Stew on this!

August 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Posted in copywriting | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Which side are you on?

Which side are you on?

I was once asked to settle a family debate.

She said you stew apples to create the dish Stewed apple.

He said you stew apples to create … stewed apples.

This is what I said:

I’m honoured you’ve consulted me.

In most cases, Stewed apple would be seen as generic.

In literal terms, very few would stew just one apple.

Stewed apples, however, lays it out explicitly. There’s definitely more than one apple involved.

If you stew multiple apples but refer to the result in the singular, some readers may pause to consider a possible disconnect.

This is dangerous, as they’ll be distracted from your message.

If you use multiple apples and say stewed apples, there’s no conflict and therefore no distraction.

If, however, for some reason, you stew just one apple, stewed apple is bang on the money.

Lastly, we have the dish: Stewed apple.

Bing returns just 88,200 hits for this term.

Stewed apples, however, has 120,000 hits.

A huge difference if you want people to find your website and buy your stuff.

So, by any measure (except the stewing of a sole apple) I’d recommend stewed apples.

In other words,

for the purpose of this debate,

you’re stewed!

She ignored me.

But it was fun.

If you liked it too, perhaps you should be a copywriter!


Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by sid.


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  1. Thanks for your entertaining post, Sir Paul.

    It’s probably only the word-nerds who even notice – or care – about the finer points of our written language.
    However, as you rightly point out, when our words affect our business, we need to be clear, precise (and may I say sharp) so that our readers don’t miss our message.


    • Hi, Desolie! I get such a boost when I see your smiling face, as I know I must be on the right tram to catch your eye. Yes, this is as nitty and gritty as it gets. But there’s a big difference between ‘Let’s eat Grandma!’ and ‘Let’s eat, Grandma.’ As you know better than most. Thank you for gracing. It got my heart racing. Kind regards, P. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Desolie: thoughts about editing, writing and words and commented:
    A post by well-respected copywriter, Paul Hassing, hits the target with this post about the importance of words for business writers.

    Enjoy Paul’s unique style and check out more of his posts at

    • Being reblogged is so ace. Thank you, D! 🙂

  3. Fascinating and informative as ever, PCT! Yet I’m with her. Because I think there’s more to the generic/specific distinction that you’re giving credit. The dish, stewed apple, carries with it a sense of being more than the sum of the individual stewed apples. Literally, you’re correct – stew apples to get stewed apples. But I might wish to carry the sense, in writing and cooking, of more flavour (to use an apt word). If I’m having guests over, I might braise steaks to create the delicious, delectable house delicacy: braised steak. Not merely a collection of braised steaks, but a manifestation of the art of braised steak.

    What time is dinner?

    • Damn your keen contextual eyes, Ad! You’ve added weight to her argument. But will it tip the scales? Great food for thought. In return, can I tempt you with a plate of fish finger, a bowl of cornflake, or some satay stick? With kind regards and many thanks for your welcome return to the debeating table, P. 🙂

  4. Indeed you can, though not all at one sitting. But the crumbed cod, rolled corn and meat satay sound delicious by any other name …

    • Your cod packs a wallop, though I’m unrolled by your corn. We may knead to meat in the middle on this ones.

      • I can’t compete. How about a tangent instead: One would think grafting the fingers back onto the fish (who after all have none to begin with) would be a niche opportunity for a creative medic. Dare I say … the sturgeon will see you in a moment …

        • I think you just won that round in one hit. Ow about un menu d’offense? Rack-off lamb. Cheese bugger. Spit peas. Gravey boot. White whine. Rat ‘n’ Tooheys. Bumbe surprise … I think I just lost my appetite.

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