An economy of words

An economy of words


RickRobertsThis author, former ad executive, and writing instructor knows that when it comes to great communication, quality always beats quantity.

Most writers know, by the time they reach high school at least, that more is not better when it comes to effective communication. Unless writing literary fiction (and even then, many would argue) “write tight” is the mantra. Nobody knows this better than Bristol resident Rick Roberts, who spent 30 years as an advertising creative director and award-winning copyrighter in Boston, most of those years working on business to business accounts for digital equipment firms. In that environment, if you can’t say what you have to say in 150 words or less, you need to go back to the drawing board.

Roberts started out as an artist and a philosophy student, a few light years away from where he would eventually end up, and got his undergraduate degree at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, a place he appreciates to this day because “they taught me to think when I didn’t know what to think about.” He credits the small, liberal arts school with being “harder than Harvard” where he would eventually receive a Masters degree in education to add to his Masters in journalism from the University of Iowa.

Academic credentials aside, Roberts learned most of what he knows about writing on the job. While he was writing ads (as well as essays, letters, resumes and applications), he discovered the beauty of getting to the point, quickly. “If you can learn to write a short, persuasive piece, that starts on point and stays on point — and make it convincing — that covers about 90 percent of anything you might need to write,” he says.

Roberts has authored two books, “I Was Much happier When Everything I Owned Was in the Back Seat of My Volkswagen,” a “boomer rant” precipitated by the emergence of the Desert Storm-era moniker WMD, for  weapons of mass destruction. “It bothered the hell out of me,” Roberts says. “The tone of it, which was clearly designed to induce fear, was all wrong.”

He ventured into fiction for his second book, “Digital Darling: An American Story.” Currently earning high ratings on (“From people I don’t even know!” Roberts jokes) it’s both a wild ride of a story and a statement on the power of political spin, evocative of Carl Hiassen’s
hysterical anything-can-happen stories sourced from real-life greed and development in south Florida.

Roberts believes what keeps most people from writing with confidence is not the lack of something interesting to say; rather, a lack of training about how professionals go about writing — and he claims he can teach you to write faster, clearer and more persuasively by using the techniques commercial writers have mastered.

Roberts’ courseware is not designed for children or beginning writers, but he can teach students and professionals how to quickly gather and prioritize information, to frame an argument, re-draft with purpose, and self-edit for impact.

“There’s a disciplined process behind every commercial you read or watch,” Roberts notes. “I teach that discipline for writers. I’ll make you a more effective writer just by showing you how to write with an audience in mind.”

If you understand the advertisement as a short persuasive essay, learning to write one has wide application. Mastering this basic formula is useful for framing a business proposal or writing a novel. Not only that,” he says, “a short persuasive essay is exactly what the S.A.T. writing test is all about.”

Roberts is offering instruction for individuals and small groups. For more information, call 401/396-9730, or visit

From the review of “Digital Darling”:
“When President Alexander North bans air travel to help control a deadly virus, the nation s tourism industry goes into a tailspin. Digital Darling, the tantalizing hostess of an underground travel show, becomes a persistent critic of the president s policies and an Internet sensation. North instructs the National Security Agency to get her off the air, but the task falls to a ruthless agent and the Feds look the other way as the body count rises. Through a long, hot New England summer, Digital Darling, her lover, and their hacker sidekick risk everything to wage a dangerous war of perceptions against the government. A war that has everyone asking, who is the real patriot here?”