26 Jun

Copywriting: a full-time occupation

I can’t promise you’ll learn much from this post (always a good start: make the reader want to continue reading), but it may give you an insight into the mind of a copywriter / content writer / editor… or maybe it’s just an insight into my own warped mind.

If you trade in words – if they’re your everything – you’ll find it hard to switch off from them or tune them out.

What do I mean by this?
Well, most people using public transport will be largely unaware of the thousands of adverts around them (escalator panels, on platforms, across tracks, on bus sides, above seats on the train etc): at worst, they’ll be vaguely aware of  the ‘wallpaper’ around them.

Unfortunately, I cannot switch off from this. Every advert raises questions:
Why that font?
What does that strapline mean?
Isn’t that just a platitude?
Aren’t they just copying the Jack Daniel’s ads?

I can’t begin to imagine the number of times I’ve nearly been decapitated by a train pulling into a station, because I’ve been leaning forward, trying to decipher a nonsensical strapline opposite me.

But it gets worse than that.
Everyone else posts crap on Facebook and doesn’t have to worry about it.
Not me. I have to check, two minutes later, just to make sure my post doesn’t contain a typo/autocorrect or a rogue apostrophe.

I can’t switch off during films – even shit ones.
I was watching The Hangover about a week ago, when one of the characters mentioned the word ‘snafu’ (a bad situation / a cock-up).
I can’t remember the last time I heard that word. All I’ve wanted to do since I heard it again is find a reason to use it – find a sentence I can use it in, without it seeming contrived.

A few months back, I was telling my employer about the need to change our briefing system (or actually have a briefing system), as work was just coming in without being tracked, or – as I put it – ‘hither and thither’.
I have no idea why I used that phrase. I’m pretty sure no-one has said ‘hither and thither’ since 1892. It drew the response ‘well, we can definitely tell you’re the copywriter’.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a row with my partner. I can’t even remember what it was about. We were hanging up some washing at the time, and I went to hang one of my shirts on a door handle. My partner shouted ‘you’re not putting that bloody shirt there’. I responded with ‘I’ll put it wherever I deem necessary’.
Who says ‘deem’ in the middle of an argument?
I lost that argument (whatever it happened to be about) on the spot, as my partner was too busy laughing at me.

A couple of days ago, I was reading a document containing the word ‘ongoing’… written with a hyphen in the middle: ‘on-going’.
I wanted to read past it, as – in the grand scheme of things – it was such a small typo, but I knew it would drive me insane… and it did.
Strangely, I’ve come across this same typo in other content recently. It makes me shudder. It gives me cold sweats.
I bet most people wouldn’t even notice it.

I cannot switch off from anything word-based.
Do other copywriters find this, or is it just me?

If you work in another field, do you have a similar issue.
Let me know. Message me. I’m intrigued.

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