Thursday, April 21, 2011

Short History of a Descriptive Paragraph

While working with one of my current clients, Fran, yoga-pilates studio owner, many small writing projects have popped up, mainly concerning local marketing and increasing online visibility. One such project recently included the need for a business listing for a local directory. Fran asked me to edit or rework the sample paragraph she had put together, so I was happy to oblige.

Below, under "Original Paragraph," is the sample text Fran had written. While there wasn't anything particularly wrong with it, it didn't really say anything either. Fran used many general words and large concepts, that weren't particularly effective for what readers might want in a directory or listing type of communication.  While I liked the emotional angle and sense of history the paragraph suggests, I didn't feel these were that important to the reader for this type of publication - a descriptive listing. However, for a brochure or a flyer, this type of language would probably work nicely.

The edited paragraph shows how I revised it. I thought it was most important to highlight how the studio was different from the others, by emphasizing the "boutique" and personalized attention angle, which is absolutely true. I also added specifics about the types of classes offered, what students say about the studio, the fees and how payments are packaged, and a bit about the physical space. These are all concrete details readers and perspective buyers will want to know.

Original Paragraph
This history of this studio is rich and full.  The past 30 years have brought happiness and discovery to those who have walked through its doors.  Menlo Pilates &Yog a is carrying on this tradition of enriching people's lives.  The classes offered create vitality, diversity, creativity, longevity, compassion, variability, functionality, activity and health.  Its purpose is to create active bodies and healthy lifestyles.

Rewritten Paragraph
Menlo Pilates and Yoga is a boutique fitness studio located in the heart of downtown Menlo Park, and offers a restful sanctuary in the Silicon Valley high-tech world. Owned by fitness and Pilates expert Fran Philip, the studio offers unique one-on-one Pilates instruction, as well as group classes. Other class offerings by certified and experienced instructors include vinyasa yoga,  and the popular Zumba dance, a freestyle dance technique where participants can burn as many as 800 calories an hour. Classes  are offered on a per class, drop- in rate, with specials for 5-class, 10-class, and monthly rates. New visitors can try their second class free, with coupon. Check the website,, for class schedules and current promotions. Students love the warm and inviting atmosphere at the studio, as well as the personal attention they receive during class, which can be hard to find in a larger gym or fitness center. Facilities include renovated hardwood floors, lockers and changing room, fully equipped Pilates room, and yoga mats and blankets at no extra charge.

Writing Takeaway:
  • Good descriptive copywriting includes as many concrete and specific details as possible. Keep the readers in mind and what they need to know, so you can objectify the information. 
  • Your business offers: products, classes, tips, events -- what kind? which ones? How do they get more information? You have a physical or online space...describe it.  Don't just say your business accomplishes this or that, connect the dots and explain how in a succinct way. If your readers end up having more questions then answers, you haven't done your job as a writer.  
  • Don't forget that writing using concrete detail goes a long way in sales and promotional copy, too. Think of the difference between saying, "our company helps customers save money," vs: "our company helped over 500 customers save nearly $500,000 last year."
Any questions? Comments? The more specific, the better!

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