Everybody in the club gettin’ tipsy: Sorting the good copywriting tips from the bad

Andrew Boulton is a copywriter with a decade of scribbling experience at places like Egg the online bank, some top agencies in the Midlands and once for a man who carved dolphins out of cheese.

He was nominated for the Professional Publishers Association Award for Business Media Columnist of the Year despite having little or no grasp of the semi colon. He has decent hair but a disappointing beard. You can follow him on Twitter @Boultini.

Ten ways to make your dog look like Colonel Mustard.

Thirty ways to survive a badger attack.

Twenty biscuits you should never feed to an owl.

It seems that you can’t take more than a few steps through the internet these days without someone offering you a list of things you absolutely must do in order to do some stuff better than you used to do that stuff.

And, it seems that one of the most prevalent areas in which this online advice is being proffered is my own field. No, not writing a musical about Columbo, but my day job - copywriting.

I do wonder though how useful this mass of copywriting advice actually is.

I personally like to muddle along in my own way. I have developed my style and habits, and whether what I’m doing is right, wrong or wildly haphazard, it’s a way in which I am comfortable and fairly productive.

(That was modesty, I’m actually massively productive. My boss reads this.)

And while I have myself stumbled across some incredibly useful tips that I have integrated into my copywriting routine, I doubt very much I would ever adopt an entirely new system.

I once read a tip that suggested I should read through my copy, make a list of the 50 words I use most commonly and then exclude those words from all my copy for a week. This was massively difficult but also incredibly rewarding. It is also, rather strangely, revealed to me that I seem to use the words badger, Norwegian and harpoon far more regularly than one would think possible.

But for every superb tip like this I’ll either come across one which isn’t for me or one that is frankly ludicrous. The most bizarre one I ever encountered was one chap who suggested I should never use more than three ‘Ts’ in any one headline. He gave no reason for this surreal suggestion, maybe he just hates Ts. Maybe Mr T threw a Snickers bar in his face at some point in life, I don’t know.

The way I now approach the lists of copywriting tips I come across is a Pick and Mix policy. Some tips are blocks of vanilla fudge, incredibly valuable. Some, though are like liquorice torpedoes, evil and pointless.

Now we’ve got that out the way, let’s get down to the really important stuff. Never feed Jammie Dodgers to an owl. Never feed Ginger Nuts to an owl…


Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. He has survived over a thousand badger attacks.

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