What is a copywriter?

Copywriter

You get some weird responses when you tell people you’re a copywriter. Most people have heard of my job but don’t really know what I do. I guess it’s a bit like being an MP (insert your own cymbal noise).

Here are a couple of sample reactions:

Me: “I’m a copywriter.”
Acquaintance one: “So if I can invent something, you can help me out yeah?”
Me: “It’s copywriter with a ‘w’. As in writer, not copyright. And you’d need to talk to someone at the patent office anyway.”

Me: “I’m a copywriter.”
Acquaintance two: “So you do photocopying?”
Me: “Well I’m not qualified yet. But I’ve heard you press the green button.”

I sound very self-important. But I wasn’t really sure what a copywriter did myself a couple of years ago. Basically, copywriters are writers, and the words they write are called ‘copy’. Copy + writer = copywriter. Geddit? For a profession that has one selling-point – being good at choosing words – it’s a very confusing job title.

Of course there are different types of copywriters, who all produce different types of work. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades at the moment – I spend most of my time producing copy for the web but I do a fair amount of technical writing, marketing stuff and journalism as well.

If you want to learn more about what different copywriters do, here’s my quick guide:

Advertising copywriters:

If they’re at an agency they’re often called creatives. These are the people who write the words for all the print, internet, TV and radio adverts you see. Their work ranges from 500-word brochures to Tesco’s “Every little helps” slogan. They’re what most people are talking about when they refer to copywriters.

Direct mail copywriters:

Similar to advertising writers, they send out all those sales letters and emails. They seem to spend the rest of the time writing blogs about how they can triple your sales.

Technical copywriters:

Technical writing is about presenting information as clearly and logically as possible. These guys write all the user guides, manuals and other technical documents you see. Not as easy as it sounds.

Web copywriters:

Writers who specialise in the web tend to have a good understanding of how people use web pages and tailor their copy for their specific audience. This generally involves writing for people with short attention spans and making sure copy attracts the attention of search engines.

SEO copywriters:

SEO stands for search engine optimization. Very basically, it means making sure web copy is picked up by Google by stuffing it with lots of key search phrases. For example, this piece of writing is full of the word ‘copywriter,’ which hopefully means Google will suggest this site whenever anyone searches for a copywriter.

Journalists:

Not strictly copywriters. But they write copy for newspapers, magazines and websites.

Ghost writers:

They write copy in the ‘voice’ of other people – most sports autobiographies are an example of this. They also write R.L. Stine books.

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4 responses to “What is a copywriter?

  1. deepingglade

    I fully agree with you in terms of the reaction you get when you tell people you are a copywriter. Usually there is an element of bafflement and you just know that they are thinking “should I ask what a copywriter is, or will that make me look stupid”! Even when they nod knowingly it is tempting to find out if they really know what you mean!

  2. Pingback: What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? | Junior SEO Updates | Web Toastie

  3. You missed “Medical Copywriter”. Not sure what they do, but apparently they’re the only sort of copywriters getting offered much work at the moment, if my cursory searching is to be believed…

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