Let’s Make Up a New Company Name

To go with my recent (and ongoing) tagline refresh project, I thought it would be fun to come up with a new name for my freelance writing and editing business.

One of my favorite company names is General Atomics. They work in nuclear energy and defense, so ick all around.

Another favorite is General Dynamics. Also icky, unfortunately.

My third favorite is Applied Materials. Semi-conductors. Ho-hum.

You can see where this is going, so let’s get started.

  • Atomic Dynamics
  • Dynamic Atomics
  • Atomic Materials
  • Applied Dynamics
  • Material Atomics
  • Dynamic Materials
  • Dynamic Applied Atomics
  • Atomic Applied Dynamics

None of that has anything to do with what I do. Or does it?

Atom: “ The irreducible, indestructible material unit postulated by ancient atomism.” Or, in other words, “uncuttable.” Whether I’ve written it or edited it, that’s true for everything I produce (or ought to be): clear, concise, irreducible.

Dynamic: “Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress…” Any firm that flirts with changing its name from “Lars Peterson Editorial Services” to “Material Dynamics”, is materially dynamic.

Applied: “Put into practice or a particular use…” Such as this exercise in business naming.

Applied Dynamic Atomics: Reality Transcription Services



Tagline Refresh

The old tagline — “What can I write for you?” — is getting stale.

Let’s cook up some new ones. Let’s stay focused on what I do: write and edit. Anything, really.


  • Words wryitten, edited.
  • Words. Raw and cooked.
  • Words. Rough and polished.
  • Words. Fresh and easy.

Oops. That last belongs to a grocery chain.


Sticking with what I do.

  • Copywritten and edited.
  • Copywrediting
  • Copywreditor for rent.
  • Copy written, copy edited.


A grab bag. Hey!

  • Grab bag, talk job, write draft, cut copy, please client.
  • Copy so clean you forget it’s there.
  • Words we won’t forget.
  • Words I won’t forget to proofread.
  • Words that lose themselves in you(r business, product, or service).
  • Where the serial comma is always welcome.
  • Words first and last.




A Poet Thrills the Soul, but a Copywriter Sells One

Last time we looked at the figure of speech chiasmus and how it might be used as a tool for generating memorable or effective copy. Here’s the short version: Chiasmus is the reversal of words in successive, balanced clauses or phrases. We came up with a keeper out of that exercise (“Finding perfect words and perfecting words found”).

Today we look at another figure of speech — antithesis, which is the juxtaposition of opposite concepts in successive, balanced clauses or phrases. As with chiasmus, clauses and phrases are generally parallel, but not always.

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. — Abraham Lincoln

The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason. — TS Eliot

It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken. — Frank Perdue.

Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven. — Pillsbury Doughboy

and, finally:

What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public. — Vilhjalmur Stefansson

In the spirit of that last example comes my first:

A Poet thrills the Soul, but a Copywriter sells one.

Maybe the simplest way to use this figure is to begin with a statement, then turn it on its head:

You can pay more for copywriting, but you won’t get more.

Continuing the value pitch:

First class copywriting on an economy ticket.

You could use that one over and over. Just swap out the industry.

Top shelf copywriting for the price of well.


Ferrari copywriting that won’t cost you a Corolla.

But maybe I don’t want to compete on price. Maybe I want to compete on erudition.

Erudite copy by a writer who knows what’s wrong with this pitch. Instinctively.

I’m not sure what erudition* is, either, but it sounds good.

*Looked it up. My instinct was right!

Chiasmus and the Copywriter

Copywriters have been using figures of speech in their work forever. And by figures of speech, I don’t mean idioms or euphemisms, I mean figures from classical rhetoric. These are well-defined shapes and patterns in language. For classical rhetoricians, such patterns start at the highest level of organization and reach all the way down to sentences, clauses, phrases and words.

Let’s look at one.

Parallelism is the repetition of patterns of words, phrases and clauses. It adds rhythm, clarity and coherence. Chiasmus is the anti-parallelism. It reverses the order of words and phrases. Rhythm is preserved, but intriguing new meanings and connotations erupt. This discussion by the guy who wrote the book on it is tops.

The classic example of chiasmus comes from Mae West:

It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life of your men.

There are others you may recognize:

Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

I am stuck on Band-Aid, and Band-Aid’s stuck on me.

Sorry, Charlie. Starkist wants tuna that tastes good, not tuna with good taste.

How about a couple for Lars Peterson Editorial Services?

Dr. Mardy Grothe, linked above, used this line from the Bible, “Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed,” as an example of chiasmus that reverses more than one or two terms (there’s no limit, by the way). Let’s use it as a model.

A Copywriter who pens words that sell must first sell himself with words he pens.

That sounds heavy and old timey. And the rhythm is not quite right in the second clause (“himself” messes it up). Worse, it’s not specific to me.

Let’s start with another truism, in tighter, brighter language, and reverse it somehow in the second clause.

All copywriters think they write like Hemingway. He wouldn’t have thought to write like me.

