Part 1: What is copywriting
Portent Staff Jul 25 2008
It’s the tiredest of icebreakers. And yet, at least once a month, someone asks me what I do. After I say I’m a copywriter, I am usually treated to one of three sparkling remarks:
“So, you just copy what other people write?”
“So, you make copies of other people’s writing?”
“So, you make copyrights?”
Har, har. While these comments get a little tedious, I don’t blame people for not knowing much about copywriting. It isn’t a well-known career, really. In fact, even spellchecker doesn’t seem to know what copywriting is, since it keeps underlining it like a misspelling as I type. This lack of acknowledgment by the mainstream, coupled with the little red line of reproach, is enough to give a girl a complex. But copywriting is a real career, and some would say it’s a true cornerstone of Internet marketing (most likely other copywriters and the people who love them). Therefore, the goal of this article is to shed light on the overlooked world of copywriting, drawing on what I’ve learned in my past three salty years as a copywriter.
The best example I can give when I think of copywriting is when Anne of Green Gables wins the competition for advertising Rollings Reliable Baking Powder through her story “Avril’s Atonement.” If, instead of pooling into tears, Anne had grinned, snatched the check, and preened in the heady rush of bona fide publication, she would be well on her way to a successful copywriting career.
Indeed, copywriting is all about using your imaginative, persuasive, and brilliant writing wiles to sell the products of your clients. Sleazy? Not really, honestly. The biggest part of copywriting isn’t writing “Buy! Buy! Buy!” in huge letters. If that’s the kind of copy an Internet marketing agency is into, they wouldn’t bother hiring a copywriter in the first place. Mostly, copywriters just focus on providing the information people are looking for to make a reasoned shopping choice.
Copywriting: Best Working Definition. If I had to give a working definition of copywriting, I’d say it’s educating people about a product, promotion or service in the most charming and appropriate writing style possible.
Copywriting: Best Lofty Pretentious Interpretation. Some internet marketing bards have christened copywriting “product poetry.” I both sneer and am secretly comforted by this concept. (Note: if copywriting is product poetry, PPC ads are the haikus of Internet marketing! Check out our rocking PPC section here.)
Whatever definition you prefer, a day in the life of a copywriter could encompass any sort of writing collateral. You may write banner ad copy in the morning, write the homepage copy of a website in the afternoon, and write a digg article or press release in the evening.
That’s all she wrote for today. If you want to learn more about a copywriting career, stay tuned for my next article, “Who Should Choose a Copywriting Career.”