If You Want to Write Great Copy, Read Bukowski

If You Want to Write Great Copy, Read Bukowski

I'm not a voracious reader by any means. But I was last month. I read eight books. Eight. And they were all by Charles Bukowski.

I've never inhaled an author that fast. Like a man possessed I read Post Office, his first book, in one sitting. It was the easiest, most enjoyable read of my life. I liked it better than Hemingway. Better than Vonnegut, even.

I liked that Bukowski (on top of being very funny) wrote simply, with small words and short, crisp sentences. By using (notice: "using," not "employing," but "using") natural language, he ensured that millions of people could connect with his work.

Bukowski wrote for the drunk next to him at the bar. He wrote for the prostitutes he slept with. He wrote for the degenerate sitting next to him at the horse track. He wrote for his colleagues at the post office. Because if they could understand his work -- if they could internalize his message -- it meant the masses could, too.

Yaaaaaa, Bukowski had all the qualities of a great copywriter. He could've been excellent at the job:

He knew his audience.

He wrote clear, concise and compelling sentences.

He left out the parts that people skip.

Bukowski gives readers all the information they need to be gripped and entertained and, at the same time, he makes sure they receive a message. That's what great copy is all about.

Before publishing his first novel (in the second half of his life), Buk wrote a lot of poetry: tens of thousands of stanzas. All that poetry practice trained him to make every word count, a skill he carried into his prose writing. Reading his work helped me become more aware of my own word choice and, in the end, I think it has helped me write better copy. Pick up something by Bukowski -- anything at all -- and it might just help you too, my friend.