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Rensch in the Works
Real copywriters don't "copywrite."
simply not the language of our trade. I'm not a fan of needless jargon, but
if we're going to use it, let's get it right. Using tradespeak incorrectly immediately shows you're
an outsider. In my decades' experience
in the ad biz, no creative director ever assigned me to "copy write"
something, let alone have I ever written "copywrite." (Nor have I "copywrote," "copywritten," or "copywrited" any such thing.) As a writer with lots of business-to-business experience, I understand
the importance of turning tradespeak into plain talk. I also understand
that talking the "good talk" can make a reader feel at home.
But coining new words that are neither plain talk nor helpful jargon is simply
as a verb is not in three mainstream authorities (Dictionary.com (Random House),
AmericanHeritage.com (relatively conservative)),
and the first of these gives you a URL for "misspellings."
Dictionary.com's format and sourcing has changed since I originally researched this, with some discussion there now gone.
But what it once said is worth noting. In the "reference" link, "copywrite" was shown
as various trademarks, and as an improper substitute for other words,
such as "copywriting." In any case, it is not shown
as a verb.
And as a noun, it was explicitly rejected. A discussion under
"copywritten" did say "copywrite" is "sometimes used [as a verb]
by professionals," but this professional of 30 years' experience
has never heard it where it didn't expose the speaker's industry naïveté. The correct noun is "copywriting,"
as in, "Copywriting is an interesting profession."
How can "copywriting" exist if no one copywrited (copywrote?) it?
the English language simply doesn't take the path you might expect.
For good reason. There is a significant difference
between a man well-hung and a man well-hanged. If a plane flies into
your airspace and then departs, we say "flew
out," but if a baseball player hits a fly ball that is caught,
he "flied out." That's just the way it is.
a sign painter "signpaint"? Does a bricklayer "bricklay"?
No, they don't. And a copywriter doesn't "copywrite."
grant, it's not totally logical, but when you view the copywriting
in someone's portfolio, be assured it was not "copywritten."
copywriters say it shorter. I have nothing
against long copy (obviously), or long words. But I do object to using more
words or longer words than necessary. Every authority agrees from leading
creative directors to your
high school English teacher. "Copywriting" as a verb
says nothing that "writing" doesn't say. (Watch for my upcoming
article Use vs. Utilize,
followed by a third in this series, Coming vs. Upcoming.)
Silliness and nitpicking aside, it is the wrong frame of mind. A good copywriter should
never set out to "copywrite." That would
suggest a process that is somehow different from other writing somehow artful, "addy," hyped, dumbed down,
sugar coated, normalized, or whatever.
exactly opposite to what good copywriting should be. Good copy
should be transparent. Copywriters simply "write."
Even when writing in a formal User Experience (UX) context, it's not so different. Set an objective,
understand your subject, know your reader,
and write succinctly to their needs and interests.
Lately, some people have referred to me as a "copy writer" — two words. Okay, although compound words typically
trend the other way, for good reasons, I can accept it as two words; I am a person who writes copy. And,
if used in a series where other types of writing are referenced, it's even sensible. For
example: "technical, editorial, and copy writing," "copy and article writer," "UX writer," or "content writer." In fact, I suspect
that's how the two-word practice got traction: a generation accustomed to handling content in non-traditional media became accustomed
to saying "website copy," "social media copy," "SEO copy," and such.
But as noted above, "copy" is not the goal. The point of writing is communication.
(On the other hand, if you're thinking of hyphenating it as "copy-writer," please forget it. It's just wrong. The word "turn-key"
is the only word I can think of that rightfully regained its hyphen over the years. The reason: many people read "turnkey" as
"turkey." Unless you're in the poultry game, who advertises a turkey product?)
Real copywriters develop personal communication. As I was saying, focus on the goal, not the process. We might
use any of the tools other writers use, and work in any of the genres
other writers work in. There are some tools we tend to employ more often
(e.g. short paragraphs, bullets, incomplete sentences, plain language),
but whether we're creating a trust-building, down-home tone, or generating "killer
copy," the last thing it should feel like is "copywriting."
Whatever you choose to call your text or script, call 718-577-0005 or write
me to discuss your copywriting needs in detail.