Football commentators can teach us a thing or two about copywriting

"… and you join us in the final minutes of the F.A. Cup Final, with the score at 0-0, as Northampton Town's Sam Hoskins cuts in from the right. The Liverpool defenders back off, but the Premier League's leading scorer curls an unstoppable shot into the top right-hand corner to win the match!"

Making use of the 'second mention' 

OK – I'm living in fantasy land. This football scenario will never happen … but give me a break. It's fun to fantasize once in a while.

There's more than one error in that fictitious commentary clip. Firstly, legendary football commentator John Motson is no longer with us.
Second, the chances of the mighty Cobblers reaching the final of the F.A. Cup lie somewhere between remote and fantastical.
Thirdly, Cobblers legend Sam Hoskins is a wonderful player ... but Premier League standard? Not quite.

No matter.

 

Keeping your copy buzzing

The point of the clip is to illustrate a technique used by commentators across the sporting world. It's called 'second mentions'. Commentators, journalists and the world's finest copywriters use them to keep their copy alive and buzzing – to avoid sounding boring. Let's look at the passage of commentary again -

"… and you join us in the final minutes of the F.A. Cup Final, with the score at 0-0, as Northampton Town's Sam Hoskins cuts in from the right. The Liverpool defenders back off, but the Premier League's leading scorer curls an unstoppable shot into the top right-hand corner to win the match!"

On the first occasion, the commentator refers to the Northampton Town player as 'Sam Hoskins'. Seconds later, when he needs to reference him again, he says, 'the Premier League's leading scorer'. The reference point is the same, but the words are different. They have to be. Otherwise, the commentary would sound repetitively wooden.

 

Keeping our copy alive and kicking

It's the same with our own writing. We must take care not to use the same word or phrase in close proximity to an earlier mention. Here's an example -

"I made my way to the store to buy a new computer. After a minute or two's browsing in the store, I spotted a new computer that I liked. I decided to buy the computer."

See what I mean? So dry.

The words "computer" and "store" are each repeated - killing the tone.

How about this instead?

"I went shopping for a new computer. After a minute or two's browsing, I spotted the perfect model and made my purchase."

OK – not the most riveting piece of copywriting, but do you see how the second version flows better than the first?
One of the best ways to ensure you don't fall into the trap of writing repetitively is to read your text aloud.
Then, you'll pick up the tone and soon find out whether you need to make use of football's 'second mention' -
a great way to keep your copy alive and kicking.

 

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Feb 9, 2024
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