Better! Self-deprecating humor can work (“With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.”), but I don’t want to give clients an easy way to pass on me. And it’s not tight and bright enough.

Let’s keep it under ten words, for both clauses or phrases, and make it specific to what I do (writing and editing).

Finding perfect words and perfecting words found.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Still a little stuffy, and not easy to say aloud, but definitely one for the keeper file.

Now I Know: Yogurt Water is Whey

Breakfast most days is half-a-cup of nonfat plain yogurt mixed with a quarter-cup of granola chased with half-a-pot of coffee.

I buy Trader Joe’s French Village Nonfat Yogurt in the 32 ounce tub* (good enough for fourth place!). About a day after opening a fresh tub, a thin milky liquid rises to the top. It’s yellowish and unappetizing. Every morning I pour it down the drain before scooping out breakfast.

Not anymore. That stuff is whey.

Whey is a dairy byproduct usually associated with the making of cheese or butter. Old time cheese makers added rennet, a soup of enzymes found in mammalian stomachs that aids in milk digestion, or an edible acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to milk to begin the process. The additives cause the milk to curdle, or separate into solids (“curds”) and liquid (“whey”). Today cheese makers use a genetically engineered rennet substitute to induce curdling.

Whey is filled with protein and amino acids. It is used to fortify all sorts of food products, from Oreo Cookies to KFC’s coleslaw. It is fed to farm animals. It is powdered and poured into bulging plastic bottles with label designs that promise potency, power and vitality. Whey protein is popular with bodybuilders.

Yogurt is produced by introducing bacteria to heated milk. As the bacteria consume sugar (lactose), they release lactic acid, which causes the curds and whey to separate. When the right pH level and consistency are reached, the product is cooled quickly to stop fermentation. The whey is “immobilized” within the curd globules before it has a chance to get away. These globules of curd are not robust. Temperature changes weaken the bonds and allow trapped whey to escape curd’s milky grasp. Gravity, too, can overwhelm the curds’ ability to hang onto the whey. Such mechanical curdling is called syneresis.

Because most consumers don’t like the appearance of whey in their yogurt, producers add a variety of thickening agents — fruit pectin, various starches — to toughen up the curd. But now that I know whey is okay, I don’t think I mind.

*The tubs, after a turn through the dishwasher, make great paint or varnish pans. Or you can use them in the pantry to store granola.

What Does a Writing Teacher Know About Copywriting?

He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about it, and so copywriting may become a rich source of Now I Know mini-essays. I do know a few things about writing, in general. Here are some of the pearls I frequently share with my writing students, in no particular order.

  • Show don’t tell;
  • Be clear and concise;
  • Choose the right word;
  • Write active sentences;
  • Understand parallelism;
  • The most important part of the introduction is the hook;
  • OK, I lied: the hook is the most important part of the introduction that comes before the thesis, which is the most important part of the entire thing;
  • (Still, come up with a good hook, otherwise nobody will read your thesis);
  • Think about your audience, but don’t pander to them;
  • If you imagine that your audience is *this much* dumber than you are, you will write with more clarity and coherence. This is not pandering;
  • Don’t use “you”*;
  • You can begin a sentence with “Because”*, but only when “Because” is used in the sense of “Since”;
  • When in doubt, describe;
  • Revise as many times as time allows;
  • Proofread at least once more than you think you need to.

A copywriter who added some tricks from Classical Rhetoric to that list could do pretty well. But that’s a topic for another day.
*Here my experience as a writing teacher bumps up against my experience as a demographic target and a copywriter. One would be hard pressed to find ad copy that does not rely heavily on both “you” and “because” (and not in the sense of “since”).

Now I Know: Lightning

Now that I know what causes thunderstorms here in Southern California (monsoon moisture + heat + topography), and despite this weekend’s return of the marine layer and the subsequent end of the thunderstorm cycle, I wondered: what causes lightning?

Updrafts and downdrafts in the thundercloud cause water and ice particles to collide and take on positive or negative electrical charges, much like a balloon will take on a negative electrical charge when rubbed with a woolen sock. For reasons not well understood, lighter, positively charged ice droplets migrate toward the top of the cloud formation and heavier, negatively charged ice droplets and rain settle toward the bottom of the formation. Eventually this separation creates electrical potential between the negatively charged part of the cloud and the positively charged part of the cloud. Lightning occurs when the electrical charge on both sides overcomes the resistance of the air between them. These “intra-cloud” strikes are the most common type of lightning. “Inter-cloud” strikes, or strikes between clouds, have similar causes. Cloud to ground strikes work somewhat differently.

As the negatively charged part of the cloud moves over the earth, the ground below becomes positively charged by induction. You have seen induction if you have played with magnets and noticed how one side of a magnet attracts its opposite and repels its like, or if you have replaced the batteries in your Wii controllers and noticed the “+” and “-” symbols telling you how to arrange everything. Under the storm cloud, positively charged ions in the earth are attracted to the negative ions accumulating above and negatively charged ions in the ground are pushed away. As with intra-cloud strikes, when the charge on either side becomes strong enough, resistance is overcome, electricity flows and shazzam! lighting strikes.

