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Nuts and Bolts: Inside Verse

June 19, 2011


As an artist or photographer, images may come easy, words…not so much. Yet it’s a fact that shoppers are attracted to a card because of the design on the front, but they BUY the card because of what it says on the inside.

We sometimes forget that a greeting card is more than just a piece of paper with a pretty image – it’s a MESSAGE from the buyer to the recipient. A greeting card’s sentiment expresses what the buyer would say if they could but can’t, because feelings are hard to communicate. The card’s inside verse is part of a conversation as well as part of a relationship between two people.

To be successful, we must never lose sight of that simple truth.

If you want to write good greeting card copy, here are some things to avoid:

  • Too Formal: The formality of your inside verse will depend on the card’s purpose. Unless you’re writing for a card that requires  more formal language, such as condolence or wedding, you should keep your writing in tune with the tone. Don’t worry too much about correct grammar unless that degree of formality is required. Stay away from  technical terms or obscure words unless you’re deliberately writing for a specialized niche market.
  • Too Much Description: Avoid overuse of adjectives (unless you’re using them for effect). Once you write down your inside verse, eliminate all adjectives. Does that still get the message across? If not, try adding back one adjective at a time. Don’t go overboard.
  • Too Much Schmaltz: While a heartfelt message can hit the mark, don’t go too far and drown your verse in syrupy sentiments. Simplify your inside verse, pare it down to its basics, and try to find ways of expressing your message without clichés. Be clear.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing: Don’t go on and on in the mistaken belief that the longer your message, the more desirable. A verse that gets to the point without meandering around will always be preferred. If you can say it in one sentence, why use two? Shoppers need to be able to instantly grasp your point, so stay concise.
  • Too Controversial: Avoid tasteless or insulting jokes unless you’re targeting a niche market. The general audience will likely give such cards a pass.

So how DO you write good inside verse? Here’s an exercise that may help: when considering inside verse, pretend you’re sitting with your best friend having a conversation. How would you speak to them? What words would you use? How would you connect with them?

As creators of greeting cards, we must remember that a card is like a hand of friendship extended from one person to another. Our words are the most important part of our designs, and could be the reason why an otherwise attractive design isn’t selling.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2011 8:52 am

    ….but don’t forget that, on the whole, ‘blank inside’ greeting cards are more popular in the UK!

  2. June 19, 2011 8:55 am

    Awesome advice – thank you! – Natalie 🙂

  3. June 19, 2011 12:37 pm

    Thanks Corrie for this excellent nuts & bolts on inside verse. It’s so true that our words are often the most important part of the design. When I am selecting a card first I’m drawn to the card visually, but my final decision is made on the verse. I will often pass up a card that has an image I love for one that says what I would like to say.

    Sometimes I think that a card is selected on not what you would say, but what you wish you could say. We are not all endowed with the ability to express our feelings. My husband, who was the tall silent type, always gave me these beautifully romantic cards and I remember overhearing a discussion between he and our son. He told our son that a card should express what you feel in your heart.

  4. June 19, 2011 12:55 pm


  5. June 19, 2011 1:27 pm

    Thank you for the advice. I need to work on being a little less formal.

  6. June 19, 2011 5:36 pm

    Thank you Corrie ( and Judy ). Wonderful advice.

  7. June 20, 2011 4:14 am

    Wow Corrie, it’s almost as if you can read my mind. 🙂 Every time I find myself perplexed by areas of technical or artistic weakness, you post an article or provide a guest blogger who posts something that is so timely and useful for me. 🙂


  8. June 20, 2011 3:18 pm

    Corrie, Excellent advice. As a writer, I was in complete agreement with all of your points. You are certainly well equipped as an artist, writer of verse, and as an artists’ help columnist.
    I would like to add something else that may help a few artists at GCU. When I first started taking formal classes in writing, one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was, “Forget the exclamation point; pretend it does not exist.” The lesson was that our words should show the emotion. People have a tendency to go overboard on the exclamation point. I did (!) I have learned it is best to leave them out of your written language. Hope this helps some of you in your writing, as much as it helped me.

  9. June 22, 2011 12:09 am

    Excellent advice. Thanks.

  10. July 1, 2011 3:20 pm

    I once thought I was a decent poet
    But formality is no longer the norm
    Now simple conversation is the basis
    Of a card that sells true to form!

    Thank you for your wisdom Corrie. I’ll be sure to apply it when redoing the inside verse for my encouragement and other cards.

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