script writing

Languishing over language: how to improve your copywriting

In a fascinating interview with National Public Radio in America, UCLA professor Keith Chen spoke about how language can affect the way one thinks. Specifically he mentioned how different languages impact the way in which certain cultures view and save money.

In Mandarin for example, one does not say “tomorrow it will rain”, but rather “tomorrow it rain.” According to Professor Chen, this equalisation of the future and present impacts their worldview. In this way, Mandarin-speakers view saving money for the future in the same mindset with which they view having money in the present. This leads to an observable increase in their monetary savings.

Writing languate we got

In English we’re stuck with a ‘present progressive’, meaning that in order to speak about an event in the future we have to use an ‘obligatory form’. If that makes as little sense to you as it does to me, put it this way:

Today it is raining.
Yesterday it rained.
Tomorrow it…

There’s no future tense for rain. The only way to say it is: “tomorrow it will rain.”
The theory dictates that this characteristic of the English language means we’re predisposed not to put the future and the present on equal footing, but rather to view the future as a vague, incomprehensible eventuality sometime down the road. Thus, English -speakers tend to save less.

Language can literally shape the way we think.

Bad language past present future

The Internet can be an unforgiving place.

As a copywriter at Messages On Hold, my primary goal is to craft messages that shape callers’ thoughts about a company, product or idea. So how do we use language subtly yet effectively in our on hold messages? Allow me to show you.

Take for instance this sentence:
Did you know that when customers sign up with Tim’s Mowing they experience our great commitment to customer service by getting access to discounts on our full range of services!

The sentence is long-winded, bulky and the focus is on the seller, not the customer. If a caller is on hold hearing this message, not only will the sentence not sink in, but it doesn’t even leave the caller with an understanding of what Tim’s Mowing offers them!

Better writing through comedy buzzword
Let’s remove the excess details, drop the generic opening, turn the focus from the seller’s features to the buyer’s benefits and craft a clear message.

How’s this?
Sign up with Tim’s Mowing for all your professional landscaping and garden services  at discounted prices.

There’s no fancy language only a professional copywriter could come up with. There’s no brilliant eloquence to rival Shakespeare, Dickens or Austen. However, the sentence is succinct, unambiguous and focuses on how the listener/reader benefits.

We’ve ditched the words “can”, “commitment” and “when”. Those are all words that just fluff up and obscure what the client wants to hear. No one cares what you can do; they want to know what you will do.

The second example lays it all out effectively; you have landscaping requirements, they will provide a solution and this is how to engage with that service.

Eat your words, writing and choice of language
The specific language you use (or don’t use) will affect the way in which a caller might receive and absorb the information. In fact, at Messages On Hold we have a list of phrases we avoid at all costs.

Your messages need to orient the caller so they immediately understand what they stand to gain by engaging with your services. When it comes to improving your writing, it’s all about the specific language you use. Keep it simple, keep it focused and keep it targeted.

Tomorrow, we will write better.

From Behind The Camera

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create a fantastic-looking and effective internet video like the ones on our homepage? We write, film and produce the entire thing ourselves – and you can too! A lot of businesses, ourselves included, are turning to new media such as internet videos to build brand equity and drive sales. We’re almost finished producing our latest video and this article looks at the process we’ve gone through to bring it to fruition.

The starting point is obviously a script. This took us a few weeks of writing and editing. Once we were happy with it, the next logical step was to storyboard it out then have a dry run to get an idea of flow and duration. It’s at this stage any dialogue flaws were ironed out and prop ideas came to light. It may sound pretty straight forward, but to get an accurate idea of how filming would run the following day we needed to set up the ‘set’ as if we were filming ‘for real’.

We located our set in the conference centre of our office as we could control the amount of natural light that flowed in. The set itself comprised a large green screen drop sheet, which was pegged to two poles.


It was important that the screen was taught enough to have no wrinkles which would create shadows (and chaos for editing in post production) yet loose enough to have a gentle curve to the floor. This required a healthy serving of Gaffer tape.

There’s so much more to lighting a set than just flicking a switch. You need the right kind of lights and the know-how to arrange them as to give the best effect. Trust us, investing in some good quality lights & diffusers makes all the difference. The lights serve two purposes: to illuminate the subject and to eliminate shadows. This was the most time consuming part of the set up.


Once the green screen and lights were set up, and our dry run complete, we were now ready for filming. The following day, our camera man & edit master arrived and set up the camera and autocue. (For those of you with iPads, check out this neat gadget which makes flawless speeches possible.) Kym arrived – sans Hollywood entourage – we got him in position and were ready to roll.

Action… sort of.
Now, I won’t go into detail about the filming process because our crew worked through from 7am until 2:30pm to film the entire thing! That’s approximately 7 hours to film what will in the end be a 2 minute video. A few things we learned during filming were:
• An autocue makes a world of difference, especially with long monologues
• Lights get extremely hot (Cheers Kym for being a sport about being roasted alive)
• A good storyboard streamlines the filming process by a good 2 hours
• Keeping a clipboard with notes as to which takes were best saves time searching in post production.

That’s a wrap folks! The video is about halfway through post production now and it’s looking fantastic. We can’t wait to show it to you, so keep an eye on our website over the coming weeks.

You Ask – We Tell!

An important part of my role as Head Copywriter is offering new clients helpful suggestions for maximising the effectiveness of their On Hold audio productions. We’re firm believers that the creative process isn’t complete until the client and copywriter have spoken, so every client who comes on board gets a call from the real, actual person who will be writing their script.

It’s better customer service and firmly establishes in the client’s mind we’re the experts and here to help.

Here are the three most common questions new clients ask us.

New Client: What happens next?
Copywriter: After this phone call I’ll draft your first On Hold script. Your creative coordinator will then send it to you to review. This is your opportunity to ensure the content I’ve written is accurate and you’re happy with the direction and tone we agreed to take. Send it back to your creative coordinator with your approval and he/she will pass the script to our studio team who will record and mix the production for uploading on your playback hardware.

NC: How long will it take?
CW: Our turnaround time on all scripts is one business day. Once we receive approval, your production will be playing on hold within two business days.

NC: Our receptionist just won a bake off? Can we talk about that and our history/commitment to customer service?
CW: All these things are nice and can be a good way to build rapport, but you only have a few precious moments during each wait to get your point across to callers. That’s why I recommend using your on hold messages to help prospective customers make an informed purchase decision. Save the other stuff for your website or newsletter when potential customers have the luxury of time and let’s focus on promoting your products and services on hold.

Of course, any time you’d like our assistance with the direction of your script or help fleshing out potential message topics, let your creative coordinator know and he or she will arrange a time for us to speak.

Until then, happy scripting!

– Lachy Banton