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Why Do Copywriters Use Idioms?

As a copywriter, I’m tasked every day with finding the perfect words for my clients. Original, “fresh” words to describe everything from branded merchandise to recruitment, from beauty products to vineyards, and so much more.

These words have to be written for a specific audience (e.g., A woman age 25-35 in the £60,000 salary range who wants to give her 1.5 children a sense of authenticity in a hard and scary, post-COVID world. She’s sustainable but not a hippy, smart but not preachy, and youthful but not childish -- less “ermahgerd” and more “What a surprise!”.)

These words I create have to move her, motivate her, and speak to her.

And I have three days to find them. Or less.

The secret to tackling this daunting task? Not trying to nail down the perfect word, but rather exploring every option until the answer reveals itself. This is where idioms come in.

Here's the Wikipedia definition: "An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase."

Ummm... WTF is that in English, please?

From ‘Bob’s your Uncle’ to ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’, we hear idioms on a regular basis but it’s surprising how little we actually know about their use in copywriting. Some idioms are quite self-explanatory, and some completely absurd, but they continue to be a staple of the English language.

In fact, idioms often make little literal sense, but their meanings are still ingrained in our minds and writers regularly include them in their copy to ensure whatever they're writing packs a punch!

Words start to all sound the same really quickly and can become repetitive or maybe you work in a really boring industry... *ahem* insurance — and adding some fun content keeps the readers on their toes and excited to learn more.

Here are some of my personal favourites.


slang A drunk; an alcoholic.

Oh yeah, I had become a total ginhead before finally going to rehab.

hobnob with (someone)

To interact with someone, typically someone who has more power, fame, or success than oneself.

I can't hobnob with those ladies—they're executives at the biggest company in town!

make like a banana and split

humorous slang To depart or leave, especially at once or in a hurry. (A pun on "to split," a slang term meaning to leave or depart, and a "banana split," an ice-cream-based dessert featuring a banana halved lengthwise.)

This party is turning out to be really boring. Come on, let's make like a banana and split!

cut of (one's) jib

A person's general appearance, manner, mien, style, demeanour, or personality. A reference to the jib sails of a boat (which denoted a ship's allegiance, and therefore potential hostility), it is usually used in the phrase "like the cut of one's jib."

I like the cut of your jib—you've got a brazenness in business that's pretty rare these days.

tart up

To decorate someone or something in gaudy, garish adornments, clothing, or cosmetics. A noun or pronoun can be used between "tart" and "up."

Let's tart this place up a little bit before the guests arrive.

a bird in the hand

Something of some value that is already acquired. Taken from the proverb "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," which means that having something, even if it is a lesser quantity, is better than taking the chance of losing it in order to attain something else that seems more desirable.

Neil: "I like dating Nicole, but I'd really like to ask Sarah for drinks"

Neil's mum: "If you do that, Nicole will break up with you. Don't forget that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

So how do I find idioms myself?

The Free Dictionary’s Idioms Dictionary, compiled from the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms, features more than 7,000 idioms that you can use for richer, more breakthrough content. You simply type in the keyword you are writing about, then see what idioms pop up that feature that word.

Don't fancy searching through thousands of idioms? Get in touch with me today and we can discuss how idioms can help bring your copy to life!

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