As for thunder, that’s easy. A bolt of lightning is fantastically energetic and it generates terrific heat, singeing the surrounding air to 30,000 to 50,000 degrees Farenheit. The Crack! you hear is the sound of the explosion made as super-heated lightning strike air expands, rapidly, into the cooler air around it.

Now I Know: SoCal Thunderstorms

Southern California’s monsoon and thunderstorm season got underway last Monday, and if you were paying attention, you felt it. At dawn the sky above was dull and gray — the so-called June Gloom — but by 10:00 am the marine layer had been beaten back out to sea. High altitude high pressure air had slipped in from the deserts to the east, sending the cooling gloom away. Temperatures have risen steadily since and everyday thunderstorms form over the mountains that ring the Los Angeles basin (such as seen from the beach, here).

Thunderstorms require three things to form: moisture, air instability, and a lifting force.

Moisture can come from oceans or from remnants of hurricanes or other storms.

Air instability occurs when a cool dry pocket of air rests over a warmer, wetter pocket of air; given a sufficient nudge, the warm, moist air will rise.

Lifting force usually comes from heat, whether by temperature differential (uneven heating of the ground, which creates thermals) or by boundaries between pockets of air (warmer air will rise over cooler; the heat differential between drier and wetter air will force the wetter air up; and the outflow boundary, on the edge of a thunderstorm, is cooler than the surrounding air, creating more thunderstorms). Lifting force can also come from topography — wind moving up mountain slopes and through canyons will provide the push the moist air needs to get aloft.

Once aloft, the air rises and cools, condensing its moisture into water droplets, which form clouds. More rising air pushes some droplets still higher, where they continue to cool and grow. Some fall as rain. Some freeze and fall and melt back into rain. Some freeze and fall and stay frozen and fall to the ground as hail.

The high pressure that arrived on Monday gave the thunderstorms two of the three necessary ingredients: air instability and lifting force. Without the marine layer to keep us cool, temperatures began to rise (in Downtown LA it was 75 on Monday, 86 on Tuesday, then 94, then 92, and 93 today). While heat differentials promote thundercloud formation, our topography probably plays a larger role. The Los Angeles basin is ringed with mountains — the San Gabriels to the north, the San Bernardinos to the northeast, the Santa Anas to the southeast. Air moving onshore from the ocean rises up the slopes and through the canyons, pushing warmer, moister air up. Upslope thunderstorms are common in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas and they occur here, too. We also have several convergence zones — regions where breezes, after having diverged around mountains and through canyons, collide and force air upward. One such convergence zone is near Lake Elsinore (the Lake Elsinore Convergence Zone), on the eastern side of the Santa Ana Mountains, where this supercell thunderstorm and funnel cloud was videotaped.

For the third element — moisture — we return to the opening line of this post and that word “monsoon”, which seems out of place when discussing Southern California. The North American, or Arizona, or Southwest monsoon occurs when high pressure moves over the southwest from the south and intense summertime heating of the desert creates rising air and low pressure. The monsoon takes place between June and mid-September. The result is a change in direction of prevailing, low level air flow that brings moisture up from the Gulf of California and the Western Gulf of Mexico. This moisture is then forced up by heat differentials and upslope winds to form into water droplets and clouds and eventually thunderstorms.

Other than that, all I know about our monsoon and thunderstorms is that mid-September is a long way off.

Now I Know: Photochromic Lenses

When I updated my eyeglass prescription recently, I decided to outfit my frames with photochromic lenses. What are photochromic lenses? They are lenses that change from transparent to dark as they and their wearer move from indoors to outdoors. We usually call them transitions lenses or just Transitions for the same reason we call synthetic floor coverings Linoleum and soda pop Coke; the people who make them know how to market their product. Unlike Linoleum and Coke, the brand name Transitions tells us something meaningful about the product, too.

But how do they do it?

At first I imagined millions of tiny shutters embedded in the lenses, opening and closing with the light. And, it turns out, that’s not far off. Instead of little Levolors, however, the outer layer of my plastic eyeglass lenses is embedded, to the depth of just 150 microns*, with millions of molecules of a light sensitive organic compound known as an oxazine. Organic compounds are those that include at least one carbon and an oxazine is an organic compound with one oxygen and one nitrogen arranged in a ring. When indoors or otherwise shielded from ultraviolet light, the molecules do not absorb visible light, and the lenses remain transparent. But when exposed to ultraviolet light, such as that from the sun, the molecules change shape, which causes them to absorb visible light, and the lenses gradually darken. The reverse happens when ultraviolet light is removed; the molecules return to their original shape and the lenses gradually become transparent again.

Had my eyeglasses been made of glass instead of plastic, they would have been embedded with the inorganic compound silver chloride, which has the same photochromic properties. Whatever the material, if eyes are windows to the soul, then photochromic lenses are blinds on those windows to the soul.

*How deep is that? A micron (or micrometre) is one one-millionth of a meter. A human hair is about 100 microns in diameter. So the oxazines in my glasses go down about a hair and a half.