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Lessons in less: why a copywriter needs to know when to put down the pen

By Andrew Boulton |

August 29, 2013 | 4 min read

Jaws. Jaws 2. Some bits of Jaws 3D. The bit in Jaws The Revenge where the shark eats Michael Caine’s plane. These are magnificent things that, quite simply, I can never get enough of.

But there are many other things that, however much I love them, I’m well aware when I’ve had too much of them.

Copywriting, as well as cheese, Topman and Newcastle United, is one of those things.

Before I’m beaten to death with a pillow case full of moleskin notebooks by the Copywriting union, allow me to explain.

Copywriting is an extraordinarily powerful marketing medium. For all the technological developments in the digital, mobile and social spaces, words remain at the heart of any brand story or message.

Powerful words, beautiful words, funny words have all underpinned the emotional and commercial potency of every brand there has ever been.

But there are times when a copywriter needs to recognise that there is no need for their words.

I’d make a confident guess that, in terms of how people process marketing material on all platforms, the split between readers and skimmers is at least 1 to 100.

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People are busy, lazy, distrustful, flighty and mercenary, and copy, however immaculately crafted, can quite easily annoy and distance them.

With so much copy flying around over every inch of the modern world, it’s our job as professionals to know when it’s not needed. If something visually speaks for itself, does the message become any more clear and persuasive by adding words to it?

I entirely understand the copywriter’s urge to fill silent space with eloquence and urgency. But copywriting is as much about recognising where our words are not needed as where they are essential.

Copywriting, particularly in such a drastically over-saturated market is a question of saying the right things to the right people at the right time. We cannot aim to say everything to everyone at all times.

‘Write less, say more’ seems remarkably simplistic for what we do, but it’s as true today in the ever evolving, frighteningly competitive modern market as it has always been.

Just look at Jaws, he never said a lot and everyone thought he was ace.

Follow Andrew Boulton on Twitter @Boultini

Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. He likes Jaws.

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