This is why clients undervalue copywriters

September 18, 2013 •
Image showing dictionary definition of writing

I read a post today that pissed me off: Speeches: 5 elements that matter more than the writing.

Why? It looks pretty harmless, right? A typical list post that’s easy to scan and digest. It even contains some above-average advice.

So what’s the problem?

All the things the author says are more important than writing are actually part of the writing. They’re the things that (good) writers struggle with every day. Not just speech writers, but copywriters too.

Let’s look at them one at a time…

  1. Know your audience. This is the starting point for any writer. (The post actually talks more about addressing your audience directly, but this, too, is part of the writing.)
  2. Know your purpose. Again, one of the commandments. You can’t write anything well if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. (Although, again, the post is really more about stating your purpose.)
  3. Focus your message. A given, if you hope to write something people want to read.
  4. Let the audience in on your structure. In a speech, you have to summarise what you’re going to talk about. So too in a tutorial. Summarising explicitly can even help in sales copy (e.g. “I’m going to show you 8 practical tricks that will make exercise seem more fun”). It functions as a promise. But even if you don’t explicitly summarise in your copy intro, you should still let your audience in on your structure by making the whole piece scannable and including meaningful sub-heads.
  5. Emotion. All good writers try to connect with their audience emotionally.

How are these things not writing?!

I know it may seem like I’m splitting hairs here. Clearly the author’s really talking about the actual words on the page versus everything else.

But as a career writer, the author, Russell Working, is doing himself and the rest of us a disservice by making this distinction. By calling only the words on the page “writing”.

I don’t know about you, but the single biggest challenge I’ve faced in 11 years as a freelance copywriter (and 9 years as a technical writer before that) is people thinking that writing is merely the act of stringing together a pretty sentence.

Russell has just confirmed this for them.

Good writers have more than just a flair for words

These non-writing skills are exactly what set us apart. They’re what separate professional writers from the high school student with a flair for words.

Russell should have known better.

Feel free to comment...
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Desolie wrote on September 19th, 2013

I almost fell off my chair recently when a solo-preneur professional photographer shared with me that she (sincerely) believed that professional writers just sit down and write - no research, no planning, no rewriting, no editing. I think I managed to change her mind as I spoke about those five basic 'rules' of non-fiction writing and compared them to the processes she uses. If only it were that simple ...

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Glenn Murray wrote on September 19th, 2013

Amazing isn't it? Especially that she's really just a copywriter who creates images...

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Andreea wrote on September 22nd, 2013

Yes, yes and yes. And... did I mention yes? If there is one perception on copywriting that I face recurrently that is "copywriting = grammatically correct sentences". Do I get mad about it? I used to until I realised the actual name of our profession doesn't help us too much :) What works for me is explaining the process before handing the business card. Of course, larger companies wouldn't require this however it works quite well for smaller and medium sized companies. As for Russell, yes he should have known better. Thank you for this article Glenn and let me take advantage of the moment and congratulate you on the new website :)

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Glenn Murray wrote on September 23rd, 2013

Yeah, I agree with you on the name. But it's a tricky one to change. I've written about that here: and here:

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This is why clients undervalue copywriters | AWD CopywritingBlog wrote on October 22nd, 2013

[…] This is why clients undervalue copywriters […]

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