73 Ways to Describe a Widget by Marcia Yudkin

June 13, 2011

I have been doing some copywriting work recently, and am often left sitting and staring at my computer monitor as I try to come up with yet another way to talk about a certain product for the sixth article in a row. This frustration led me to search for some copywriting help in the form of a book or manual. Thanks to Google, I found something called “73 Ways to Describe a Widget: Never Be Brain Dead Again When Having to Write Catalog Copy or Sales Material” by Marcia Yudkin. I was intrigued by the title (admittedly a very catchy one), and thought this was precisely what I needed. I bit the bullet on the $29.95 price tag and ordered the manual.

What I got was a 35-page PDF via instant download that contained Ms. Yudkin’s advice for copywriting. The manual starts off with some basics (describing the difference between a feature and a benefit) before moving into the 73 “prompts,” as she calls them. Ms. Yudkin supplies plenty of examples following the prompts so the reader can see exactly how to convert the prompt into a usable sentence. The examples come from actual catalogs that Ms. Yudkin deems effective (including the LL Bean catalog) as well as original examples that she wrote on her own.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this manual. Though there are indeed 73 prompts as promised, I felt that quite a few of them were redundant or at least overlapped a little bit. For example, one prompt asks you to consider what problem the widget solves, and the very next prompt asks you to make up a problem if the widget doesn’t actually solve one. I don’t know; to me those seem very similar. Then another prompt asks you to consider the history of the widget, while a subsequent prompt asks for the item’s inspiration (how, where, and why it was developed), and yet a third asks how long the product has been selling and/or changing. IMO, all of those can fall under the umbrella of “history” of the widget. Do you agree or am I just being picky?

This manual wasn’t a complete waste because it does contain some very interesting prompts that I’d never thought of before and that I’m sure I’ll be able to incorporate into my own writing someday. But there is no way “73 Ways to Describe a Widget” is worth $29.95. I think a price point in the $9.95 range would be more in line with the kind of content provided. As it was, I ended up going to Amazon.com, where I bought two additional copywriting books for $9.95 each. Already I have culled far more usable information out of those than out of Ms. Yudkin’s manual. If I’d gone the Amazon route in the first place, I’d have two solid reference manuals on my shelf and an extra 10 bucks in my pocket. Oh, well — live and learn.

Bottom Line
If you’re considering buying “73 Ways to Describe a Widget,” I’d advise against it unless you get some kind of special offer and pay significantly less than the $29.95 asking price. There are better books to spend your money on.

2 Responses to “73 Ways to Describe a Widget by Marcia Yudkin”

  1. Thanks for your review as I was looking into purchasing the book. What were the two books you got from Amazon so I can have a look at them?

  2. Hi Kevin,

    The two titles I purchased from Amazon were: Writing Copy for Dummies (I like the “For Dummies” series, but some people don’t) and Words That Sell: More than 6000 Entries to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas by Richard Bayan.

    The Bayan book is geared more towards people who do direct mail marketing than towards copywriters, but there were still enough useful/pertinent chapters and resources in it that I felt the $9.95 list price was worth the money.

    Good luck!

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