Being a copywriter is definitely the coolest career I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, it’s not a job title that gets bandied around a lot outside of marketing spheres, and therefore doubt and misconceptions creep in. Here are 11 of the most common myths and misunderstandings that seem to be out there…
1. “‘Copywriting?’ You mean ‘copyright’ surely…?”
This is a misunderstanding that a lot of people make when they are unfamiliar with marketing terms. Copywriting in and of itself has nothing to do with copyright or intellectual property. They just have similar names.
2. “Why is it called copywriting? Do you copy your work from elsewhere?”
The term comes from times where any text produced for printing needed to be reproduced on a printing press (usually manually, letter-by-letter) to be printed en masse. The term is more named for “text that is to be copied,” rather than “text that has been copied.”
3. “Slapping words on a page is easy.”
Indeed, most of us can “write” in the overall sense, but writing in a way that persuades and promotes takes particular expertise. Copywriting, as with all forms of writing, is a discipline. Even those with natural copywriting talent are always having to adapt and learn new things. Not only do copywriters concern themselves with the skill of writing and persuasion, but we also have to keep up to date with new marketing methods and trends as well.
4. “Copywriting is just writing email marketing/press releases/website text/blogs/sales letters/etc. (delete as appropriate).”
Yes those are some good examples of things copywriters can do, but all promotional writing requires someone to sit down and work out how things are going to be said; regardless of how small and inconsequential the text may seem. Think scripts for video and audio marketing, social media, pay per click campaigns, case studies – basically any kind of promotional brand communication can benefit from a professional copywriter.
Sidenote: Some copywriters can also specialise in particular topics like food & drink, childrens’ products, or property and renovations for example. Basically, wherever there is an existing industry and money to be made – there’s copy!
5. “I know someone who writes fiction (or any other type or writing) – they must be able to write copy too.”
Chances are that those who write in any professional capacity already have transferrable skills that they can apply to copywriting, but you have to remember that different types of writing are very different disciplines. Copywriters have to empathise with the customer’s concerns, allay any fears and persuade readers into a purchase like no other type of writing.
6. “I should just talk about how great our company or product is.”
Of course you think what you offer is fab. But what good copy needs to convey to the reader is the inherent positives and knock-on benefits of using the product or service as well as appealing to the feelings and emotions that go into buying what you offer. Remember the story behind why people buy with you, and position yourself as a solution to any inconveniences or concerns.
7. “Copywriting is all big brand billboards and soft drink taglines.”
The most readily available copy out there is undoubtedly from heavy-hitters like Coca-Cola and McDonalds, but they aren’t the only companies that require copy. Businesses of all sizes require marketing and copy to some extent, from large multinationals to the sole-trader next door.
8. “I need to use long words and complicated jargon to sound professional.”
Above all else, writing good copy is about being clear and understandable. If you are writing for a field that does use a lot of industry terms, it’s good to mention those reasonably within the text, but don’t shoehorn them in at every opportunity. Clarity and persuasion should be your ultimate priority.
9. “Every page of online copy needs to fit a precise word count, keyword density, or formula.”
It’s good that you’re thinking about keyword densities and word counts, but the most important thing to remember is to write for humans first and robots second. Don’t forget about SEO considerations completely, but as Google’s algorithms get more and more sophisticated, writing well-ranking copy is becoming more and more about writing naturally about the topic at hand.
10. “I need to neurotically read up on every tiny grammatical rule in order to write copy well.”
Being able to spell and to convey ideas clearly is paramount to good copy; but if you are in two minds about where to properly place a comma, or whether to use a semicolon or a full stop, just use whatever seems most natural. I am most definitely not telling you to throw caution to the wind here, but if you are stressing over every single character, the message within your copy is going to suffer.
11. “Design is more important than copy (or vice versa).”
Most of the time copy and design go hand in hand. Typically with billboard and flyer advertising, design catches people’s attention, copy keeps that attention, and both leave a positive impression on the viewer/reader to buy the product or service. Different types of copy fit with different design standards: text-heavy formats like blog posts don’t require flashy eye-catching graphics like a billboard or flyer; whereas most billboards require minimal, punchy copy with an emphasis on design. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.11 of the most common #copywriting misconceptions out there... Click To Tweet
So reader, it’s over to you. Did you believe any of these myths before now? What question would you ask a copywriter (apart from “how can I write copy”)? Or are you a copywriter? Which of these misconceptions do you bump into most frequently? Please share your thoughts and experiences, as always, down in the comments.