference Books

Monday, November 16th, 2009 by Chris

If you’ve read the fabulous Grammar Queen’s post on creating a corporate style guide (and if you haven’t read it, do so right now), you know you must make some decisions about how your organization crosses the t’s and dots the i’s. However, you can’t possibly list every grammar or style rule in your own […]

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How Do I Create a Corporate Style Guide?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Lisa S.

Your Highness: I work in marketing at a midsized technology firm. My boss tells me we need a style guide. Yesterday. And I’m just the person to produce it. While I do some writing as part of my job, and I can put commas where they belong—OK, most of the time—I’m not a writer or […]

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A Passion for Prolixity

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 by Alicia

Copywriters value clarity and concision. Short, pithy, unambiguous—that’s the way we like our verbiage. We count words and lop clauses. On our own time, though, maybe curled up in our favorite cozy chair with a nice steamy cup of tea and the latest issue of Puffball Gazetteer, or maybe catching up on email (even though […]

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How to Write a Great Customer Quote

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Lauren

At their best, customer case studies provide compelling proof points that support your message. And at their worst, they read like messaging documents sprinkled with stilted quotes. Yawn. So how can you make sure your customer case studies compel—not repel—readers? With persuasive quotes from actual customers. I’ve been writing case studies with Content Bureau for […]

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Stacy

Friends, It’s time for a little spooky fun. What do we love to read during Halloween week, but is too scary for the kidlets? The Legend of Sleepy Hollow If, like me, you’re on the West Coast but missing a NY fall, page 12 is a must-read. If you must jump straight to the chase, […]

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Is My Writing Too Passive?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 by Lisa S.

Your Highness: This letter is being written because I’ve been told that there is a problem with my writing. Specifically, a problem with the passive voice. But understanding this is difficult. I mean, my job is in marketing. I’m supposed to be good with words. And language has always come easily to me—out-of-the-box thinking is […]

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