context in copywriting

Syntax and Context in copywriting _ part2

In a previous post, we talked about “syntax” in copywriting. (In case you missed it, you can read it here)
For the rest of us, here’s a quick reminder… syntax basically refers to the order of the words we use in our communication.
Example: “the dog bit the boy” compared to “the boy bit the dog.” Same words… different order… very different meaning. (especially if you’re the boy, or the dog)

This time we’re going to continue with the topic of “context” in our copywriting.

Context simply means the situational concept that surrounds and encompasses the entirety of the message.
(wow, there’s a couple big words in that last sentence. So what do you say we simplify it, with an example of what we’re talking about. OK?)…


Just to keep it simple, we’ll use the same example of “The boy bit the dog.”
Depending on the context of that sentence, it can have very different meanings.

Say we’re at a pet store, (or animal shelter)…
“The boy bit the dog” kinda makes that little brat sound like an animal abuser.
But if the dog bit him first, and then “the boy bit the dog,” – our child was merely reacting to being attacked. (maybe not in the most appropriate way? But hey, he’s just a kid… so let’s cut him some slack)

Same words (same action)… slightly different context. In the first one, the kid is a jerk. In the second one, the kid was just defending himself.
See how that works?

Let’s try one more, just to emphasize the point. OK?

How about we go to the circus…
A dad buy his son a hotdog. (can you already see where this one’s going?)
Now, “the boy bit the dog” takes on an entirely different meaning.
And other than the fact that he just shoved mystery meat and nitrates, into his mouth… there’s really nothing abusive or vicious about the action.

That’s context folks… and it makes all the difference in the world, in how your written words are perceived!


So what does this mean for your copywriting?

Well, it simply means we need to set the scene in your readers mind, for what we’re about to say next…
It starts with calling out your target audience. And at the same time, pre-framing the context of our offer.

Now, this post is already getting a bit lengthy, so I’m just going to finish up here with a goofy example for you. (Hopefully it gets you thinking in the right direction, so you can think about the “context” when you’re writing anything)…

What do you think of when I say “lose the excess baggage?”
Answer: It all depends on the context!

If we’re talking about weight loss, it has one meaning.
If we’re talking about how much luggage to bring on a trip, it has a different meaning.
It also has a different meaning if we’re referring to taming unwanted emotions, from past experiences.
And it means something completely different, if we’re telling a friend to break up with their spouse.


I guess the main thing I’m trying to say about context in copywriting, is this…

Think about what you’re saying, and try to decide if it can be taken more than one way.
If it can… then make sure the overall concept of your message, pre-frames the context of your words, so they’re understood the way you intended them to be.

It sounds trickier than it is. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it’s really, pretty basic stuff.


Well, I gotta get back to work. So that’s it for this round.
Until next time,
Here’s to writing better copy… more often.

All the best,



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