Okay, I have a confession…
I’m really, really into Netflix’s lineup of telenovelas. A telenovela — if you haven’t had the privilege — is often described as a Spanish soap opera.
But unlike the telenovelas of years past — which have some problematic themes in them — these are modern comedy-dramas.
And my favorite, by FAR is Casa de Flores (House of Flowers).
I could go on and on and on about this show. But instead, I’ll tell you about my favorite character: Paulina de la Mora.
Paulina is the eldest, straight-laced sibling of the de la Mora familia. And she speaks in a very peculiar way, e-nun-ci-a-ting eve-ry syllable. Her incredible acting and this unusual speech pattern have earned the character a fan following, even sparking a #PaulinadelaMoraChallenge, where people record themselves speaking like Paulina.
But you know what I really love about Paulina?
Her distinct and slower way of speaking means I can understand every … single … thing she says!
See, I watch these shows in their original Spanish. And while my Spanish comprehension is good, sometimes tv or movie characters speak really quickly or their voice trails off. And I have to backtrack and listen again.
But with Paulina? I feel like patting myself on the back for my amazing listening comprehension skills.
Paulina’s unusual way of speaking is crystal clear to me.
Which… and here’s the copy lesson… is exactly how you should be writing copy: In a way that’s crystal clear to the reader.
Now, maybe you’ve heard this before, or maybe it seems obvious. And yet, in the copy I chief, I see this mistake a lot. (And I’m chiefing some talented writers, so this isn’t just a case of newb mistakes.) I come across bullets that are trying to be so “cute” or clever with naming conventions, that they don’t actually make sense.
Or copy so full of hypey words that I have no idea what it’s about. Something like: “How to attain the transformation you want and get more freedom and revenue, too.”
No one talks that way, and what does it even mean?
Now, of course the problem is that a writer doesn’t always realize they’re doing this. So what can you do to catch it?
Well, here are my three favorite “self-checks” for this sort of thing:
- Is this how you would talk to a friend?
- Can you picture it in your mind?
- Find 3 people willing to be honest with you. Ask them to read your copy, and see if it makes sense to them.
If it passes all three tests, then congrats! You’re officially a Paulina de la Mora in the copywriting world! (No one will know what that means, but you and I will know. And that’s what matters.)
So try that out, and let me know how it goes. And in the meantime, I can’t end this without sharing my favorite Paulina scene. (Spoiler alert.)
So I’ve gotta set this up for you. This clip is from the first episode. There’s a big party thrown by Virginia and Ernesto de la Mora (Paulina’s parents). And during this party, a woman hangs herself in the flower shop. As it turns out, this woman was Ernesto’s mistress. All of this comes to light at the party, which the family quickly ends to send everyone home, saying Virginia is feeling sick as a cover.
With the guests gone, the family convenes in the living room, coming to grips with what’s happened. Just then, a young girl comes in, calling Ernesto her “papá.” Yep, Ernesto and his mistress also had a daughter together. Directly behind her, a mariachi band bursts in. They were hired to play for the now-cancelled party.
Paulina looks in horror and says, “¡Ol-vi-dé can-ce-lar el ma-ri-a-chi!” (I forgot to cancel the mariachi!)
Which is now one of my favorite things to say in Spanish. And in Paulina’s voice, por supuesto.