The UVic Writer's Guide


Paragraphs That Make Claims


This paragraph makes a claim and then provides a historical explanation for it:

The development of advertising styles was the convergence of several very respectable American traditions. One of these was the tradition of the "plain style," which the Puritans made so much of and which accounts for so much of the strength of the Puritan literature. The plain style was of course much influenced by the Bible and found its way into the rhetoric of American writers and speakers of great power like Abraham Lincoln. When advertising began to be self-conscious in the early years of this century, the pioneers urged copywriters not to be too clever, and especially not to be fancy. One of the pioneers of the advertising copywriters, John Powers, said, for example, –The commonplace is the proper level for writing in business; where the first virtue is plainness, •fine writingê is not only intellectual, it is offensive.” George P. Rowell, another advertising pioneer, said, –You must write your advertisement to catch damned fools ††not college professors.” He was a very tactful person. And he added, –and youêll catch just as many college professors as you will of any other sort.” In the 1920ês, when advertising was beginning to come into its own, Claude Hopkins, whose name is known to all in the trade, said, –Brilliant writing has no place in advertising. A unique style takes attention from the subject. Any apparent effort to sell creates corresponding resistance... One should be natural and simple. His language should not be conspicuous. In fishing for buyers, as in fishing for bass, one should not reveal the hook.” So there developed a characterisitic advertising style in which plainness, the phrase that anyone could understand, was a distinguishing mark.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 7, 1995