I’ve been following the news on the celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of publication of the King James Bible, says Andy Comber, PR Manager at matm, the marketing, graphic design, digital media and PR agency at Jackfield near Telford.
The KJV, as it’s called by biblical scholars, was the topic for a radio programme celebrating its far-reaching influence on the English language. An expert concluded: “The King James Bible reminds us that the very best literature is written to be spoken out loud.”
This version of the bible was written specifically to take the Word of God to the English-speaking masses – spoken from the pulpit. The language was designed to be clear and compelling.
That’s why we still “give up the ghost” and admire people who are “the salt of the earth” and don’t like having “words put in our mouths”. All are expressions first coined in the KJV.
It’s an interesting lesson, if you spare me the pun. When you check any copy you’ve written for publication, try reading it out loud. If it reads easily and sounds like it makes sense, you have half the battle won.
If you find yourself stopping and starting, losing the thread, stumbling over words or wondering what on earth you meant to say, you’ve probably committed one or more of 7 deadly sins of bad copywriting:
- Failing to structure what you write so it is easy to follow
- Writing sentences that are too long
- Writing sentences that attempt to make more than one point
- Writing sentences that are passive, rather than active
- Making random use of commas and full stops
- Using long and complicated words
- Or long and dull ones
The value of reading copy out loud was made clear to me while working for ITV Central News. Broadcast copy HAS to be read out loud. The best journalists were often the ones who appeared to spend their afternoons talking to a computer screen.
Try it for yourself. Who cares about the funny looks!