If someone calls a product ‘beautiful’ or ‘stunning’ on Ebay, you’re more likely to react than if the seller remains strictly factual. It’s human nature, and it means descriptive skills are an important attribute for a freelance writer.
It helps when your content creation partner uses words to make your products or services absolutely irresistible.
Here’s a short description of the South Downs, to show I can wax adequately lyrical!
About the South Downs – Waxing lyrical
The South Downs is a long, bony chalk escarpment whose green spine stretches seventy miles from Hampshire’s Itchen Valley to Eastbourne in Sussex.
The rolling hills and rounded valleys are carved from thick, creamy chalk deposited sixty million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, in a warm, shallow tropical sea covering most of north west Europe. Today four rivers – the Arun, Adur, Ouse and Cuckmere – split the escarpment north to south, creating wide, flat, marshy valleys before flowing into the sea.
Now rising as high as 890 feet above sea level, the Downs are a popular playground for lovers of the great outdoors, including cyclists, hikers, birdwatchers, kite fliers and hang gliders.
A Stone Age motorway
Our ancestors used the Downs as a motorway, traversing the south coast high above the dense forests with the sparkling sea always safely in view. The hills are scattered with ancient forts, gathering places and burial mounds, including Whitehawk Hill, Cissbury Ring and Chanctonbury Ring.
An unspoiled ancient landscape
The ridge of the escarpment is flat, bare, often bleak. For countless centuries hardy sheep have grazed the thin, well-drained chalk soil. Add thousands of generations of rabbits and you get a uniquely fine, short, springy turf called old chalk grassland, a delight to walk on.
The ozone-tangy air is alive with soaring skylark song and the high keening of buzzards, kites and kestrels. The prevailing westerlies can be fierce, roaring off the sea to blow even the shortest grass flat before moving inland to pattern the manicured fields of the Sussex plain far below. But on a calm day the sun blazes down, you can hear the bees humming and see as far as the Isle of Wight to the west, the misty end of the escarpment to the east.
Getting up close and intimate
Examine a square metre of turf close up and you’ll see tiny downland plants. Wildflowers, miniature blooms and seed heads, mosses and lichens, all evolved over millennia to grow small and low, sheltered from the cutting gales.
Find a sheltered spot, get close to the ground and drink in the aromas: sun-warmed grass, delicate soil, the flat smell of freshly-broken chalk fragments, damp moss. Stand up and face the sea: salt, samphire, sheep droppings, the occasional warm waft of cow byre and crops.
Chalk blue butterflies flicker above the flowery turf. The loose, watery calls of sheep accompany the birdsong and soughing wind. And herds of mild cows push, gently murmuring, around the edges of shallow dewponds. All set against a big, big sky.
Dizzying cliffs as you go east
Heading along the coast towards Eastbourne, the rolling hills are suddenly cut off. Steep grassy inclines and declines run perpendicular to the coast, bordered to the south by blinding white slices of chalk cliff, thrillingly high with arching sea views.
Salt tolerant, ground-hugging sea pinks, delicate grasses and scent-laden violets smother the ground and screaming gulls wheel high in the air.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the picture.
Create great content with features and benefits
People need to know what your product or service does, how, where, when and why. These are its features, and they’re vital whatever the circumstances. But people respond even better to the benefits: “What’s in it for me?”, and this is where waxing lyrical comes in.
Sometimes it needs to be subtle, other times less so. It depends on the business I’m writing for and the project’s purpose.
I might have just given you a load of facts about the South Downs and left it at that. But the facts are only half the battle. Instead I sprinkled some facts into a highly descriptive narrative to give readers a real flavour for the Downs and what it feels like up there. With a suitable top and tail it would make a nice blog post for a local B&B or tourist attraction site, or even an introduction to a walker’s guide.
You can also separate the features from the benefits altogether. For example I could have written a bullet list of facts about the South Downs for the top of the piece, followed by an emotion-led description. The trick is this: however you decide to do it, you need to cover the best of both worlds.
Need help? Just ask. I’d love to describe your products or services so eloquently people simply can’t resist!