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Advertising Slogans and Taglines Rhythm and Iambic Pentameters By Susan Purcell Iambic pentameters? In slogans and taglines? Aren't iambic pentameters something to do with Shakespeare? Shakespeare did write in iambic pentameters, a rhythmical meter used in poetry, but he did not invent the verse form. It is just that an iambic pentameter rhythm is very well suited to spoken English. Sentences trip off the tongue well, and, as a result, sound powerful and effective and are often easier to remember. An iambic pentameter has ten syllables, five of which (the odd ones) are unstressed, and five (the even ones) stressed. The result is a diDUM, diDUM, diDUM, diDUM, diDUM rhythm. Here are some examples of iambic pentameters from Shakespeare; the stressed syllables are underlined: A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse ! (Richard III) If music be the food of love, play on (Twelfth Night) Away and mock the time with fairest show (Macbeth) Advertisers have more freedom than poets and do not need to have ten syllables per line, slogan, jingle or tagline. But, by sticking to the alternate stressed/ unstressed syllable pattern you will get the same powerful effect. Here are some wellknown advertising slogans with this diDUM, diDUM rhythm: You'll wonder where the yellow went (Pepsodent) The quicker pickerupper (Bounty) A little dab'll do ya (Brylcreem) Notice how rewording these slogans into a form where the stressed and unstressed syllables do not follow a regular alternating pattern does not result in such a pleasing rhythm: Are you wondering where the yellow has gone? (DUMdiDUMdidiDUMdiDUMdidiDUM) Quick, pick up a bar! (DUMDUMdidiDUM) A small dab will do. (DiDUMDUMdiDUM) You do not need to begin your tag or strapline with an unstressed syllable as in the three winning slogans above. You can begin with a stressed syllable, which means that every odd syllable will be stressed and every even syllable will be unstressed (a DUMdiDUMdiDUM pattern). The end result will still be a pleasing natural rhythm that is a pleasure to say aloud: Finger lickin' good (KFC) All the news that's fit to print (New York Times) Let your fingers do the walking (Yellow Pages) My mate. Whose mate? My mate, Marmite (Marmite) Shakespeare's plays were written to be spoken, not read. If you want a catchy tagline or advertising slogan that people can't help repeating or singing along with, take a leaf out of Shakespeare's book (or books!) and have a go at creating a slogan based on an iambic pentameter for yourself.
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