From the blog

Coping with Copy

May 03, 2007

If you’re a copywriter who can’t seem to work with others, you’re not alone. Lots of writers out there struggle everyday in having to work with teams. In giving their words the highest priority, they often forget that they are a part of something that is bigger than just themselves and their copy. In this vein, I thought I’d share a few tips with you, a few points that will help you get along better with the team you are working with. Your designer is not three years old. Talking to a friend of mine who works in the art department at an ad firm, he said that what annoys him the most is when copywriters treat him like an infant. In general, I think this is a big complaint among designers everywhere. As a writer myself, I believe that your copy briefs should never tell the designer what to do or how to do it. In the very least, your visual suggestions should be the beginning of a conversation, not the delivering of an order. Instead of suggesting,
A yellow background with black lettering and a white border.
Try saying,
I feel a light background with dark lettering would suit this best. What do you think?
You will need to edit, and re-edit – it’s your job. Part of being a good writer means you think that your work is flawless. Of course, it’s also essential to know at the back of your mind that it is not so. Authors have editors, reporters have editors, and you have an editor as well – yourself. When your manager sends back some copy saying he’d like some edits, don’t take it personally. In fact, these changes are often not corrections to mistakes you’ve made, they’re just slight shifts in tone and voice as required by your team. You will never have total creative license. This is the real world. If you want total freedom, it’s best to start penning that maiden novel. Out here, there are deadlines to meet, clients to please, and someone, somewhere is going to ask you to be a little more formal. When this happens, don’t take it personally – it’s not an indictment on your talent, just a little reminder that Tolkien didn’t write corporate copy. Though being creative is an essential part of being a good writer, knowing when to draw the line is a skill that is far more valuable. Coming to terms with these three points helped me a lot during my first few years of writing professional copy, and my hope is that they will help you too. Good writers are born, not made, and though nobody can teach you good writing, you can unteach yourself bad writing. Live, learn, and write – never stop learning, never stop writing, and when you find something new, share it with others. There are too few of us not to.

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