Friday, September 29, 2006

buone parole

Billions of dollars are spent on advertising in this country. Advertising companies hire the very brightest, wittiest young people to write for them. Not one single sentence of it is worth repeating. Why? Because it wasn't meant. It was all written, not because the writer felt something and then said it (if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better, the more effectively), but because he tried to impress and inveigle people, convince them something is very fine about which he himself does not really care a button.

-- Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write 115-16 (2d ed. 1987).

This is one of the problems that I had with being a litigation attorney. But now that I read this I see that it's also a problem with my other dream career, writing advertisements and labels for toothpaste and shampoo bottles.

Bleah.

3 comments:

Emily the shorter said...

Hey! I got my marked papers from Oxford back!! It made my day, you?

In response to your post, does everything have to have passion behind it in order to be true? There was no passion behind my latest paper on John Milton, but I wrote it so I could graduate...I didn't write it for my own gratification or even pleasure.

mle said...

The marked papers were nice, but not enough markings. Did the Austen prof. mark a lot?

I don't think you need to have passion to have truth. But to spend your life/career in a field where you feel like you're just creating words and arguments that don't mean anything would be depressing.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question: would we rather get a half-page of commentary at the end of an essay which says essentially nothing, or a few lines of constructive criticism in the margins and a simple "clear, concise" at the end?
How much are do our professors resemble those advertising company writers in their attitudes?

I think that advertising is a lot less intrinsically evil than Ms. Ueland makes it out to be. You're still an artist, representing an idea to an audience. That's a fairly neutral place to start, isn't it?

It's only when the corporate hounds and test-marketing people readers tell you that you have to say something completely untrue about your product that things turn bad.

The solution, I suppose, is to start your own toothpaste company.