The Poetry of Prose

The composition of good copy goes beyond SEO and information. Effective copy requires rhetorical devices such as rhythm, meter, and phonics. Sentence structure must be juggled until the words flow freely … until stressed and unstressed syllables play the right tune … until punctuation has whittled the message into shape.

The music of poetry

I never fell in love with poetry; it’s just not my cup of tea. The only poems I really enjoy are the ones with strict meter and perfect rhyme – poems that could be easily set to music. In fact, during a difficult year in my daughter’s childhood, when I resorted to educating her at home, we both had a lot of fun working out a time signature for TS Eliot’s poem, Macavity: The Mystery Cat.

Together, we tapped out the rhythm, identifying stressed and unstressed syllables; ‘crotchets’, ‘quavers’, and ‘semi-quavers’; tied ‘notes’ and pauses. Having tapped out the beat and decided on the time signature, we pencilled in bar lines. The rhyme pattern was gratifyingly regular.

Of course, this isn’t the way to read poetry. But we were delving into the structure of this poem as an anatomist studies organic tissue. There was no soul in what we read – only science.

The beauty of prose

It’s in prose that I see real beauty. And the irony isn’t lost on me that I refer to this beauty as ‘poetry’.

In my first paragraph, above, let’s take the phrase, until the words flow freely.

This is a well-used group of words, and for good reason: it’s beautiful. The trio of ‘quavers’, un-til-the, is followed by a downbeat on the lovely soft wer sound. The one-syllabled flow, on the upbeat, flows into the downbeat syllable, free, with the ee sound stretching into the understated ly.

In that first paragraph, we can see the magic of three.

Firstly, the paragraph contains three sentences: the first two are quite short, and the third is longer. The third sentence is made up of three parts, separated by ellipses, and the message (sentence structure must be juggled) is reinforced by repetition of the word until – and yes, that would be three times. The list within the second sentence, rhythm, meter, and phonics, comprises, of course, three items.

Say it aloud: rhythm, meter, and phonics.

Now say, rhythm, phonics, and meter. And now say, meter, phonics and rhythm. And say, meter, rhythm and phonics.

To me, none of these sounds quite as nice as rhythm, meter, and phonics.


None of these sounds quite as nice. Have a go at saying that aloud: horrible, isn’t it! The z sound at the end of these, followed by the s at the start of sounds, is awkward and ugly.

Let’s try again.

For me, it just has to be: rhythm, meter, and phonics.

When your content is written by Folio Copywriting, you know you’re getting exceptional ELO.

ELO? Eloquent Language Optimisation.

Okay … I probably need to work on that one.

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