A word on words
28 May 2019
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Most copywriters will tell you that copywriting is a wonderful profession. And it is. But, for those starting out, it can be daunting. Bear a few things in mind, and you'll be just fine:

Kill your darlings. Looking at a line, a piece of copy or a concept through the misty eyes of love is not going to make you a great copywriter. You need to be able to cull, be brutal, commit cold-blooded murder and bury the evidence. If you are precious about every single thing you write, you are unlikely to add much value.

Know that you are not always at your best. So you've hit upon a mind-blowing concept and written a print ad and radio script to bring it to life. But when you present it to the team, it gets a less than enthusiastic response. Stay calm. 1. It's not about you. Ever. No one has it in for you. 2. It's possible that you weren't able to translate your vision into words and carry your audience along with you. Yes, words fail wordsmiths sometimes. 3. Know when to fight... and when to fold. Harping on that concept long after it has stopped breathing is sad and needy and downright short-sighted. Put your big girl or boy pants on and get cracking on a new idea.

One-note Johnnies land up playing alone. One style and one tone of voice do not a copywriter make. Good copywriters are versatile, they can shift fluidly from one brand tone to another. Make it your mission to develop an excellent eye and excellent ear. Become adept at tapping into a brand's tone and honouring it with your writing.

Good writers are good readers. If you've only read five books in your life, you're in trouble. Likewise if you never vary your reading matter. Read voraciously - in the bath, in bed, and at the table. Read classics, graphic novels, biographies, poetry, children's books, self-help books, history books, romantic nonsense. Read the works of authors who have the ability to make you weep with the beauty of their words, and the works of writers who can make you laugh like a drain. Read so that you can distinguish great writing from a waste of ink.

Own your position. In your career, you are bound to work with at least one non-creative who labours under the delusion that they are a copywriter. You will also work with some who descend into sheer panic if the client's words do not appear verbatim in your copydeck. Do not buy into that panic. You know that people do not get hooked by ads that list widgets - it's the sizzle versus steak scenario. Remind yourself that they have not been hired for their copywriting abilities - you have. This is your area of expertise, so make the judgement call about whether or not the widget enhances the copy and has earned the right to appear.

Open up. Your own life experiences and insights play a role in how you write. Like radio, writing tends to reveal the person behind the voice. Let go! Self-protective writing is stilted writing. Fear of intimacy will come through in your words. Allow yourself to share who you truly are. Choose... you can stay a bud or you can blossom. My advice is to let your petals unfold.

By Carole Watkins
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