Updated: Dec 18, 2021
As a copywriter, I think it's a shame that sometimes a focus on SEO, algorithms and technical strategy can remove shine, playfulness and creativity from the process of writing. In this five minute read, I explore the difference between glitter and sparkle in relation to copy and content writing for coaches, therapists and anyone working in a heart-centred or purpose-led industry.
Where illumination begins
I've been copywriting for years and when a client is talking about a brief there is one word that comes up time and again for me: glitter.
I think it can mean a variety of things:
To scatter eye-catching breadcrumbs to lead the reader to the call to action.
To uplift a blog from a factually brilliant piece into something even brighter by adding intuition, connection and elements of storytelling.
To add enticing adjectives in order to encourage the reader to go one paragraph, one sentence, one word further.
To add the essence of my client so that they build the know, like and trust in their clients, something that is paramount in the coaching and wellness industry.
To make sure every touchpoint is consistent, story-building and occasionally dazzling.
To transition the reader into someone ready to invest their time, energy and money in what my client does best (I'm not keen on the word conversion).
What some people think it is:
A cheap quick fix.
I asked a few copywriter buddies in a Facebook forum about what they thought about glitter.
One replied that she often comes across clients who want all the intuitive words but don’t want to spend time on branding because they don’t see the need for it.
Another commented that writing that doesn’t have this kind of background will miss the mark – it's setting out to fail.
From my own experience, I have come across business owners who don’t understand the nature of what I do – and that’s OK. We spend a little time talking and it doesn’t take very long for them to grasp that sound branding underpins solid messaging. In turn, solid messaging underpins great copy and content.
So I got to thinking: what are clients asking me for when they ask for glitter and could it be that they’re instead asking for sparkle, which is entirely different.
Let me explain.
The nature of glitter
I have two children of my own and I worked in childcare for years. Believe me, I know all about glitter – especially towards the end of the year. Starting with bonfire and Divali pictures in autumn through to making small cardboard cut-out trees, decorations and cards to give to family, I’d sigh a relief when I could sweep up the iridescent mess for the last time. Glitter gets everywhere. It’s pretty but it gets everywhere.
Child-friendly paper glue is tacky at best, so after a short while, the glitter falls away and your angel’s wings return to their tissue paper state, ready to be popped in the box and treasured every year regardless of their now bald status.
It’s safe to say, then, that glitter is transient. Beautiful but fleeting. Often annoying.
In my mind, sparkle has a different makeup.
I have a client who is a parenting coach and a very beautiful human. She writes inspiring stories and poems and then I add what she calls glitter to finish them off. Only it’s more than that. We’ve spent time together, talking over her ideas. We’ve engaged in the back and forth of margin notes, editing and shaping her text. The result has been piece after piece of writing that is 100% her but enhanced by me. We’re a team.
That’s a vibe I can align with.
The nature of sparkle
Look up at the stars on a clear night and you’ll know exactly what I'm talking about.
I remember one such evening on a writers’ retreat in rural Dordogne. It looked like someone had laid a pinpricked layer of black velvet over the field where we were standing, enjoying the last prosecco before bed. It was stunning and it taught me that sparkle is:
Depth – the light from those stars has travelled lightyears to reach us.
Time – it’s not something that has been shaken onto a page, it’s time-defying.
Energetically connected – we pick up the bright radiation whether we’re aware of it or not.
And it is these things that sit at the heart of good writing.
Depth means getting to the heart of what you do and why you do it. What are your values? What are your mission and vision? What difference do you want to see in the world and how will you be part of it?
Time means there’s nothing quick-fix about this process. Adding a clever word here and there isn’t enough.
Energy is closely linked to authenticity. My dissertation supervisor at university once told me that the difference between awarding a First and a Second grade was not the regurgitation of someone else’s ideas but new and interesting links between them. So find a subject that interests you but don’t rely on another writer’s rhetoric or fall back on cliche. Write from the heart if you really want your work to shine.
And I don’t believe that there is any room for elitism here. I have long been surrounded by people with the gift of dyslexia: clients, close family, friends and ex-partners. I also write for clients whose first language is not English. Some of the most breathtaking, daring and remarkable ideas I’ve ever come across have dropped out of minds better adapted to access the abstract, unimpeded by our modern obsession with logo-centrism (the notion that our reality is expressed only in language).
Practical tips for adding sparkle
Try these simple hacks to put a little oomph back into your writing:
Have a thesaurus.com window open on your screen whenever you write. There’s also nothing like picking up a real paper thesaurus - I think the tactile act of leafing through the pages fires up alternative neurological routes across the brain.
Mindmap your writing using different colours, arrows, doodles and side notes before you open your laptop.
Read things that interest you and then journal your reaction – I cannot tell you how many unique and intriguing ideas this process will kick up.
Take time – sometimes inspiration strikes and a most marvellous blog post will seemingly drop out of nowhere but at other times, you’ll need to be more methodical with planning, construction and fleshing it out. And that’s OK.
Get a grip on your messaging. Your ideas are beautiful, unique gems so make sure you showcase them effectively, using your story as a backdrop.
Think, experience, feel – you’ll be shocked what these things can shake loose:
Get out in nature
Talk to a colleague
Do a few chores
Watch a few inspiring video shorts
Listen to a podcast or music
Glitter is a quick fix and is transient.
Sparkle involves time and depth but it’s 100% worth it.
Experience stuff and your writing will be more interesting, authentic and more likely to connect with your audience.
I'm Amanda Fearn and I'm a copywriter with a background in corporate writing but these days I write for coaches, therapists and other like-minded, heart-centred entrepreneurs. I coach them to write for themselves too.
Book a free chat if you'd like to mull over the benefits of sweeping away fear in favour of attraction in marketing or send a gift voucher to share a little love (and a little light) to a well-loved business buddy.