Writer, Reader, Rascal

To be a successful copywriter you need 8 key things. Fingers. Chortle.

This is the kind of massively unhelpful and entirely spurious advice you can expect from Andrew Boulton, ...

...copywriter at Together and all round scoundrel.

Having smashed his increasingly chubby copywriting fingertips against keyboards for many years – starting life as copywriter for Egg before moving on to top Midlands agency Together – he’s learned a thing or two about how to deliver a captivatingly brilliant piece of copy.

Sadly, he’s forgotten all of that and all we’re left with are his shambolic, often scurrilous, ramblings about whatever has caught his wild copywriter’s eye that week.

Enjoy his words, say nice things to him and send him free biscuits. This is all he asks.

You can venture into the world of Together at www.togetheragency.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @Boultini

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21 August 2013 - 10:00am | posted by | 7 comments

14 (debatably useful) things i’ve learnt as a copywriter

14 (debatably useful) things i’ve learnt as a copywriter14 (debatably useful) things i’ve learnt as a copywriter

As my GCSE geography teacher was trying to recover the trundle wheel i’d semi-accidentally got stuck up a tree, he rather shrilly declared that i’d never learn.

In this incident I had little cause to differ with the poor fellow, but as a copywriter I feel I’ve learned a thing or two of some value. And like the decent sort I am, I thought i’d share them with you.

1. Copywriters are not English teachers...
We don’t write proper. We write as a conversation would be conducted. I’d place flow, rhythm and tone far, far above getting my semi-colons in the right place. And I do this because the people reading our copy are not reading literature, they’re listening to a human voice (very craftily) trying to persuade them of something.

2. ...but some of the people you’re writing for might be!
While conversational English is the primary tool of the copywriter, there are people out there who get surprisingly furious at even the simplest relaxation of grammar. Do not by any means cater for these people, just remember they’re out there and are remarkably easy to upset.

3. It’s worryingly easy to kill a bad idea
It’s remarkable how often what seems like a wonderful idea can disintegrate by the time it gets on the page. As sickening as it might be, sometimes we simply have to let these poor rascals die.

4. Your best mate is the dictionary
No matter how clever new technology gets, the copywriter must never turn their back on the good old book-form dictionary. Reading the dictionary is the preserve of nerds, school boys in search of rude words and copywriters in search of inspiration (and rude words).

5. Other copywriters are annoyingly brilliant
Some of the work out there is so irritatingly wonderful it makes me want to shake the creator's hand and then beat them savagely to death with a sock filled with Tipp-ex bottles. But it’s fine to be envious, all it means is that you’re continually impressed with excellence of our profession.

6. (Through gritted teeth) Designers are brilliant too.
There’s no way around it, those accursed colour and picture monkeys are simply magnificent. Never tell them this.

7. A good copywriter can write anything
The finest copywriters are flexible copywriters. We must be able to turn our hand to any sector, any tone of voice and any platform. What matters is the message, get that right and it’ll work wherever you need it to go.

8. Not everyone can write, but anyone can turn a phrase
The people around you, at work and in everyday life, are capable of pulling off a quite spectacular bit of phrasing. Don’t think just because you’re the monkey with the typewriter that everything you write has to come exclusively from your own hairy brain.

9. No one likes change
‘Oh, i’m not precious, we can change that if you like’ are the words that may come out of your face, while really you’re thinking seriously about stabbing some interfering fiend to death with your thumb. But do you know what, it’s good to be precious, it means you have good reason to think you’ve nailed it. Just remember that there are some arguments which we simply won’t win.

10. No one will know what you do
My granddad thought I worked with inventors to trademark their products. My wife thinks I play Scrabble.

11. Never go anywhere without a note pad
Invariably the finest idea you ever have is the one that comes to you at the furthest possible distance from your desk. Copywriting without a notepad at hand is like fishing with a teaspoon.

12. Not everyone loves what we love
I love straplines, whereas some people see them as a crude simplification of the brand. I love long copy while many clients are struck with an overwhelming sense of terror at the thought of asking an audience to actually spend 30 seconds reading something. But we must never, ever stop pitching these things we believe in simply because they make those around us nervous.

13. To steal a particularly lovely strapline, ‘the future’s bright’
Broadcast marketing is in worse health than Don Draper’s lungs and liver. Marketing now exists in the age of the conversation. And, luckily for us, no one knows more about, or can more directly influence, the conversation than the copywriter.

14. And finally, everyone loves a list.
See?

Follow Andrew Boulton on Twitter @Boultini

Andrew Boulton is a copywriter and shark film enthusiast at the Together Agency. He has literally learnt nothing else.

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Comments

21 Aug 2013 - 13:55
robin46805's picture

Hello Andrew Couldn't agree more with what you've written. I've made the first couple of points in particular many times. Robin

21 Aug 2013 - 14:11
andrewboulton's picture

@robin46805 Cheers Robin, I think a lot of writers come across the same stuff (for better or worse).

21 Aug 2013 - 13:56
robin46805's picture

s

21 Aug 2013 - 15:02
Ciaran Watkins's picture

Number 9 was a particular favourite of mine. Nicely written!

21 Aug 2013 - 15:33
andrewboulton's picture

@Ciaran Watkins cheers Ciaran. Changing stuff you love for other people is horrific.

24 Aug 2013 - 10:33
Gemma Storey's picture

Love this post Andrew, especially points one and two. My version of point five involves paper cuts and lemon juice - cruel yes, but effective.

27 Aug 2013 - 09:42
andrewboulton's picture

@Gemma Storey paper cuts and lemons in beyond harsh. Good work!

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