When we talk about cadence, we talk about the flow or rhythm of a piece of writing. And it’s a difficult thing to measure, because cadence is more of a feeling than a specific device. Yes, it all sounds very wishy-washy at the moment, but here’s an example to illustrate what we mean.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
You can almost feel this passage going up, then down, then up, then down, rising and falling in tone as it goes along. It's written in that way in order to accentuate the contrasts between each pair of words.
When copywriting, we might want to employ a certain cadence to evoke a certain feeling in the reader. For example, using short, sharp, staccato-y sentences might imply simplicity and honesty. Using longer, more expansive sentences might be done to inspire and excite the reader - perhaps a luxury watch brand would do this, for instance.
In the extract above, we can see that Charles Dickens used cadence to emphasise the difference between contrasting pairs of words: best/worst, wisdom/foolishness, light/darkness. This is also an example of juxtaposition, which we'll come on to now.
Juxtaposition is the idea of putting contrasting ideas side-by-side - like we just saw in the extract from A Tale of Two Cities. You can use juxtaposition to emphasise certain things over others. Here are some more copy-based examples:
Say goodbye to super-slow dial-up. Say hello to super-fast broadband.
No more long wait times. Get help as soon as you need it via live chat.
We also outlined a cool example from the insurance company Lemonade in our guide to copywriting. In this example, they juxtapose the stereotypes of the insurance industry with their own approach to insurance - without actually listing those stereotypes. Very smart.
Instant everything. Great Prices. Big heart.
Anaphora, or just repetition, is the repetition of a word or phrase over the course of a piece of writing. In copywriting, you might repeat a key product feature, a brand tagline or simply a company name. When done well, and not clumsily, this can draw the reader’s attention towards certain things and make them remember the most important parts of your copy.
Good honest broadband from Yorkshire
Just do it
This is similar to repetition, but rather than repeating a word or phrase, isocolon is the repetition of phrases of similar length or structure. So something like:
Veni, vidi, vici
I know it. You know it. Everybody knows it.
Eye it. Try it. Buy it.
Like anaphora, this is an effective way of ramming home a message, but it goes beyond that. It also improves the overall cadence and coherence of your copy. It just reads well when you have repeating structures within your writing like this. It makes it easier for the reader to digest.
Repetition again! This time, alliteration is repeating a word that starts with the same letter.
Caverns, crooks and crags dotted the bare Scottish landscape.
The green grass of Greenland is a symbolic feature of this isolated island
Joe’s Broadband: it’s fast, it’s free, it’s fantastic
WORD OF WARNING! Just try not to use too many of these devices together - particularly all of these repeating elements. If you're constantly repeating letters, words and structures then it can soon start to feel forced and clumsy. A highly skilled poet or novelist might get away with it over the course of 70,000 words, but you’re definitely not going to manage it in your 100-word landing page.
Using imagery in your copy elevates it from run-of-the-mill writing to something that connects with people and makes them take notice. Painting a vivid picture of something is also the kinda thing that’s going to stick in someone’s head long after they’ve stopped reading it. So when you’re describing a product to your audience, be specific. Put an image in their head. Here are a few examples from the wider world of writing.
You know it balances on your head / Just like a mattress balances / On a bottle of wine
― Bob Dylan, ‘Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat’
Like a man leaning out his window trying to see something on his roof
― Writer George Plimpton describing Muhammad Ali employing his ‘rope-a-dope’ tactic against George Foreman
He laid down the carving-knife and fork,—being engaged in carving, at the moment,—put his two hands into his disturbed hair, and appeared to make an extraordinary effort to lift himself up by it. When he had done this, and had not lifted himself up at all, he quietly went on with what he was about.
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Yes, these examples are from all sorts of different places, but they have one thing in common: imagery. They all depict a very vivid, very clear image that stays in your head. That’s what makes writing memorable.
The best writing is the stuff that makes people feel something. And how better to do that than by literally speaking to their senses? When you’re writing copy, try evoking people’s senses: touch, feel, smell, sound. By doing this you’re bringing life to your copy and triggering an emotional response in people.
Mints so strong they come in a metal box.
― Altoids ad
There is something about very cold weather that gives one an enormous appetite. Most of us find ourselves beginning to crave rich steaming stews and hot apple pies and all kinds of delicious warming dishes; and because we are all a great deal luckier than we realize, we usually get what we want—or near enough.
― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
You might not use these devices in every bit of copy you write. But by being aware of them, and applying them to your work at the right time, you can elevate your writing to the next level and really make it stand out.