Dun Nid Good English Aso Can Say I Love You

Get your communications foundations right before good language skills. Advertising veteran David Phey shares with students over an hour-long webinar—five writing hacks for effective, engaging communications.

“I don’t need good English to tell my wife that I love her,” quipped David Phey in his opening statement. 

Addressing student participants in the final instalment of Scholarship Guide Webinar Series 2021, the advertising veteran acknowledged that clear, convincing communication is indeed an essential life skill. But whilst good language skills help, like sauce on a steak, they are not absolutely necessary. “The meat is the message, and successful writers can prepare and present a persuasive message, even without powderful England.” Insightful as always, David shared five #writinghacks for effective, engaging communications over the hour-long casual knowledge session. Here goes:

Scholarship Guide Dun Nid Good English Aso Can Say I Love You Heart the thinker

#1. Think Before You Open Your “Word”

Heard of the expression “think before you open your mouth”? The same in writing: “Think before you open your word document or email template”. In his first tip, David emphasised the importance of planning a message, and there are three parts to it: 

  1. Critical Headline: What must be absolutely conveyed? What do you want your audience to remember? Be clear on your key message, keeping it to only one or a maximum of two points. 
  2. Reason-To-Believe (RTB): Why should your audience believe you? What are the reasons to back you up? 
  3. Call-To-Action (CTA): Finally, what is the response or reaction you desire from your audience? 


[1] I am the best chef in the world. [2] Because I’ve won Michelin awards, and there’s always a long reservation waitlist to my restaurant. [3] Book a table today. 

[1] Will you marry me? [2] Because I love you till death do us apart, and I got you this ring to show my sincerity. [3] Please say “I do”. 

Plan your message flow, then figure out the mode of delivery. It can be a simple WhatsApp text, a phone call, a formal email, or a face-to-face conversation. In delivering a commercial message, this is where marketers will consider the vast options of media channels and platforms to communicate with their intended audience. 

“Planning can be as spontaneous as bullet-point scribbles on a table napkin,” as David urged students to apply the three-step planning process before communicating any important message. “Do this in particular when submitting your essay for a scholarship application or preparing for an interview. Thoughtful communication planning can increase your chances of exciting the right response.” 

Scholarship Guide Dun Nid Good English Aso Can Say I Love You Heart her shoes

#2. Put On Her Shoes

To highlight the importance of knowing your audience, David played a hilarious scene from the 2000 rom-com film, What Women Want, where Mel Gibson played an advertising executive tasked to write a tv commercial for a range of feminine products. He is good at his job, and most importantly, he makes an effort to understand women, even down to trying hair waxing, which we all know can be really intimidating for the first time. 

In marketing, communications evolve around the target consumer, and they stem from understanding them, listening to them, and addressing their needs and concerns. The same applies when you craft a message for the woman you love. You will need to put on her shoes to know what she wants, what she cares about, and how she thinks. Consider what she wants to hear, whether she will be convinced by what you say, and how she will react to the message. “For example, if you order a flat white or café au lait from your coffeeshop auntie, she’s going to give you a blank stare. You’ll never get your coffee. Instead, a ‘kopi c’ will do the job.”

Scholarship Guide Dun Nid Good English Aso Can Say I Love You tropicana

#3. Head or Heart

To illustrate how emotions can rule our behaviour sometimes beyond reason, David showcased a case study about Tropicana’s packaging redesign failure. 

About: Tropicana is a famous brand that sells fruit juice worldwide. In 2009, the PepsiCo-owned brand decided to replace the existing packaging design for its best-selling orange juice in the US market. However, the new packaging was rejected and criticised by Tropicana’s consumers. Sales dropped by 20% in two months, representing a loss of USD30 million. The brand invested over USD35 million advertising dollars in the campaign. But the launch of the new packaging was such a failure that Tropicana had to go back to its original packaging version.

What changed? In the initiative intended to modernise the brand, Tropicana dropped the classic “orange and straw” image from its packaging, replacing it with a big transparent glass full of orange juice. An “orange squeeze” cap was “creatively” engineered to mimic the notion of squeezing an orange to obtain fresh juice out of the box. And the logo was completely redesigned.

What went wrong? Tropicana underestimated the deep emotional bond their consumers had with the original packaging. With the repackaging, consumers lost their main reference elements from the old packaging to recognise the product on supermarket shelves. Consumers were also confused as to whether the new product they saw was still the same as the one they had always trusted. 

