Writing is only part of the story

You might think a marketing copywriter spends most of the working day writing.  Actually, I find that writing accounts for less than 50% of the time spent on a job.

And that’s not because I sit staring at a ‘new blank document’ in Word or suffer from writer’s block; it’s because so much more goes into copywriting than just writing.

Let me explain.

To be in a position to start writing a project, I need to know a lot. I need to know  what needs to be said, to whom, how and most of all, why. I need to understand the purpose of the writing project and what it needs to achieve, whether it’s a website, newsletter, brochure, article or other communication tool.

Getting agreement on the purpose, tone and content at the outset gives me a much better chance of being closer to the mark with the first draft.

If I’m writing online copy, search engine optimisation (SEO) brings in a whole extra layer of research into keywords.

Whatever the project, the content needs planning. Sometimes I’m involved and other times I just replace the ‘lorem ipsum‘ placeholder text with real words.

Being a copywriter can also mean leading projects, whether for print or online. The administration of following processes, driving a project, circulating drafts, chasing comments and getting them approved takes yet more time away from writing.

Too much information

There are always time constraints, but I like to find out as much as I can about the relevant subject. What are competitors saying? What is the target audience interested in? How do regulatory or industry bodies talk about the subject? Then I can start making notes of ideas.

The other major area of research is the business, product or service itself. There’s a lot to learn if it’s technical or involves heavy regulation.

The writing process

So having established that the first stage of writing is research, you can expect a copywriter to ask lots of questions – some might sound a bit daft; some could be really penetrating.

Then I have to spend time thinking (and chewing my lip).

Sometimes it makes sense to ‘road test’ a portion of the text before launching into a magnum opus. Similarly, large jobs are better broken down into smaller ones.

Once the writing has started, it’s hard to tell where writing ends and editing/checking begins as I keep going over and over a draft until I’m happy.

Then there’s more checking, editing, rewriting, proofing and checking again. Finalising copy always seems to take longer than I think it will.

When I’m sending out a first draft, I always explain that it’s just a starting point, or a framework. So if the feedback from a first draft is just tweaks and no major rewrites, it’s a victory for me!

When words don’t work

If I’m reworking existing copy or editing, I might spend a lot of time cutting out words in the interest of plain, simple language. It’s called ‘writing tight’.

There are times when I try to avoid words altogether, as they’re not always the best way to convey information. Visuals, infographics, lists, bullet points and tables can be much more effective ways of getting across messages or complex information.

Deconstructing information and getting it into a table or some other format really is my idea of fun!

So why am I telling you all this?

To explain why there’s more to copywriting than meets the eye!

Published by DL

Marketing communications

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