Display writing—the fun stuff

The words that edi­tors call “display”—a story’s head, deck, sub­heads, photo cap­tions, pul­lquotes, and more—are like the hooks a song­writer uses to cre­ate an ear­worm. Strong dis­play engages and delights read­ers and can drive them to act. It’s not always enter­tain­ing or cute; straight­for­ward, infor­ma­tive dis­play writ­ing has a quiet power that can be com­pelling.

Still, there are times when we all enjoy a lit­tle poetic flour­ish:

Builders & the Beach

Big Sand Bay’s hodgepodge of cottage styles and creative opinions all meet at one extraordinary common ground

Jay Teitel’s fea­ture con­trasts the buzz of this community’s back­lot con­struc­tion activ­ity with the seren­ity of its expan­sive beach. I wrote a rhyth­mic head that sim­ply bal­ances those two.

Farewell, Dear Plumbing

Closing the cottage may break your heart, but if you take winter storage advice from Max Burns, it won’t break the pipes

There’s always a hid­den emo­tional core in a ser­vice story; even drain­ing the plumb­ing can be a melan­choly good­bye at the end of the cot­tage sea­son. Writing dis­play that is fully inte­grated with illus­tra­tion requires close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the art depart­ment.

The Seven Year Pitch

Just a temporary solution, they thought, until we decide what to build. Then tent cottaging worked its unexpected charms

This lifestyle piece pro­files sev­eral fam­i­lies who, instead of con­struct­ing tra­di­tional cot­tages, have built sim­ple stand-​alone decks and pitched tents on top. It’s a trend.

Are You Sitting Down?

We need to talk about alternative toilets

The dis­play I wrote for Ray Ford’s guide to com­post­ing and incin­er­at­ing toi­lets has a tone—hushed, con­spir­a­to­r­ial, even a lit­tle embar­rassed. It’s how many peo­ple feel about toi­lets and their con­tents.

For read­ers of Cottage Life, this gen­til­ity is an inside joke. The mag­a­zine and its sub­scribers are known for forth­right, prag­matic talk about waste man­age­ment.

Pie Society

Trustworthy pastry. Irresistible fillings. How to win friends and influence cottagers

Dash & Dine

Your reward for surviving the Friday drive to the cottage…

…dinner that’s a cinch to prepare and a pleasure to serve

Working on Sunshine

The questions to ask and the answers you need before buying a cottage solar-​power system

A straight­for­ward buy­ers’ guide to solar-​power sys­tems gets a lift with a pun head. Puns on song titles are pow­er­ful; read­ers hear the melody, but insert the words on the page. Instant ear­worm.

The Winter Picnic

A behind-​the-​scenes view of the cook, the shoot, and her life in two cottages

I like bal­anc­ing a straight­for­ward head with a play­ful deck. Recognize the cadence in this deck? Film titles rarely work as mag­a­zine dis­play, but here I played with Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

Cowboy Cottager

All cottagers have fun, but true cowboys and girls have more, is all. How to ride taller, shoot straighter, and kick back better this summer

Toss a purtier horseshoe; wrangle them kayaks; find a secret hideaway

When I devel­oped this edi­to­r­ial pack­age with Michelle Kelly, we started by ask­ing, “How can cot­tagers have more fun than ever this sum­mer?”

The head riffs on a quick-​fix pack­age we also co-​edited, “Captain Cottager,” which helped cot­tage heroes deal with urgent prob­lems. To tele­graph play­ful, enthu­si­as­tic risk-​taking in the deck and sub­heads for this story, I used Wild West language—not what you’d hear in the real West, but the lingo of Hollywood Westerns and Yosemite Sam.

True or False:

You’re a Canuck and a cottager, so you’re pretty savvy about log cabin construction.


You don’t know lumberjack

This is uncon­ven­tional open­ing display—a mashed head and deck that obscures the reader ben­e­fit in a ser­vice story about log-​cabin con­struc­tion. But the dis­play also dares read­ers to turn the page and prove it wrong. It’s cheeky and fla­grant, and it reads like click­bait, but it works—and the story deliv­ers.

Escape to Barbecue Island

Build our smart barbecue work centre, spread out your food prep and tool storage, and kiss your free time goodbye. You’ll be on grill duty so often the cottage chores will just have to wait. (Shame, that.)

Why build this portable bar­be­cue work cen­tre? Because you’ll escape all the other chores. A deck’s ben­e­fit state­ment can make an out­landish promise as long as the lan­guage sur­round­ing it says clearly, “Smile. It’s a joke.”