Key takeaway from the “Tropicana crisis”: Consumers form an emotional connection with brands they purchase. It is for the same reason why luxury branding leverage emotional and lifestyle associations more than just the idea of rarity and exclusive craftsmanship—because people tend to make decisions with their hearts more than with their heads.

Applying this to your communications: Bear in mind that your audience has an emotional connection with you. And if you do not meet that emotional need, you will not succeed at delivering your message to them. For example, there are many ways to propose marriage. 

Proposals that speak to the head: 

  • We’ve been dating for more than three years already; let’s get married.
  • Darling, let’s apply for BTO? Tampines or Jurong? 
  • Bring her to the jewellery shop; ask her to try on a ring.

Proposals that pull heartstrings: 

  • Give her lots of tidbits (sour, sweet, bitter & spicy types); tell her that you want to share all of life’s 酸甜苦辣 with her.
  • Take her to watch a meteor shower, then ask her to be with you for the next ten meteor showers. 
  • Wine & dine, flowers & cake, with a bridal couple on top of the cake and diamond ring beside it.

Which proposal do you think will work best? Or is it a combination of them? And ladies out there, to which will you say yes

Scholarship Guide Dun Nid Good English Aso Can Say I Love You cut craft draft

#4. Cut & Craft

David was candid about how it took him several revisions and tweaks before deriving the headline for the webinar session. “Cut & Craft”—he called the process, as he took the audience through his multiple drafts before he was satisfied and convinced that the final version would drive his desired outcome of getting students curious about the webinar. 

Draft 1: Good communication is not only about language skills (key message, but not enticing) 

Draft 2: Clear and persuasive writing doesn’t depend on having good English (nay, too bland…) 

Draft 3: You don’t need to have good English to communicate effectively and persuade your audience (quite a mouthful and too textbook-like)

Draft 4: Don’t need good English also can win over your target audience. (need work condensing it)

Draft 5: Dun nid good English aso can communicate effectively. (getting there…)

Draft 6: Dun nid good English aso can communicate effectively say I love you. (yay, perfect!)

“Don’t be hasty in your planning and writing. Take time to craft your message to perfection, even if it is to revise it again and again. The final version that you settle on should be one that delivers the key message concisely, resonates with the audience, engages (an emotional appeal is a plus), and drives the desired response you want.” 

Following that, David also shared a writer’s checklist of other creative crafting tricks to improve message engagement:

  • Be personable. Aim to evoke emotions.
  • Use alliteration to make phrases memorable: “creating clear, convincing communications”.
  • Create association and relatability by referencing elements in daily life and relationships.
  • Use metaphors or idioms.
  • Introduce humour or an element of surprise. 
  • Where appropriate, don’t be afraid to drop a few words in the modern vocabulary, use slang or even hashtags.

#5. Read it again, and again, and again 

Finally, check and recheck, making sure there are no mistakes. 

Scholarship Guide Dun Nid Good English Aso Can Say I Love You magnifier

Wrapping It Up

These tips and tricks will guide you in creating a sharper and more convincing message in a wide range of diverse scenarios. If the task at hand is to prepare for university applications, here’s how to apply David’s five #writinghacks

  1. Take time to plan your admissions essay, mapping out all your key points.
  2. Consider what the university acceptance committee is looking for. Beyond grades, universities also place weightage on a candidate’s holistic skills, such as creativity, communication, and critical thinking skills, including attitude and outside experiences or achievements. 
  3. Address the university’s interest areas. Showcase your co-curricular activities (CCA) track record, volunteering stints, and community service projects, including any work or internship experience. Talk about your goals and motivations. Be sure to use logical reasoning to back up your passionate declarations. Show that you are an all-rounder with intellectual curiosity and emotional resilience to see through challenges.
  4. Draft and edit your writing. Bear in mind that the reviewing committee has to read thousands of such essays. Tweak and finetune your message so that it reads well, is engaging, edges you out from the crowd, and evokes a response. 
  5. Check your application as many times as needed before submitting it. 

In response to the question: “How to be compelling and authentic at the same time?”, particularly referencing communications that can appeal to university committees and potential employers, David’s advice is to never fake a message. “Start by improving yourself, garnering experiences and capturing knowledge. Work towards building a real story of substance for your personal brand before learning how to tell a story well.” 

Before closing the session, David clarified that whilst he mentioned that good language skills are not essential in convincing writing, it is still worth improving our spoken and written languages to better our communications. “Regardless of our language ability, the starting point for all communications is planning your message, understanding your audience, and crafting your message to address the audience. Get the foundations right.”

For another of David Phey’s webinar sessions with Scholarship Guide, read The Target Audience Is My Mother-In-Law.